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African-Americans and the Progressive Era

The Progressive Era spanned the years from 1890 to 1920 when the United States was experiencing rapid growth. Immigrants from eastern and southern Europe arrived in droves. Cities were overcrowded, and those living in poverty suffered greatly. Politicians in the major cities controlled their power through various political machines. Companies were creating monopolies and controlling many of the nation’s finances.

A concern emerged from many Americans who believed that great change was needed in society to protect everyday people. As a result, the concept of reform took place in society. Reformers such as social workers, journalists, educators and even politicians emerged to change society. This was known as the Progressive Movement.

One issue was consistently ignored: the plight of African-Americans in the United States. African-Americans were faced with consistent racism in the form of segregation in public spaces and disenfranchisement from the political process. Access to quality healthcare, education, and housing was scarce, and lynchings were rampant in the South. 

To counter these injustices, African-American reformists also emerged to expose and then fight for equal rights in the United States.

One of the major initiatives of the Progressive Era was the womens suffrage movement. However, many organizations that were established to fight for the voting rights of women either marginalized or ignored African-American women.

As a result, African-American women such as Mary Church Terrell became dedicated to organizing women on the local and national level to fight for equal rights in society. The work of white suffrage organizations along with African-American womens organizations ultimately led to the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which granted women with the right to vote.

While mainstream newspapers during the Progressive Era focused on the horrors of urban blight and political corruption, lynching and the effects of Jim Crow laws were largely ignored.

African-Americans began publishing

Lifestyle Facts

National Trust for Historic Preservation