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Race and the American Experience

Between 1877 and 1914 was marked by many events that exposed racism in different areas of American lives. Racism played a crucial role in the shaping of the American experience. The former slave Cornelius Holmes of Winnsboro admitted in a 1937 WPA interview that the question of race shall always be there in many years to come, even though the issue of slavery was done and dusted. He explains that racism is experienced in different sectors of governance and various sectors of the American economy. For instance, it is experienced in the American judicial system, politics, religion, highways, and American manners, among other areas. This paper explains how and why racism shaped American life in politics, American law, and the American immigration experience between 1877 and 1914.

Race shaped the American immigration experience during 1877-1914 (Corbett et al., 2017). During the period mentioned before immigrants prompted much concern on white Americans who are native-born compared to the African Americans or the Indians. Many people immigrated to the United States from different parts of Asia and Europe. The influx worried the native-born Americans who felt that the U.S. was meant for the white Protestants. As such, in racial classification, the immigrants never counted as whites. Racists established collaboration between different races that were either considered superior or inferior to control different sectors of the economy like farming and for political expediency.

Race shaped American law during the period between 1877 and 1914. During the period, blacks lost different rights that they gained during the reconstruction period. There was an increase in anti-black violence, segregation lynching, white supremacy expressions, and legal racial discrimination. For example, the white democratic government passed legislation by Jim Crow that created a legal racial segregation system in private facilities and public facilities (Foner, 2017). Under the law, African Americans were discriminated against in hospitals and schools. The two races were to use separate sections in some public transport systems and some restaurants. The same applied to different sectors as well. For instance, blacks and whites were barred in various stores or were prohibited from using specific restrooms, lunchrooms, or fitting rooms. The blacks had little legal recourse in the government and juries since they were never allowed to vote. African Americans who were successful economically faced sanctions and reprisals. Also, through violence and legal restrictions, blacks were prevented from working like ordinary workers.

Race also shaped the American political experience (Foner, 2020). The period featured a contest between democrats and republicans. However, there were occasional campaigns by third-party comprising of labor unions and farmers. The period also featured civil service reforms and organized women’s movements, usually working for suffrage and prohibition. Studies show that during this period, there was the transition to interest group politics from party politics. Almost all eligible men were politically partisan, and the voter turnout increased to more than 90 percent in many states. The issues that dominated political campaigns included but tot limited to prohibition, racial groups, education, and ethnic groups. Because the period marked rapid growth of cities, political machines controlled ban politics. On the other hand of the coin, labor unions advocated for eight-hour working days and crusaded against child labor. Over and above that, racism dominated politics as different immigrants joined hands to defeat the native-born whites in different parts of the United States occupied by other races.


Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., & Lund, J. M. (2017). U.S. History.

Foner, E. (2017). Give me liberty!: An American history.

Foner, E. (2020). Give me liberty!: An American history.


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