Theme 8 (SOC): Social Structures

35 min readjune 6, 2020



AP US History 🇺🇸

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The one thing you need to know about this theme:
Social Structures Change
Social categories and practices are created, challenged, questioned, and maintained over time by a variety of factors. The introduction of new social groups or categories alters the way each social group perceives itself and its role in American government, society, and economic life. 💭

College Board Description📘

This theme focuses on how and why systems of social organization develop and change as well as the impact that these systems have on the broader society.

Organizing Question🔎

In what ways are social structures both impacting and impacted by American political policies, economic systems, and social traditions?

Key Vocabulary📝

Encomienda SystemMiddle PassageBlack LegendCaste SystemPeninsularesMestizosCovert Resistance
Overt ResistanceNew York City Slave RevoltStono Rebellion"Necessary Evil""Positive Good"EgalitarianismAbigail Adams, "Remember the Ladies"
Republican MotherhoodCommonwealth v. HuntPlantation Aristocracy"Old Immigration"NativistAssimilationLowell Mills
"Cult of Domesticity"Grimke SistersElizabeth Cady StantonSusan B. AnthonySojourner Truth's "Aint I a Woman?"Denmark Vesey RebellionNat Turner Rebellion
Underground RailroadDavid Walker's AppealWilliam Lloyd Garrison's The LiberatorFredrick Douglass' The North StarAmerican Colonization SocietyAmerican Antislavery SocietyFree Soil Movement
Republican PartyJohn Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry"Positive Good" ThesisJane Addams' Hull HouseNational American Woman Suffrage Association"Normal Colleges"Bryn Mawr College
"New Immigration"Social DarwinismGospel of WealthSocial Gospel MovementThe Gilded AgeA Century of DishonorHow the Other Half Lives
Coxey's March on WashingtonVictory GardensRosie the RiveterWomen's Army CorpsFair Employment Practices CommissionTuskegee AirmenNavajo Code Talkers
Double V CampaignExecutive Order 9066Korematsu v. USBracero ProgramMexican RepatriationZoot Suit RiotsBrown v. Board of Education
Sweatt v. PainterCongress for Racial EqualityMontgomery Bus BoycottSouthern Christian Leadership ConferenceStudent Nonviolent Coordinating CommitteeFreedom RidesFreedom Summer
March on WashingtonCivil Rights Act of 1964Voting Rights Act of 196524th AmendmentBlack NationalismMalcolm XNation of Islam
Stokely CarmichaelBlack Panther PartyCesar ChavezDolores HuertaUnited Grape BoycottAmerican Indian MovementOccupation of Alcatraz Island
"Trail of Broken Treaties"Occupation of Wounded KneeThe Feminine MystiqueEqual Pay Act of 1963National Organization for WomenEqual Rights AmendmentRoe v. Wade
Birth Control PillTitle IXStonewall Inn Riot

Historical Examples

Period 1 (1491-1607)

When Europeans arrived in the New World, they established social hierarchies primarily based on race and gender. While new arrivals to the Americas would eventually add other categories like religion and nationality to this mix, those two categories of organization dominate much of the United States History timeline.

Encomienda System

Spanish colonizers in the Americas established a strict social hierarchy through the encomienda system. Under this primarily economic system, the Spanish government granted an individual - or Encomendero - a specific number of Native Americans. In exchange for goods and labor, the Encomenderos were responsible for teaching the Native Americans about the Christian faith, the Spanish language, and protecting them from hostile tribes.
In 1542, a friar by the name of Bartolomé de las Casas wrote an account of mistreatment toward Native Americans at the hands of the Encomenderos to Prince Philip II of Spain. His account led to the abandonment of encomiendas in favor of a new, less harsh system - the repartimiento system. 

Beginnings of Slavery

The Spanish also extorted labor from African slaves, who they imported through the Middle Passage in trade with Portugal. After the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), the Portuguese set up trading posts along the African coast and forcibly extracted slave labor for trade to the Americas. Many of the enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage were forced by the Spanish to work in silver mines and raise agricultural goods like sugar cane. 
The real brutality of Spanish labor practices helped with the emergence of a new trend in describing Spain’s presence in the Americas - the Black Legend. Authors writing about Spanish actions concerning Native Americans and African slaves tended to depict Spanish actors as barbaric and cruel. This was especially true of English and other Protestant authors. The account of Spanish atrocities by one of Spain’s religious leaders did little to quell such dramatic illustrations.

