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Pamela Oliver, Sociology 220 Lecture Notes
Before 1500 Only Americans
The Americans Indigenous inhabitants of what are now called North and South America.
" Already here." Arrived 12,000 - 40,000 years ago. Major migration via land bridge from
Siberia, spread south. Some evidence of other migrations. Urban horticultural empires in
Mexico, Central America, Peru. Higher population densities, settled agriculture. Spanish
colonialists added layer on top, native population still there in many places. (Will return to this
for "Latinos.")
What is now US and Canada was more sparsely settled; over 300 languages. Highest estimates
of NA pop in 1500 are 12 - 15 million, lowest commonly accepted is 5 million (current pop of
entire state of WI). (Some extremists say as low as 2 million.) No large empires, no kings.
Settled agricultural communities in some areas, especially what is now southeastern US. Small
decentralized bands, sometimes organized into loose confederations, but with little centralization
of power, led to varied and shifting response to Europeans. not just impose European king at
the top of a hierarchy, unlike Aztecs, Incas. Europeans did enslave North Americans. Columbus
got rich as a slave owner. Nevertheless, early encounters were shifting and problematic. The
Americans were settled, had possession of the land. For the first two hundred years in North
America (1600-1800) relations between Europeans and Americans were mixed. Some trading.
Some live and let live. A lot of fighting on both sides. As the European settlements grew and
got more hostile, the Americans were more and more resistant.
1500-1776 Colonial Era
European incursions
European governments "claim" America and divide it among themselves.
Enslavement, pestilence and plagues, economic disruptions, warfare for the Americans.
South America: Spanish conquerors put a new layer on American [indio] populations.
In North America, European settlers intrude on the land, ultimately displace.
African slavery + some free Africans.
Initial Confrontations: Colonial Period 1500-1800. Horses from Mexico lead to Plains culture,
buffalo hunting on horseback. Fur trading leads to reorganization of economies. Some adoption
of new agricultural methods, especially in the southeast. European settlement dense only along
northeast coast. French and English competing to settle; each forms alliances with different
American groups, who are drawn into their ongoing wars. Some groups move west, out of the
way; others fight; others try to live in peace. Many die in warfare, dislocation, or disease. In
first census of the new US govt in 1800, NA pop counted at 600,000. Quite a few European
males married into American tribes; their mixed-ancestry descendants probably increase in
relative numbers due to high death rates among Americans.
by 1800, NA pop counted by US govt at 600,000, by 1850 it was 250,000. Today 1-2 million
(including mixed-ancestry who chose NA identity on census form.) What happened?
1) climactic changes had been disrupting and moving populations anyway. decline of large
mammals. drying of SW. but this pre-Columbus.
2) horses from Mexico (Spanish) and fur trading by French. initial contacts from 1500 on started
changing. development of Plains culture, shift in warfare patterns. reorganization of economies
around fur trapping. intermarriage with European trappers, who usually joined the tribes. mixed
Euro-Nat Am children often show up as leaders in resistance to European settlers. Populations
declined as a result of warfare, shifting subsistence patterns.
3) diseases. 90% + death rates in some areas. Colonists took over abandoned villages, dug up
graves for tools.
4) extermination by Europeans.
When you are thinking about what happened, it is important to realize that most Nat Ams in the
New England, upper midwest area lived in relatively small bands, independent, no overarching
governments, some history of disunity, breaking up. democracy. no government. Even the
great empires of south were defeated, so the end result would probably have been the same, but
the details were different in the north because there were lots of small groups defeated one at a
time. rather in the south, conquering a hierarchy.
In some areas, particularly what is now Southeastern US, what came to be called the "civilized
tribes" ( Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole ) adapted and shaped their societies in
response to newcomers. The Cherokee in particular adopted European dress, converted to
Christianity, settled as farmers, developed a written version of their language, modified their
governmental forms so that they were very similar to those of the English colonies.
