Current time:0:00Total duration:14:23
0 energy points
Studying for a test? Prepare with this lesson on Surveys of history.
See lesson

US History overview 2: Reconstruction to the Great Depression

Video transcript
- [Instructor] Where we left off in the last video, the North had just won the Civil War. Unfortunately for Abraham Lincoln, it was two months after he was assassinated. But now the North was dominant and essentially occupied the South. And we enter a period called Reconstruction, and Reconstruction can refer to one of two things and they're somewhat related. One is just the Reconstruction from the war. Obviously there was a lot of damage done on both sides. But it's usually referred to the actual Reconstruction of the South and to some degree, kind of the reform of the South. I'm going to glaze over a lot of details, like I did in the last video. I might ignore some major events that you might find important. And I'll get back to them, don't worry. But the three big things that happened during Reconstruction, other than the fact of the North occupying the South and essentially, to a large degree, suspending democracy in the South and installing its own politicians, its own lawmakers, is that the United States passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. These are known as the Reconstruction Amendments. In 1865, you have the 13th Amendment and this abolished slavery. Let me write this here. This ended slavery. We talked about the Emancipation Proclamation and that was essentially Abraham Lincoln's executive order, this was a speech he made. But now it became official law in 1865. Then in 1868, you have the 14th Amendment which made everyone, every person born in the United States a citizen, and this includes the freed slaves, so it's kind of like, the slaves are now free and they are also citizens. And then in 1870, you have the 15th Amendment which gave all free men the right to vote. And obviously, now all men were free. There were no non-free men. So, the right to vote. And I emphasize the men because even at this point, women did not have the right to vote. The right to vote. And the 14th Amendment also introduced a due process which, I won't go into the details here, but it essentially said, "Look, the government has to go under a due process "where it's subject to its own laws when determining "whether it can take away property from "or in some way, "infringe on rights of other people." But we'll probably do a whole video on that in the future. But these were the real takeaways. So it really brought the former slaves, at least by law, by these amendments, on equal standing. But we know that in practice, that didn't happen. And you fast forward to 1877, and you essentially have the Reconstruction period formally ending. The occupation of the South formally ends. And as soon as the occupation of the South formally ends, and democracy comes about, you have a bunch of people coming to power. And at this point of time, the Republicans were essentially the North, and these were the people who were anti-slavery. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. And the Democrats come to power in the South. And we can talk about how the different perceptions of the different parties change over time. But at this point, as soon as the occupation ended, and I put democracy in quotes because even in this period, the North has essentially not occupied anymore, but the elections, these were things that were heavily contested. You have both sides of them exerting force. And in particular, you have the Jim Crow Laws being passed in the South. And they're called the Jim Crow based on this parody in the early 1800s. It was a practice for white men in the South at this time, or even well before this, in order to parody blacks they would paint their face black and they would act silly and all of this. And Jim Crow was the name of one of these characters that was portrayed in the early 1800s. I think it was Jumping Jim Crow, was the name. That's where the laws come from. But the Jim Crow Laws essentially segregated blacks and whites in the South. Even though the idea might have been that they were equal, the reality were that the conditions for blacks, the places that they were separated to, were far inferior. They had to use separate drinking fountains, they had to use separate bathrooms. They couldn't sit in the same parts of theaters or in the same parts of buses. And these lasted all the way until the Civil Rights Movement, all the way to the 1960s. Now, at the same time that all of this was happening, you kinda had this post Civil War boom in the economy, where you had this massive building of the railroads and steam engines. To some degree, it was the first, well, I don't wanna say the first. There was many ages of mass innovation. But all of these things tend to always lead to a little bit of a bubble. And then in 1873, what you have happening is a lot of the governments of the world start going off of the gold and silver standard, and they go to the gold standard. And what then happens is, is that anyone who's left on the silver standard or partially both, the gold and silver standard, their currency would devalue. And back then, it was viewed as an unambiguous negative for your currency to devalue. We can later talk about that, there's more nuance there. So the United States decide to follow suit. And actually, the big actor here was Germany that decided to go off of the silver standard and going on pure gold standard. And so the United States decide to follow suit with the Coinage Act in 1873. But this leads to a huge, they call it the Panic of 1873. There's a couple of things here. One, it completely demolishes the price of silver, although this was already happening on a global basis. It hurts the silver miners and the industries associated with the silver miners. But I guess more importantly, now this restricts the money supply. And I won't go into all of the economics of it. When you restrict the money supply, you essentially increase interest rates, and it essentially popped the bubble that was forming due to the railroads and all of the booming business. And then you essentially have the United States entering a depression. And that depression lasts from 1873, when the Coinage Act and kind of this bubble burst, all the way to 1879. But lucky for the United States, after that time period, after it recovered from the depression, it actually recovered at this super fast rate, and this was one of the fastest economic growths in US history. You had this huge influx of immigrants, tens of millions, from Europe. And by 1890, the United States was now the richest country in the world on a per capita basis, which is amazing because only a hundred years ago, it was kind of this colony of Great Britain, or part of the British Empire. It was kind of this thing that the European powers didn't view as that relative. But now it was the richest