Caste System

In addition to the economic systems that created a hierarchy of Spanish bosses and Native American or African slave laborers, Spanish colonizers created strict social structures through a racial caste system. At the top of this social hierarchy were peninsulares - individuals who migrated directly from the Iberian Peninsula. Directly below the peninsulares were their children, who were still considered entirely white, but less authoritative due to their birth in the Americas. Beneath this class of wholly white people was the mestizos, or children of one white Spaniard and one Native American. The bottom of the hierarchy consisted of Native Americans and enslaved or freed Africans.

Period 2 (1607-1754)

Whereas Period 1 focused mostly on the interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, Period 2 focuses primarily on social structures relating to African slaves in the American colonies. More specifically, the focus of this period is on the ways that enslaved individuals sought to resist the dehumanization of slavery and maintain their cultural priorities. 


Resistance to authority comes in two forms: covert and overt. Covert resistance often occurs on a day-to-day level. For example, enslaved individuals might partake in covert resistance by breaking or sabotaging tools, or pretending to be ill. In more collective instances, field slaves used songs - also known as “field hollers” -  to set a steady, slow working pace to inhibit production.
***Information: The “field hollers” sung by enslaved individuals during this period have a long and important history. After emancipation, the tunes increasingly took on the title of “work songs,” as convicts primarily sang them in prison chain gangs (often as a result of discriminatory laws). For more information on this topic or to hear examples of these songs, visit the Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/audio
Overt means of resistance were more visible and often took the form of open rebellion on the part of the enslaved. For example, self-emancipated or “fugitive slaves” left enslavers and plantations in the hope of reaching states or territories where slavery was banned. Enslavers often placed advertisements in newspapers with descriptions of enslaved persons in hopes of retrieving them.
Other forms of overt resistance included slave revolts. In 1712, twenty-one enslaved individuals were killed after the New York City slave revolt that killed nine whites. During the War of Jenkin’s Ear, armed slaves marched towards Florida and Spanish with hope of freedom in the Stono Rebellion (1739). Despite being put down by the South Carolina militia, the Stono Rebellion was the largest uprising by enslaved individuals in the British mainland colonies. 
Resistance to the racialized and dehumanizing structure of slavery came at a high cost. Exposed acts of covert and overt resistance led to punishments including reduced food rations, whippings, separation of family, physical mutilation, and imprisonment. As slave communities sought to fight against their condition, white enslavers used physical and mental tools of intimidation to maintain their superiority.

Period 3 (1754-1800)

Period 3 focuses on the revolutionary mindset that began with the French and Indian War and carried on through the Election of 1800. Within this time frame, Enlightenment ideas that sparked and brought forward the American revolution also catalyzed for calls to challenge dominant social orders, especially regarding slavery, suffrage, and the role of women. 

Abolitionists / Pro-Slavery

Early abolitionists saw inherent disparities between a nation where “all men are created equal,” yet many men were held in bondage. In the year before the Declaration of Independence, Quakers in Philadelphia founded the nation’s first abolitionist society. Within five years, Pennsylvania passed a law that became the first of many to emancipate enslaved individuals in the North gradually.
As slavery continued to expand into the Deep South and West, the abolitionist movement shifted to adjust to new sectional attitudes toward the “peculiar institution.” With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, short-staple cotton spread across the South and West as the primary cash crop of the region. With the expansion of cotton also came the expansion of slavery.
In the early nineteenth century, southern politicians began adopting the material benefits of slavery in full-force. While once referring to slavery as a “necessary evil,” politicians of the 1830s and 1840s took a new stance that slavery constituted a “positive good.” The institution, enslavers argued, benefitted enslaved individuals by providing a pathway to civilization and Christianity. Despite this paternalistic argument, growing abolitionist societies of that era continued to push for emancipation. 

