A Brief History of the United States

In 1776 colonists living in the new world wrote a document called the Declaration of Independence. They said they were tired of being ruled by the British. The document declared that all men are created equal and established a union of states with a constitution. The Declaration also proclaimed freedom and liberty as a right of all people.

After the colonies gained their independence from Britain, the United States started to expand westward. The expansion caused tensions with the Native Americans who had lived on the land for generations. The settlers wanted to take over the land that the Natives inhabited. The Natives disagreed and the battles grew more intense. Eventually the settlers defeated the Natives.

The American nation had become a powerful world power by 1900. The frontier was no more, and the nation was settled coast to coast. The invention of the telegraph and the McCormick reaper made it possible to grow crops on a large scale, so that by 1900 the U.S. was by far the largest agricultural producer in the world.

With industrial growth came many jobs. Cities expanded and more people moved to the cities to work in factories. Political “Progressives” began to gain power in the cities and the states, and they experimented with a variety of reforms such as direct election of United States senators, recall, the initiative, the Australian ballot, women’s suffrage, primary elections, and laws establishing minimum wages, working standards, and regulated rates for common carriers and services. Followers of the Progressive movement believed that through government action they could curb “the arrogance of organized wealth and the wretchedness of poverty amid plenty.”

As the nation continued to develop, its citizens were becoming more diverse in their backgrounds and beliefs. During this period, people of color began to achieve some level of equality in the United States. For example, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian American member of Congress in 1957, and Thurgood Marshall and Shirley Chisholm became the first African Americans to serve on the Supreme Court. In addition, Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for civil rights for all Americans in his famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

After World War I, the United States began to engage in a series of conflicts with countries that it had previously considered allies during the Great War. These included Korea and Vietnam. In the mid-20th century, the United States became involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and struggled with economic problems that included recessions and unemployment. In addition, Americans of different races, ethnicities and religious beliefs began to organize their own social movements to fight for their own needs, such as fighting against poverty, racial equality, and women’s rights.

Author Howard Zinn changed the way millions of people looked at American history with his book A People’s History of the United States. Originally published in 1980, this book told American history from the bottom up—from the perspective of Americans who did not have much education or money. It included the struggles of women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans and others in their struggle for freedom.

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