country in the world. And then you fast forward to 1898. And it starts to, essentially, become a bit of an empire. Until this time, United States kind of kept to itself. It wasn't really interested in controlling other nations or other people. But in 1898, until 1898, Cuba was a Spanish colony. And there had been many revolts try against the Spanish by the Cubans. And the United States, or the Americans, were fairly sympathetic to the Cubans. After all, here's another country in the New World, again, trying to revolt against a European power. And the Spanish were pretty infamous for cracking down pretty hard. So in 1898, while there was a revolt against the Spanish, the United States set some ships over to Havana Harbor, essentially to protect American interests. This might resonate a little bit relative to maybe the Mexican-American War, that we kind of send things close to another country to protect our interests and make sure nothing crazy happens. Then while in Savannah Harbor, not Savannah, while in Havana Harbor, you have a battleship, a US battleship called the Maine, the Maine, that explodes and sinks. And this is an actual picture of it. This is fun because we're entering the point in history where pictures start to become relevant. Although, even in the mid 1860s, you had pictures. That's a picture of Abraham Lincoln. The Maine gets sunk. The people who wanna declare war on Spain say, "Hey, Spain must've blown up the Maine." Although it's still a complete mystery on what was the actual cause. Some people say it was just a random explosion. There's even conspiracy theorists who believe that the United States did it to itself intentionally to justify entering the war, while some say, "Hey, no. Spain did it for whatever reason. "It didn't like this American fleet in Havana Harbor." But regardless to say, after this happened, it allowed, it made the American public angry, the American government angry, and they declared war on Spain. And it was actually a very short-lived war. They won pretty handedly. The big takeaway from the Spanish-American War is that the United States essentially became an empire. It started to have control of other countries, and in particular, it had temporary control of Cuba. But it also, because it won, it got control of Guam, which is right over there, and it still has control of Guam. It also got control of the Philippines from Spain, and it maintained control of the Philippines until the end of World War II. And it got control of Puerto Rico, which is still part of the United States. It's not an official state but it is United States territory. So at this point, the United States becomes an empire. And then you fast forward to 1914. War breaks out in Europe. I need to do a whole series of videos on World War I. But war breaks out in Europe. Particularly, the two strongest powers that are really at each other at this time period, are the British Empire and Germany. You have this situation where United States is trying its hardest to stay neutral. Obviously, the American people were predominantly of English descent, it's an English speaking country. So there were some sympathies for the British Empire, for Great Britain. But they wanted to stay neutral. But what you had happening is that the British had a blockade of the Germans. They really had a strangle hold. And the Germans wanted to have a blockade of the British because Great Britain was an island. It was an island, it could really maybe win the war if it could somehow strangle the island, if it could blockade the island. But unfortunately for Germany, it did not have as strong of a navy. So you get close to 1917, actually 1915, 1916, 1917, Germany starts to get desperate. So it sends its submarines into the Atlantic. They say, "Well, if we can't blockade Great Britain, "at least maybe we can start harassing ships "or even blowing up ships that are trying "to trade with Great Britain and that'll make people "afraid to, it'll essentially be the equivalent "of a blockade." And at first, Germany does some minor things. But as the war goes on, it gets more and more desperate. It gets more and more desperate, and it starts attacking civilian ships, cruise liners, Americans start dying because German u-boats are just willy-nilly, just essentially torpedoing ships. So the US doesn't tolerate it anymore, enters the war in 1917. Germany didn't take the United States that seriously up to that point. But it learned, and we'll do a whole series of videos on this, that it should have. And then you fast forward to 1918, and the United States was definitely one of, the British were doing alright, but the United States really turned the tides. No one really expected how large of a power they had essentially gotten involved in the war. Then you fast forward to 1918 and the war ends. The real takeaway of this, I mean there's a bunch of these and we'll talk more about this in depth in future videos, is that it ended some of the nations that were on the losing end. Austria-Hungary no longer was a nation, at least in this form. The Ottoman Empire no longer was a nation in this form. And as we will learn later, there were huge reparations by the victors on Germany, and that to a large degree, may have led to World War II. But we won't talk in depth about that right now. The other things that started to happen at this point, in 1920 you have the 18th and the 19th Amendments being passed. The 18th enacted Prohibition, where all of a sudden, you made alcohol illegal in the United States. And you know the irony of it is, that's when you have all of these movies about these bootleggers and you have this whole crime scene that develops around illegal alcohol. But at the same time the 19th Amendment was maybe a little less controversial. And the 19th Amendment, it finally gave women the right to vote. Right to vote. And one of the arguments against having women the right to vote before this time was, "Hey, you know, only men are fighting for the country. "Only they have the right to vote. "Only they can be soldiers." But during World War I, and this happened not just in the US, this happened worldwide in World War I, that because so many men were fighting, women really had to take up the slack domestically. And they, essentially, were a big part of the war effort in terms of just working at the factories and producing things. So that was probably one of the big things that, on kind of a global basis, all of a sudden, women started to get the right to vote. Also, at this period, you have in the 1920s, you have another post-war economic boom that really develops into a post-war economic bubble all the way until 1929. And then you have the stock market crash, and then I think some of us know that, after that period, the Great Depression ensues. And the Great Depression continues. And this was a global Great Depression, and it continues all the way to the US entry in World War II. And I'll leave you there.