Democratic Equality

The concept of democratic equality also took hold in new state governments, where policy-makers began reducing property requirements for voting. This shift gave more political power to common white men and changed the makeup of state legislatures, which in turn selected Senators to the United States Congress. However, the move did almost nothing to advance the voices of non-white men or women. 
The role of women like the Daughters of Liberty in the American Revolution as organizers of boycotts and “spinning bees” is often highly praised in AP U.S. History courses. In their time, however, these women were often overlooked by the same men who espoused Enlightenment ideas of equality and egalitarianism
Some women, like Jane Adams, directly petitioned influential men like her husband in instances such as her “Remember the Ladies” letter. Adams attempted to remind Mr. Adams, who was on the committee writing the Declaration of Independence, to remember American women when creating a new code of laws for the nation. 
Mrs. Adams’ plea did not result in dramatic political changes for women. However, women’s roles did expand in the post-revolutionary period through the ideal of “Republican Motherhood,” which saw women as an invaluable asset to the nation as torchbearers of republican values. The propagation of this ideal meant that women should get an education so that they could better educate their children in the values and virtues of republican virtues.

Period 4 (1800-1848)

Period 4 covers a wide range of topics, including industrialization and reform movements. While these may not initially seem connected, they most certainly are. In many ways, the materialism that came from the Market Revolution pushed many Americans to reevaluate their priorities, especially as they were already pushed by preachers from the Second Great Awakening to do so. Thus, the social and economic factors go hand-in-hand in this period.

Effects of Innovation

In the Market Revolution, innovations like steam engines, interchangeable parts, the cotton gin, the mechanical reaper, and the steel plow made it possible for both manufacturers and agriculturalists to produce in higher quantities with less effort. Mass production in this Industrial Revolution led to higher population densities in European cities like Brussels and London and American cities like Boston and New York. 
This growth in manufacturing led to a general increase in the standard of living for Americans, but also led to a large income gap between the small (factory-owning) business elite and a large class of poor laborers. Laborers did have one victory in 1842, however, with the case Commonwealth v. Hunt, which decided in favor of the constitutionality of labor unions and the ability of laborers to peacefully strike and negotiate for better working conditions. 
A similar trend of increased wage inconsistency occurred in the rural South and West with the emergence of the plantation aristocracy. As agricultural innovations made farm work more productive, those with large amounts of land (or money) could afford to purchase additional property or resources to expand production. This, in turn, led to more profit, more resources (including slaves), and more land - a cycle of success. This plantation aristocracy controlled both the economic and political capital of the South and West. 
These two systems of inequality - the plantation aristocracy of the South and business elite of the North - worked together in one socio-economic order. Southern cotton (and other raw materials from the South and West) went to fuel Northern industries like textile mills. In exchange, Northern industries sold manufactured goods to Southerners and Westerners who needed them. 


With industrialization also came large numbers of international migrants -  in what is often called “Old Immigration” - from Germany and Ireland. Upon arriving in the United States, such immigrant groups experience intense nativist resentment from existing populations. Irish Catholics, in particular, faced religious discrimination from the mostly Protestant communities of their new home. 
While it would be unfair and incorrect to characterize all immigrants as a collective, we know that generally speaking, Irish immigrants tended to remain in urban areas and work industrial jobs. At the same time, German immigrants sometimes ventured West to farm. Today, the “German Belt” often refers to a geographic area roughly spanning from eastern Pennsylvania to the Oregon coast, with the densest permanent settlement roughly in the Great Plains. Wherever they traveled, migrants within the United States likely would have used new modes of transportation like the Erie Canal or the Lancaster Turnpike and Cumberland Road to get there.   
No matter where they ultimately settled, immigrants in the Market Revolution faced the obstacle of assimilation. To what extent did they wish to take on the culture of the new communities around them? Did they have to do away with the traditions passed down by generations of ancestors back home? As many immigrants found, the answers to those questions were not quick or easy. Insisting upon keeping part of one’s culture meant potentially challenging a complex social framework.

