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Margaret Washington : The Feeling of Optimism in America
Maragret Washington 1900 appeared to be a time of optimism, a time of American sense of assertion, a time of America's sense of its own power, of its own people, specifically white people. It was also a time of transition because America was still in the Victorian age, at the same time America was shedding its Victorianism. It's almost like America was sort of shaking itself and emerging into something new and coming into its own. It was no longer looking toward a kind of morality and a kind of sense of what was right, looking toward Britain, which is what they had done in terms of their social system, in terms of their sense of what was proper and what was correct. America was maturing socially, politically and economically in 1900. And I think America felt very good about itself as a nation.

America had fought a war which was a catharsis, and I'm referring to the Civil War. It had created a tremendous breach in the nation and they felt by 1900 that they had overcome that. And that took a long time. So there was this sense of coming together as a nation that America felt. Now a lot of that coming together was at the expense of other peoples, because of American imperialism. This was also an age when America realized that they had a tremendous amount of power and that power represented to them a kind of superiority in which their system was so much better than the system of other nations, that they were going to export it. So this assertion was partly a sense of superiority. Then of course America was technologically very advanced. It was becoming an industrial power in the greatest sense. So economically America was thriving.

There was a darker side to this sense of optimism in America in 1900. America was becoming a society of immigrants, people who were different from the previous immigrants. Many of them were from southern Europe. That meant that they were darker. Then of course there was the African American population. So the individuals who were responsible for the labor force were part of this horde of inferior peoples in American society. So when we think about the optimism, we're not necessarily including these people who are part of that other half. For them it's not so much a period of optimism. Although even for the people who are not included in this sense of optimism, they themselves had a sense of aspiration and a sense of hope.

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