To the west, in New Spain (to become Mexico), the population is 90% + Indio with European
Spanish dominant upper class. The Spaniards are trying to colonize northern New Spain with
mixed success, as the [native, indigenous] Americans resist.
Religious self-views. The Promised Land. The New Israel. Only a tiny proportion
of colonists were Pilgrims/Puritans, but they became the icons of the national myth. Many
different views of how to mix with the native Americans. Some thought they should live
together. But others saw their situation in Biblical terms, as entering Canaan and killing all
the inhabitants. Many saw the deaths of the native inhabitants as a sign from God that they
were meant to be in the land. National myth is image that the Europeans arrived in 1620 and
have been here since. But MOST Europeans arrived later, in floods of immigration from
"Before the Mayflower." Most European Americans think of themselves, of whites as belonging
in America more than African Americans. But this is not true. Europeans and Africans arrived
Persons of African descent were part of the Mediterranean mix, and some of the conquistadores
were Spanish of partial African descent, people who definitely would be considered "black" in
the US today. Similarly, there were some Europeans of African descent and some Africans who
traveled freely to the Americas in the colonial period.
Nevertheless, most of the Africans in the Americas arrived as slaves, having been captured in
Africa. African slavery throughout North and South America. African slaves first landed in
North America in Jamestown in 1607, thirteen years before the Mayflower. In many ways,
African American labor built this country.
1607 - 1776. Colonial period. Slaves imported. Plantation economy develops in the South.
Free Blacks 5-10% of all AfAms. About 175 years of slavery before the European American
In the early years, some Africans were treated like European indentured servants. That is, they
were bound to work for a certain number of years, e.g. 17, and then were free. Throughout the
Colonial period, 5-10% of the Africans in North America were free. Some free persons of
African descent owned African slaves.
1776-1815 The formation of the racial state.
Europeans (calling themselves Americans) create a new government of, by, and for
"white people." American Indians are excluded, treated as separate nations (generally as they
wish to be). European Americans strip free Africans of their citizenship rights. The AfricanAmerican movement begins as a defense against European-American actions.
1790 Immigration and Naturalization Act. Migrants from Europe can become citizens in
relatively easy process of "naturalization." Only "whites" can be naturalized.
Slavery enshrined in the Constitution of 1791.
Louisiana purchase: 1803. Buy from the French land that is inhabited by Americans.
1808 importation of slaves ends. Henceforth, slaves are all native born.
War of 1812. Defeat of Tecumseh, British cannot block expansion.
1776-1795. Revolutionary period.
The European Americans separate from the British government (but the Canadians refuse to go
along). They no longer see themselves as European, they see themselves as "American." They
come to see themselves as the rightful owners of the continent. This is the crucial period. They
form their own government. American Indians are other nations, to be fought or treated with.
1803, Louisiana Purchase, "buys" land from the French that does not belong to the French in the
first place, after Napoleon had gotten it back from Spain.
Blacks support revolution. Atticus Crispus. Whites argue about whether "equality" includes
blacks. Slavery written into constitution. 1791: 59,000 free blacks vs 750,000 slaves (7%).
1793: Cotton gin invented. Large cotton plantations (slave labor) central to southern economy
and northern textile mills.
1795-1815. Post-Revolutionary Period. slave importation to US ends 1808. Whites
pass laws restricting citizenship of free blacks in north. Petitions, protests; small migration to
Africa. Richard Allen, AME church; Absalom Jones, Free African Society.
War of 1812. What about? Key issue was that the British were supporting the indigenous
Americans. Wanted to keep a buffer between the US and Canada. Encouraged them as separate
nations. The key consequence of the war was the defeat of Tecumsah in the west, and the
concession of the British.
N.B. Migration of Africans to US basically stops after 1808. There is essentially zero migration
from African, and only very little migration of African-descent persons from Caribbean islands.
