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The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Progress: The Meaning of the Machine
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Progress
Text 1. Memory and Machines
Text 2. Brooklyn Bridge
Text 3. Human Machines
Text 4. Christine Frederick
Text 5. Thomas Eakins
Text 6. Thomas Edison
Text 7. Wealth and Weightlessness
Text 8. Southern Statis
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Text 9. The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago

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Reading Guide
The Great South, 1875
The Great South
Southern Stasis
- Edward King, The Great South, 1875, excerpts
- Henry W. Grady, "The New South," address, 1886/1889, excerpts
- Booker T. Washington, The Atlanta Exposition Address, 1895, excerpts

If there was one place in the United States that did not fully embrace the American enthusiasm for the machine and material progress it was the South, chiefly because at this time it possessed very few machines and had experienced very little progress. It had not fully recovered from the physical devastation of the Civil War. It had to accommodate a large population of formerly enslaved African Americans, and it was still embittered over the loss of the War and the Northern occupation that followed it. In 1873 and '74 Edward King, a writer for Scribner's Monthly, traveled throughout the South to assess its economic prospects. He found a region of considerable diversity—from Mississippi, where the aristocracy refused to abandon the traditional ways of the cotton plantation; to Alabama, where rich resources promised a bustling manufacturing future; to Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia where cotton and iron mills were already spreading the bounty of progress; and to North Carolina, where discouragement, decay, and indolence reigned. "There is much that is discouraging in the present condition of the South," he concluded, but nothing that strong infusions of Northern capital could not solve. Before that capital could flow southward, however, the region, according to King, would have to inculcate "that intense desire for immediate material development that distinguishes the North."

A little more than a decade after King wrote, Atlanta Constitution editor Henry W. Grady came north to announce that the South had found that desire. Addressing the New England Society of New York, he declared that the South had "fallen in love with work." Nine years later, in Atlanta, Booker T. Washington faced the same challenge Grady had faced in New York: to insure a steady flow of capital, he had to convince a white audience that Southerners were industrious. Washington's audience was, of course, Southern itself, and he was arguing on behalf of African Americans, but his message was the same: we are ready to "buy . . . your land, make blossom . . . your fields, and run your factories." We, too, have fallen in love with work. 19 pages total.

Discussion questions
  1. What—according to King, Grady, and Washington—is the chief impediment to progress in the South?
  2. Compare and contrast King's, Grady's, and Washington's portraits of the South.
  3. Compare and contrast those portraits to Harris's depiction of the post-War South in "Aunt Fountain's Prisoner."
  4. How do King, Grady, and Washington handle the race question?
  5. What challenges did Grady face in speaking to this northern audience? How does he attempt to overcome them?
  6. What challenges did Washington face in speaking to his largely white Southern audience? How does he attempt to overcome them?
  7. How does Washington contrast America's immigrant labor force to its African American workers?
  8. How are Grady's and Washington's arguments similar? How do they differ?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did Americans of this period define progress?
  •  What did progress mean to them?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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