"I do not pretend . . .
...to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
— Theodore Parker, Abolitionist Clergyman
The Civil Rights Movement
— from the series America in the 20th Century
One could argue that many issues of American foreign policy in the twentieth century had their origins in the emergence of the United States as a major world power at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish-American war was the great conflict of the era, Teddy Roosevelt its great warrior. For nationalist Americans, empire building was intoxicating. The Washington Post editorialized:
“A new consciousness seems to have come upon us—the consciousness of strength—and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”
Of course, not everyone was infected with the blood fever. Sober citizens, Mark Twain among them, vehemently opposed American imperialism in general and the Spanish-American War in particular. With the benefit of more than a century of hindsight, we know the consequences of that "splendid little war" were monumental. Indeed, its lesson endures today: "'Tis much easier to win the war than to secure the peace."
The Civil Rights Movement is the eleventh program in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. The powerful survey follows the genesis of the modern day movement to secure equal rights and protection for African-Americans from post-Civil War reconstruction through the rise of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. It profiles the movement’s most important figures and groups and the era’s most significant events, including the Montgomery bus boycott, Freedom Rides, March on Washington, and protests in Nashville, Birmingham and Selma.
The Civil Rights Movement is presented in eleven video chapters. Preview them here or log in to the members-only Streaming Room™ to access the complete videos. Not a member? It's easy to subscribe now.
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