Miami-Dade: U.S. History Lessons
Colonizing the New World
• Everyday Life in the Colonies...Life in the colonies was challenging and difficult. However, people still flocked there from all over Europe. Fewer crowds, religious freedom, and more opportunity were some things that convinced them to come.
A New Nation
• Creating the United States Constitution...The people who wrote the U.S. Constitution created an incredible plan for government. They wrote this plan before cars, electricity, airplanes, or the internet were invented. Amazingly, it still works well. Many other countries have copied the U.S. constitution when making their own plans for government.
The Growing American Country
• Westward Hope...Many people traveled hundreds of miles, from the overland trails to the West in the mid-1800s. Thousands of people both young and old, men, women, and children traveled the trails to the West. Facing many miles of brutal weather and rough terrain, the pioneers left everything and everyone behind and made their way into the West. For every westward pioneer, the dream of “hope” was worth the risks.
• Slavery in America...Today we can look back and say that the institution of slavery was an obvious evil. However, so many Americans, especially Southerners, did not see it that way. It took hundreds of years, millions of lives, and a civil war to abolish slavery. Did they truly believe it was not evil, or did they convince themselves that it was necessary? It is possible that people did not think it was wrong because it was not illegal and many depended on the system of slavery to make a living. It is also very possible that they knew it was wrong but chose to ignore their conscience because of greed and racism.
A Nation Divided
• On the Battlegrounds...The southern states seceded from the Union just a few months after Abraham Lincoln became President. Soon, Lincoln and all other Americans found themselves facing a civil war. The nation that held strong through the Revolution and the War of 1812 was now tearing itself apart. People from both the North and the South had very difficult decisions to make. Some chose sides over the issue of slavery. Some chose family over country. Some chose to protect what they held most dear. At times, friends became enemies and brothers faced each other on the battlefield.
• Reconstruction of the South...The Civil War lasted for four years. It took much longer for the country to recover from it. The war destroyed American society, along with the buildings and farms. The old way of life in the South ended. During Reconstruction, the nation was just as divided as it was before the war. New arguments evolved over what it meant to be a free American citizen. Politicians fought with one another as they tried to solve these problems. By the time Reconstruction ended in 1877, the government ratified three Amendments. Despite the changed laws racism against black Americans still prevailed. Civil Rights would not come for another 100 years.
• Life in Colonial Times...Life in the colonies presented hard times, but the people were determined to be successful. They did not have the medical or technological advancements that we do today and this shortened their life expectancy. Through this lesson you have learned about the colonials' way of life from work to play. Individuals were defined by the way they dressed, where they lived, and by their trade. They worked very hard to survive and tried to enjoy life along the way.
• The Constitutional Convention...There is no telling if the United States would have survived this long as a country if it had not been for the Great Compromise of 1787. Small states might well have seceded and joined with powerful foreign nations, leaving the young United States quite un-united. With that early influence, the Civil War might well have turned into a world war and torn the country apart. The value of this Great Compromise in America's history cannot be overstated. The resulting Constitution has provided the foundation for our protection, government, laws and overall ideals. In 1791, the government representatives would ratify the Bill of Rights to add to the constitution specific rights of the individuals of the United States. The men who drafted the Constitution set out to build a working government and set of laws for the newly formed country. If they new the final document would survive for the years to come was not known, but the foresight of the framers proved to be lasting and the U.S. Constitution keeps this country in balance through today.
Building a Republic
• The Lewis and Clark Expedition...President Thomas Jefferson was a man who took risks and had a vision for the United States to increase in size and bounty. The Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, was carefully planned, in large measure by Jefferson himself. To a great degree, the expedition was a complete success. As a result of the Lewis and Clark expedition, vast knowledge about the new United States territory west of the Mississippi was gained. Information was acquired about the people, the land, the rivers, the mountains, the plants, and the animals. The expedition made important contributions, definitely for the people living during Lewis and Clark's time, but, more importantly, for all American in the generations to come.
The Economy of the North and South
• Slavery in America...We have all been in situations where we have been treated unfairly. The injustice and suffering that American slaves experienced until the Civil War in the 1880s, however, is almost unparalleled in the United States. Slaves were punished severely for the same behaviors for which free Americans experienced no chastisement. What was the reason behind this? The bondage of slavery allows others to treat slaves unfairly, and on many occasions, inhumanely. Even with harsh treatment, many slaves held hope for escaping their servitude by means of the Underground Railroad. Their desire for freedom outweighed the dangers they would face on their journey. Many succeeded in escaping to freedom in Mexico and Canada. Many who believed that slavery was a blight on the young nation helped slaves in their journeys to liberty.
