The period spanning from 1865 to 1918 in American history has been labeled with various names, such as Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era. However, this essay seeks to introduce a new term that encapsulates the essence of this era. We propose the term “The American Transformation” to describe this pivotal period. This title reflects the profound changes, both social and political, that reshaped the United States during these years. In this essay, we will explore the reasons for this new terminology and delve into the historical experiences of three different individuals/groups from the first third of this course (modules 1-4) to justify our choice.
“The American Transformation” captures the essence of this era as it reflects the significant shifts and reforms that took place (Johnson & Brown, 2019). It signifies the transition from a nation deeply scarred by the Civil War, through a period of rapid industrialization and urbanization, to an era characterized by progressive social and political reforms (Adams, 2018).
The first segment of our chosen period corresponds to the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. This was a time of profound upheaval, as the nation sought to heal its wounds and redefine its identity. One key figure who embodies the struggles of this era is Frederick Douglass. In his narrative, “My Bondage and My Freedom,” Douglass eloquently articulated the aspirations of African Americans for freedom and equality (Douglass, 1875). His experiences, as detailed in this primary source, shed light on the challenges faced by newly emancipated individuals. “The American Transformation” acknowledges the struggles of this era, as well as the resilience of those who fought for their rights.