African American families have been in North America for at least 200 years, 300 years on
average. Some European-American families have been on the continent as long as African
Americans, but MOST are much more recent migrants. There was huge immigration throughout
the 19th century, peaking in 1900. Most European Americans have ancestors who migrated to
North America after 1890 or so. Almost no African Americans do. "Back to Europe"
1815-1860 Race and Expansion
European migration accelerates, especially after 1830. Immigrant hordes create
population pressures, westward expansion.
1824 BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) created under the War Dept. (Moved to Department
of the Interior in the 20th century, after the wars are over.)
1830 Trail of Tears. Forced relocation of "five civilized tribes" from Georgia to
Oklahoma. Thousands die in a thousand mile march. Area west of the Mississippi (originally
Oklahoma, Kansas) is "Indian territory" to be governed by "Indians" [Americans] in perpetuity.
Plains and Southwest Americans become increasingly hostile to the invaders.
Divisions over slavery grow. Free blacks become involved in abolition movement.
Repeatedly, European settlers move onto land specifically reserved for "Indians," battles
ensue, US troops enter the battle, take land from Indians previously reserved to them. US
government seeking to obtain land peacefully by treaty from as many groups as possible.
Groups pacified are dumped into "Indian territory," where the groups there make room for
1837, 1842 Chippewa treaties cede what is now northern Wisconsin, Michigan &
Minnesota to the US; treaties specifically reserve the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded
1848 California Gold Rush. Chinese migrate in substantial numbers (along with many
Texas and the Annexation of Northern Mexico
“New Spain”: Spanish colony 1521-1821 (300 years)
• Creation of “Mexicans”: mixed indigenous & Spanish ancestry, Spanish culture.
• “Indios” resist, remain separate in some areas
• Most of northern New Spain never heavily settled by Spanish, strong resistance from
indigenous Americans
• Mexican independence 1821, Mexican Republic 1824. Political turmoil
• 30,000 Anglo-Americans had moved into Texas, greatly outnumbering the Spanish-Mexicans;
generally slaveholders
• 1824 Mexican republic abolishes slavery
• 1830 Mexico attempts to stop Anglo immigration, enforce laws against slavery
• 1836 new Mexican constitution restricts “states rights” (over slavery, among others); AngloTexans backed by some Tejanos (Spanish-Texans) secede from Mexico and create Texas as an
independent white slave-holding state
• 1845 fearing Texas expansion west, the US annexes Texas as a slave state
• 1845. US annexes Texas.
• 1848. US provokes a war with Mexico, wins. Mexico cedes the northern half of its country to
• Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guarantees citizenship rights, land rights, and right to speak
Spanish and to be Catholic to all Mexican citizens in the ceded territory.
• About 7% of Mexican Americans today are direct descendants of those covered by the treaty
• Mixed experiences: some Mexicans retained land & economic status, some intermarried with
Anglos. Many others defrauded of land, chased across the border by Anglo mobs. No consistent
protection of citizenship, language rights.
• California gold rush 1848. First entry of significant numbers of Chinese – initially into gold
fields, then as laborers to support growing western economy
• Anglo-American immigrants rapidly overwhelm Mexicans in northern California, drive them
• Fewer Anglos in desert southern California, Mexican landowners retain much of their land in
large rancheros
1860-1865 US Civil War.
North wins. Slavery Ends. Tremendous devastation in the
1865-1876 Reconstruction
Constitutional amendments: 13th (abolish slavery), 14th (all persons born or naturalized in
the US have rights of citizenship regardless of race, religion, national origin, or previous
condition of servitude), 15th (right of men to vote regardless of race etc.) NOTE: The 14th and
15th amendments do not apply to non-white immigrants because they are not allowed to become
naturalized, but do apply to non-whites born in the US.
Union army occupies the south.
Blacks vote. Whites who have been in Rebel army cannot. Black elected officials.
Some reforms. Much turmoil, resistence.
Conflicts around 15th amendment disrupt the previous coalition between feminists and
supporters of African-American rights.