Women in the Workforce

Women also negotiated a new position within this complicated social framework as factory jobs - especially in textiles - catered to them in the Market Revolution. Factory systems like the Lowell Mills directly marketed to the families of young, unmarried women. They offered what appeared on the surface, a haven for work and improvement before marriage. With advances in agricultural technology, parents could afford to send off their daughters to the mills for work and not suffer a loss of production on the family farm. Life and work at mills like Lowell were indeed not a paradise for young women, as evidenced by various labor strikes in the 1830s, but independent work and pay outside the home did present opportunities for independence before marriage that living at home could not. 
As opposed to the ideal of “Republican Motherhood” from Period 3, women in the Market Revolution strove for the model of the “Cult of Domesticity.” Sometimes also referred to as the “Cult of True Womanhood,” this ideal held that a woman’s proper place was in the home as the moral center of her family. To be in the world (doing public speaking, at a job, etc.) would degrade the morality of a woman and cause her to set a bad example for her husband and children. It is important to note that this was the ideal for middle and upper-class women. Poorer women working in factories to sustain themselves often aspired to this ideal, but rarely actually achieved it. 
However, the separation between women who worked and women who stayed at home was not always so clear. Some women, especially activists like the Grimke Sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, willingly chose to blur the lines between public and private spheres. It is also worth noting that established social structures did not extend this “Cult of Domesticity” beyond racial lines. Enslavers rarely viewed female slaves as harbingers of morality for their families due to the color of their skin and expected them to work just as hard as men in the fields. As Sojourner Truth pointed out in “Ain’t I A Woman,” even when white women began pointing out inconsistencies in the moral and political arguments for themselves, they excluded black women. 
In addition to her work as a black feminist, Sojourner Truth took on an active role in the growing American antislavery movement. Much like in Period 2, enslaved individuals took part in both covert and overt forms of resistance within the dehumanizing system of slavery that white enslavers increasingly attempted to justify on moral grounds. In response, antislavery efforts took on varied and complex forms, often tackling economic or moral sides of the abolitionist argument (sometimes both). 

Anti-Slavery Resistance

Much like in Period 2, overt forms of antislavery resistance mostly consisted of active rebellions. In 1822, freedman Denmark Vesey plotted a rebellion in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite the failure of the plot after an enslaved man revealed the plan to authorities, Vesey and over thirty co-conspirators were found guilty and executed for attempted insurrection. Less than a decade later, an enslaved preacher by the name of Nat Turner led an armed uprising in Virginia that killed nearly sixty people. While Turner initially evaded arrest, he was eventually captured and hanged.
Covert forms of resistance in the form of sabotage and “field hollers” continued, as did self-emancipation. By the nineteenth century, enslaved individuals could escape North using a network known as the Underground Railroad. At the risk of their freedom, leaders or “conductors” like Harriet Tubman guided small groups of people to safe spaces during the day and navigated them through rough terrain in the night. White individuals or families who offered their homes as “stops” on the Underground Railroad also risked their safety if caught assisting fugitive slaves. 
In addition to these traditional forms of resistance to the structure of slavery, radical abolitionist actively expressed their opinions and solutions in distributed print. In the 1829 publication, David Walker’s Appeal, Walker spared no words in calling out the hypocrisy of Christian enslavers while simultaneously justifying the use of violence in revolting against slavery, should an enslaved individual choose to do so. 
Two leading abolitionist publications emerged within this period as well - William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator and Frederick Douglass’ The North Star. Garrison made known his radical stance that enslaved people should be freed immediately with no compensation to enslavers. He and Douglass joined together for lecture circuits, which eventually led to the publication of Douglass’ biography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
***A Note on Skill: On the DBQ, College Board requires students to provide context, point of view, purpose, or audience for at least three documents. Of those, point of view is often the most difficult (and most missed) skill. When looking at a document, consider if an author is speaking from a position of sympathy or empathy. Remember - sympathy is when someone feels bad for someone else, and empathy is when someone can truly understand what another person is going through. In this case, William Lloyd Garrison could have sympathy for enslaved individuals, but he couldn’t have empathy because he had never been a slave. Frederick Douglass, however, had been a slave and, therefore, could speak from a position of empathy. Being able to describe this point of view, especially if you can connect it to an opposite point of view, is an excellent way to prove that skill.
Social organizations also gained momentum for the abolitionist cause. Initially founded in 1817, the American Colonization Society offered freed slaves the opportunity to emigrate to the colony of Liberia (established in 1822), rather than remain in the United States. Despite rampant discrimination, many free blacks refused to leave the country that they viewed as their home. Abolitionists also argued that the colonization program was simply a way for enslavers to rid the United States of former slaves who might stir up trouble with still enslaved peoples in the South. 
In 1833, the American Antislavery Society formed with the goal of immediate emancipation of all slaves. The organization sent petitions to Congress (which went mostly unread), published newsletters and pamphlets, and held lectures for usually uninformed or unsympathetic Northern audiences on the atrocities of slavery. By the Election of 1840, less radical members of the organization had left to organize more politically in the Liberty Party. 

