What Is the Great Divide in American History?

The Great Divide in American History refers to the period of time after the Civil War when the country was essentially split into two different worlds. On one side, there was the North with its industrialization, urbanization, and progressive values. On the other side, there was the South with its rural way of life, agricultural economy and conservative values.

The Aftermath of the Civil War

The end of the Civil War marked a turning point in American history. The Union had been preserved and slavery abolished.

However, rebuilding a divided nation would prove to be a complex and challenging task. The Reconstruction era that followed was marked by political turmoil and social upheaval.

The North

In contrast to the South, the North was rapidly industrializing. Cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago were growing exponentially as factories sprung up and businesses expanded. This created more job opportunities for people from all walks of life – immigrants included – which led to a more diverse population.

The North also saw significant advancements in technology during this time. The telegraph, telephone, and railroad made communication and transportation faster than ever before. The Northern states quickly became centers of innovation which allowed them to remain competitive both domestically and internationally.

Progressive Values

On top of these advancements, many Northern states began adopting progressive values such as women’s suffrage and labor rights. These ideals were rooted in Enlightenment thinking which emphasized individual freedom and rationality.

This progressive movement gave birth to organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which worked towards civil rights for African Americans in Northern cities.

The South

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to the North’s rapid modernization was an agrarian society that remained largely unchanged since before the war. Cotton production remained king in many Southern states but this meant that landowners relied heavily on slave labor prior to Emancipation.

The defeat of the Confederacy brought about immense change in the South. Not only did they lose the war, but they also lost their primary source of labor. The South was in a state of economic ruin as plantations and farms lay in ruins.

The Jim Crow Era

As Reconstruction came to an end, Southern states began passing laws that enforced racial segregation. These laws, known as Jim Crow laws, were designed to maintain white supremacy by denying African Americans basic rights such as voting and access to public services.

The Southern states also saw a wave of violence against African Americans with lynchings becoming commonplace. The Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence during this time and used intimidation and terror tactics against African Americans and their allies.

The Great Migration

As a result of these harsh conditions, many African Americans began migrating North in search of better opportunities. This period became known as The Great Migration and it continued for several decades after the Civil War.

African Americans who moved North found jobs in factories and other industries which allowed them to achieve economic stability that was denied to them in the South. However, even in Northern cities such as Chicago and Detroit, they faced discrimination and prejudice.

The Legacy of the Great Divide

The Great Divide had profound effects on American society that are still felt today. The North’s rapid modernization left a lasting impact on our economy, culture, and political ideals. Meanwhile, the South’s history of racism is still being reckoned with today.

It’s important to remember that this period was not just one of division but also one of progress and growth for both regions. By understanding our history we can work towards creating a more just society for all Americans.

  • Industrialization radically transformed Northern industry
  • Jim Crow laws entrenched racism in the South
  • The Great Migration changed the face of Northern cities

Overall, the Great Divide in American history was a complex and challenging time for the country. It marked a turning point in American history and continues to shape our society to this day.