1868 Significant Japanese migration begins with the Meiji restoration. Most to Hawaii,
but some to mainland.
1871 Indian Appropriations Act. US decides it will no longer sign treaties, will just
legislate. This land belongs to Eur-Ams, who will decide what to do with AmerInds.
1877 - 1920 Solidifying the Racial State
Note: Capitalism is rising in this period.
This is a period of extremely high immigration from Europe. Those European
descendents already here violently resist newcomers. There is much anti-immigrant feeling,
there are ethnic riots in the streets.
Compromise of 1876 - Union army leaves the south, agreement to let southerners do
what they will about race. White southerners can vote again. 1877-1891, Republicans debate
whether to continue to support blacks; after 1891, abandon them entirely.
1880s - 1890s Southern states pass Jim Crow segregation laws, amend their state
Constitutions to disenfranchise blacks. 1893 Plessey vs Furgeson, "Separate but Equal," US
Supreme Court effectively guts the 14th amendment.
1895-1920 Virulant racism. Presidents Taft and Wilson are explicit racists. Hundreds of
African Americans are lynched (murdered) in the south. "Scientific racism" is taught in college
science classrooms. (This ideology distinguishes northern (Aryan) from southern Europeans, as
well as what we now understand as "races.") Explicit opposition to any form of mixing of
Explicit racism also applied to Chinese, Japanese. In California, laws passed requiring
school segregation, making it illegal for "persons ineligible for citizenship" to own land.
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act: No immigration from China.
1907 Gentlemen's Agreement. No more immigration from Japan. (Japan agrees to
(Asian-descent people born in US are citizens.)
American Indians
The final "Indian Wars" 1870-1890. US Army battles native people on the plains,
forcing them all onto reservations. Goal of US policy is to eliminate Indians as Indians. Either
kill them or force them to adopt European-American ways. Boarding schools. Dispirited,
broken people, starving on reservations or battling to the death.
1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. (Crazy Horse vs. Custer) The last major Sioux victory.
1887 General Allotment Act. Break up the AmerInd reservations, give land to
individuals; "surplus" land to whites. Much land passes to white hands, reservations shrink by
50%. Indians not permitted to manage their own land, instead Bureau of Indian Affairs manages
it as a trust. If land is leased or sold, money collected by BIA and supposed to be paid to the
Indian owner. [Recent lawsuit: 20-40 billion dollars are missing, unaccounted for by BIA. No
information to owners about who land was leased to or what was owed, money never paid to
them. Money transferred from BIA into general budget of US government with no accounting.
Checks to individuals never cashed. Judge recently held BIA officials in personal contempt for
permitting the destruction of huge volumes of documents & uncashed checks after the lawsuit
was filed.]
1889 Despite treaty, the eastern part of "Indian Territory" [Oklahoma] is opened to
whites in a "land run." 1893, Congress passes law calling for negotiation for the land, tribes hold
out. 1895-7, gradual erosion of their position. 1898 Congress passes Curtis Act, forcing
allotment and division of their other property, terminating their government. Dept of Interior
takes over their schools, turns them into a public school system. 1901 Tribal citizens declared
citizens of US and Territory of Oklahoma, 1907 Oklahoma admitted to the Union as a state.
1890 The Battle/Massacre at Wounded Knee. 300 Sioux, including women and children,
and 25 soldiers are killed after the army breaks up a Ghost Dance.
1890 census, American population down to 200,000. Its low point.
US Imperialism
Hawaii. A kingdom of Polynesian people. In the mid- to late-19th century, AngloAmerican planters take over much of the land, import many Asian workers. Anglo-Americans
want to become part of US, so overthrow the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 and ask for and obtain
annexation of the US, in direct violation of the international law of the time. Native Hawaiians,
along with Asians, are not permitted to vote or given citizenship rights in this US territory.
Spanish-American war of 1898. US gains possession of Philippine Islands and Puerto
Rico, gains effective domination over Cuba.