Period 5 (1844-1877)

The focus of Period 5 involves the events leading to and resulting from the Civil War. In this period, social change surrounds the issues of slavery and abolitionism. Because some years overlap, the themes and information from this period may be similar to that from Period 4. Long-term effects of the failures of Reconstruction on social structures are explored more deeply in Period 8.
Generally speaking, after the Industrial Revolution, the North had an industrial economy, and the South remained agricultural with a dependence on slave labor. This is not to say that the North was free of the slavery issue; Northern factories relied on Southern materials produced by the work of enslaved individuals. However, Northern manufacturers relied on free labor for their production, and increasingly viewed slavery as undermining the free labor market. 

Political Parties

The Free Soil Movement - and later the Free Soil Party -  arose in response to this view of slave labor as antithetical to a free market. Under the slogan “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, Free Men,” organizers emphasized opposition to the expansion of slavery on economic, not necessarily moral, grounds. By 1854, Free-Soilers merged with other like-minded groups to form the Republican Party

Slavery during the Civil War Period

In 1857, abolitionist Hinton Helper also attempted to cut into this economic argument for emancipation with his book Impending Crisis of the South. Addressing non-slaveholding white Southerners, Helper argued that the system of slavery only truly benefited a small percentage of Southerners - the plantation aristocracy. Furthermore, he explained, the system of slavery inhibited the South’s ability to compete with Northern industrialism and stunted Southern economic growth. Helper cinched his argument by preying on the greatest fear of white Southerners - slave insurrection. He suggested that widespread slave rebellion was an imminent threat unless Southerners called immediately for voluntary emancipation. 
Helper’s claim of an impending slave rebellion was not entirely inaccurate. In 1859, radical abolitionist John Brown attempted to raid the military arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He hoped to supply a vast army of rebelling slaves and create a stronghold of freedmen in the mountains of Virginia, but was captured by the militia when not enough support arrived. Despite its failure, the attempt fueled preexisting Southern fears of a slave revolt and led to greater violent sectionalism. 
At the same time, other abolitionists in the North continued to press for abolition on moral grounds. As outlined in Period 4, abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass published newspapers with editorials and first-hand accounts of the atrocities of slavery. The men also spearheaded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which worked tirelessly to petition complacent Northerners and government officials for immediate change. 
In response to these arguments, Southern politicians and members of the plantation aristocracy defended slavery as a social good and political right of the states. John C. Calhoun’s “positive good” thesis (1837) argued that slavery served as a civilizing force for Southern society. According to Calhoun, enslavers held the vital responsibility of Christianizing enslaved people and protecting them. Pointedly, he argued that enslavers held enslaved people in better conditions than poor workers of Northern industrial cities. 
Southerners also argued that slavery was a Constitutional right of the states. When presented with federal solutions to the issue of slavery, they pointed to the precedent of nullification as a means of defending this right, such as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification. 

Period 6 (1865-1898)

In the years following the Civil War, the United States worked to rebuild its infrastructure, government, economy, and social structure. Rebuilding across all fronts led to a boom in industrialization, as well as challenges to government and social roles.