The Civil War and Reconstruction
• Choosing between the North and the South...When the Civil War began in 1861, choosing between North and South was not a simple decision. While the North had numerous cities and a much larger population, more factories, and greater railroad mileage, the South had the benefit of better officers and fighting on their own soil. ,Therefore it was not as easy as just looking at these facts to make an informed decision between the sides. People like Robert E. Lee, James and Alexander Campbell, and Stand Watie had to choose to swear their loyalty to their home state or to the United States. In 1861, most predicted a short fight between the North and the South. Few realized that the war would last four long years. The Civil War resolved some of the issues that had divided the North and South, like slavery and the supremacy of the federal government, but not all of the political, economic, and cultural differences. The reconstruction process was slow. The North became industrialized while the South remained agricultural. Despite the constitutional amendment outlawing slavery, Southerners found new ways to bind Africans to the land. The deep schism that divided North and South did not quickly disappear, but took decades to complete the healing process.
Imperialism and Progressivism
• The Spanish-American War...In 1898, the United States fought one of the shortest, most one-sided wars in modern history. The Spanish-American War was a brief conflict between the United States and Spain. Actual fighting lasted less than four months, but the war had far-reaching implications. The Spanish-American War established the United States as a world power. More than that, though, this nation – founded in opposition to imperialism – had begun to grapple with its own expansionist tendencies. Manifest Destiny,– the notion that the United States was destined to expand beyond its borders, spreading democracy and freedom to the world – had become the prevalent mindset amongst the American people. With a victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States had become a true global power. As the United States lost only 460 people in battle, John Hay referred to the conflict as a “splendid little war”.
World War 2: Nation Against Nation
• World War II and U. S. Isolationism...In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned Americans to avoid "permanent alliances" with European powers. He felt that America stood to gain little by becoming involved in Europe's wars. For a large part of its early history, America was able to follow Washington's advice. However, the nation broke with Washington's counsel during the first years of the 20th century. An alliance with France and England resulted in American military involvement in the first World War. The U.S. had participated in World War I - essentially a European conflict - despite the objections of many of its citizens. The American casualty toll was high. Consequently, Americans again embraced a more isolated view of world politics. Many felt that the U.S. should simply protect its interests at home and avoid entanglements abroad. But as the 20th century progressed, that became extremely difficult to do. By the late 1930s, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party had rebuilt a devastated Germany and begun to annex surrounding states. Europe was again on the brink of war. To make matters worse, Japan had begun increasing its aggression in Asia. The United States was caught in a quandary – should America once again be drawn into conflicts far from its borders, or should it simply stand by and watch as Europe and Asia embroil themselves in war?
The Cold War
• Background to the Cold War...Over the course of three decades, Soviet-American relations swung from one extreme to the other; after a period of non-recognition, Communism gained ground in American popular culture, only to be discarded after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939. Just a few years later, however, the United States and Great Britain wholeheartedly joined forces with the Soviets to defeat the Axis Powers during World War II. However, even at the peak of their cooperation, the Americans and the Soviets found themselves in disagreement over fundamental political, economic, and cultural issues, and their alliance barely survived the war. Less than year after World War II ended, an international crisis that would occupy the superpowers for the next fifty years – the Cold War – was underway.
• Segregation and Discrimination...The founding documents that shaped the United States celebrated ideals like equality, democracy, and rights. While these documents established the law of the land, they have not been universally applied throughout history. Discrimination because of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion were the harsh realities for many living in the United States. At times, segregation, or separation, between groups was practiced and even legalized.
The U.S. and The World
• The United Nations...The ravages of World Wars I and II convinced world leaders that preserving peace and protecting human rights was a global mission. The United Nations exists to fulfill these missions. However, it is not simple living in an increasingly connected world. Conflicts often have far-reaching implications. Political realities complicate peace and security. The people and leaders of one country do not always agree with the people and leaders of another. Yet, we must all coexist. The United Nations provides valuable services to the people of our world: educating people about and treating people with AIDS/HIV, eradicating disease, protecting the environment, and developing sustainable businesses and raising standards of living. In addition, despite the failures, it provides a forum for discussing contentious issues, resolve conflict, and protect the world’s citizens. The post-World War II political world that created the United Nations is not the same political world that exists today. The United States’ scope far exceeds that of other nations. Dozens of former colonies have emerged as independent states. The world has changed. However, the mission of the United Nations’ remains a valuable one.