American History
Unit 12
America at the Turn of the
Twentieth Century
America at the Turn of the
Twentieth Century
Topics discussed in this unit:
Life for African Americans under Jim Crow
The changing role of women.
The Expansion of Education
In the nineteenth century, education was out of
reach for many Americans, but by the turn of the
century more and more Americans were able to
take advantage of educational opportunities.
Educational opportunities were not available to
all Americans on an equal basis.
Women, African Americans, and Native
Americans still faced significant discrimination.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the
vast majority of Americans attended at
least a few years of public schooling in
order to learn to read, write, and do basic
Public schools not only provided
education for immigrant children, but
they also played a major role in
assimilating immigrants, helping them
become part of American culture.
The Expansion of Education
As more students completed high school,
more opportunities developed for them to
attend institutions of higher learning.
The Expansion of Education
Between the years 1880 and 1900, around 150
new colleges and universities opened their
By 1915, even some middle-class families were
able to send their children to college.
Women, too, began to have opportunities
to receive a higher education as many
colleges formed associated women’s
This wide availability of higher education
would come to distinguish the United
States from other industrialized nations.
Early American Classes
The Expansion of Education
Unfortunately this education was not equally
available to everybody.
African-American children generally attended
separate schools that were very inferior to those
of their white counterparts.
Native American children could only attend
schools if they left the reservation and their
families to attend special boarding schools that
forced them to give up their language, dress,
customs, and culture.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School
The Expansion of Education
As far as higher education went, there were few
colleges and universities who would admit
African Americans, yet there were many African
Americans who wanted higher educational
Only a few institutions—Oberlin, Bates, and
Bowdoin—accepted African-American students,
and there were also several segregated AfricanAmerican schools founded during
Reconstruction, including Fisk University and
Howard University.
Early African-American Schools
The Expansion of Education
Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois
represented two differing views on AfricanAmerican education.
Washington believed in vocational education
that would provide African Americans with a
way of making a living because they needed
economic equality to gain social equality.
W. E. B. Dubois did not agree. He argued that
African Americans needed to gain social and
political equality and civil rights through
educated leaders who took pride in their
Booker T. Washington and W. E.
B. Dubois
New Forms of Entertainment
 From 1880 to 1915, Americans who had more
money and leisure time began to flock to new
forms of entertainment.
New Forms of Entertainment
With new forms of transportation and more
leisure time and more money, many
Americans began to look for new forms of
entertainment to take them away from the
dirty, crowded streets where they lived and
 These forms of entertainment included
vaudeville shows and, sometime later,
 They also included visits to the circus and
tips to amusement parks.
New Forms of Entertainment
This was the grand era of amusement
parks such as Coney Island’s Luna Park.
New Forms of Entertainment
Sports provided people with another
form of inexpensive entertainment, and
fans flocked to baseball, football, and
basketball games in particular.
1889 Cincinnati Red Stockings
Ben Turpin and Charlie Chaplin, 1915
Amusement Parks
New Forms of Entertainment
Other more personal forms of entertainment
included the reading of newspapers, magazines,
and dime-store novels.
Musical diversions included concerts, dances, or
simply gathering around the piano at home.
The invention of the player piano and the
phonograph helped spread the development of
new musical styles such as jazz and ragtime.
Jazz and Ragtime
The World of Jim Crow
African Americans lost many of the rights
they had gained during Reconstruction.
 In the South, Jim Crow laws were
designed to keep African Americans
 In the North, there was less legal
discrimination, but still not full equality in
 African Americans began to band together
to work for civil rights.
The World of Jim Crow
The World of Jim Crow
After the end of Reconstruction, Southern
whites began to introduce laws to keep
freed slaves and other African Americans
subservient in society.
First, they restricted the voting rights of
African Americans by requiring literacy
tests or poll taxes that they knew African
Americans could not pass or afford.
Jim Crow
Most Southern states also introduced Jim
Crow laws to enforce segregation.
These laws required the separation of
African Americans and whites in schools,
parks, public buildings, hospitals, and on
transportation systems.
The World of Jim Crow
The World of Jim Crow
Even public facilities such as bathrooms
and water fountains were segregated.
The Supreme Court held up this idea of
segregation in the case of Plessy v.
Ferguson, which stated that separate but
equal facilities are Constitutional.
The World of Jim Crow
Facilities, though, were hardly equal,
which was difficult to prove in court.
In the North, discrimination was less
blatant but was still ever present,
sometimes erupting in race riots.
Violence was not unusual as African
Americans were frequently attacked or—
much worse—lynched.
The World of Jim Crow
As discrimination and violence became
increasingly common, black leaders began
to seek solutions for the race problems.
In 1905, many black leaders met to discuss
the problem at the Niagara Conference in
Ontario, Canada.
Out of this
conference came the
formation of the
Association for the
Advancement of
Colored People
(NAACP) in 1909.
The World of Jim Crow
The NAACP became a vital force in the fight
for civil rights throughout the twentieth
 African Americans also began to form mutualaid societies to help the advancement of their
 African-American intellectuals published
scholarly articles and literature, AfricanAmerican businesses sprang up everywhere,
and Booker T. Washington established the
Negro Business League in 1900
The Changing Roles of Women
With new inventions to make housework
easier, women found their roles in society
These changes fueled a debate over the
proper role of women in the workplace, in
education, and in the public arena.
The Changing Roles of Women
At the turn of the century, there was wide
debate throughout society on “the women
For many women, the question boiled
down to a few demands: Women should
be able to vote, control their own property
and income, and obtain an education and
professional job.
Early Suffragettes, 1913
The Changing Roles of Women
Women’s role in the home had changed.
Although there was still necessary work, it no
longer took as many hours to take care of a home
and family.
Few women needed to bake homemade bread or
make their family’s clothes because ready-made
items were less expensive and easily available.
Even rural families could receive many readymade articles with rural free delivery from the
post office and mail order catalogues from Sears
and Montgomery Wards.
Early Sears and Roebuck Catalogue
The Changing Roles of Women
Many women worked in factories, as
domestic servants, or as teachers or nurses
either because their families needed the
funds or because they wanted to work.
 Most but not all women stopped working
after marriage.
 The invention of the typewriter and
telephones provided more work
opportunities for women as secretaries or
Wealthier women put their energies into
volunteer work to improve society.
They joined clubs of common interest and
worked for causes such as temperance and
girl’s education.
The Changing Roles of Women
Women’s groups established libraries and
helped each other in speaking, writing, and
 The National Women’s Suffrage Organization
began to strive toward gaining the vote for
women in 1890 and would succeed thirty years
 Although many women disagreed with some of
the ideas of the “New Women” and her dress,
hairstyles, occupations, and pastimes, suffrage
was the issue on which nearly all of them could
National Women’s Suffrage Organization
National Women’s Suffrage Organization

American History Unit 9 America at the Turn of the