Effects of the Gilded Age

During the period known as the Gilded Age, the United States experienced a second boom in industry driven by new technological innovations in energy, communication, and transportation. Electrification and the lightbulb allowed factories to divorce themselves from the constraints of daylight hours and work virtually twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Meanwhile, the telephone and Transcontinental Railroad made the efficiency of doing business - making and meeting new markets - easier than ever.
Within this new framework of business, corporations and trusts found an increasing need for managers and clerical workers. Women, in particular, benefitted from these new jobs as roles like telephone operator and secretary were considered respectable enough for unmarried women to take on. Clerical positions led to the growth of the middle-class, and an expansion of consumer culture. Companies spent unprecedented levels of money advertising products to American consumers, who now had multiple options for many available products. 


Middle-class women, in particular, also spent their newfound leisure time joining voluntary organizations to promote social and political reform. Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago relied on the volunteer service of women to assist in caring for immigrant women and their children, who they hoped to assimilate. Other women dedicated themselves to the task of suffrage, joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Under the merged leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Carrie Chapman Catt, the organization hoped to obtain suffrage for women through state-level activism.
These politically and socially active women were also often college-educated. In the early nineteenth century, women began attending “normal colleges” - more commonly known as teacher training schools. With a growing emphasis on the importance of public education in the era of Jacksonian Democracy, properly educated teachers was a critical component. This expanded to other aspects of women’s education as the century progressed. In 1885, Bryn Mawr College opened and offered college and graduate degrees in the field of social work. 
Social work like that provided by Jane Addams and other settlement house organizers was necessary for the nation’s new wave of immigrants. “New Immigration” consisted of migrants primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe, who came to the United States for industrial jobs. In addition to the obstacle of assimilation faced by previous waves of immigrants like the “Old Immigrants” of Period 4, “New Immigrants” faced nativist challenges specific to their time.

Social Darwinism

Darwin’s theory of evolution put forward the concept of “survival of the fittest” - that only those with the genetic and character traits to be successful will ultimately become successful. Social Darwinism took that concept and applied it to new social and economic contexts. This did not replace the ideas of rugged individualism that had existed for decades in the United States, but rather postulated that successful individuals should not feel bad for their success. According to Social Darwinists, those who were poor deserved to be poor by some fault in their being. 


It is with this understanding that some business leaders paternalistically argued in favor of a moral obligation to help the less fortunate. For example, in his book Gospel of Wealth, Andrew Carnegie argued that the wealthy should serve as trustees for the poor, who would not know how to handle wealth even if they had it correctly. For this reason, Carnegie did not merely give away his money to the poor. Instead, he built libraries across the nation, hoping to give poor individuals the tools and chance to prove themselves as “fit” through education, if that was their destiny. 
Apart from the obvious flaw in this logic - that poor laborers working ten to fifteen hours every day don’t have time to visit the library - critics of Carnegie and other Social Darwinists saw the purpose of wealth differently. Washington Gladden, a pastor and leader in the Social Gospel Movement, argued that Americans should return to the basic teachings of Jesus. According to him, wealth should not be hoarded but shared directly with the poor to meet their direct needs and fight the corruption that caused those needs. 

Terms to Remember

Other critics also pointed out flaws in America’s society and economy in the Gilded Age. Here are a few examples every student should know for the exam:
The Gilded AgeMany historians point to this 1873 satirical novel by Mark Twain as the origination of “Gilded Age” as the term used to describe the period from roughly 1865-1898. Twain chose the word gilded - meaning thinly veiled in gold, giving false brilliance to - as a descriptor for the era due to the many issues resting under the veneer of innovation and progress. For every industrial innovation was an exploited worker. For every legal measure passed, a corrupt politician. Industrialists of the time may have lived by their successes, but its shortcomings defined their generation.
A Century of DishonorIn 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson published this exposé concerning the United States government’s violent and unfair treatment of Native Americans. Jackson’s book was well-received by Congress, to the extent that a committee appointed to look into her claims advocated for a shift in Native American policy. The ensuing Dawes Act (1887) divided tribal land into individual plots and did arguably as much to destroy Native American culture as previous government policies.
How the Other Half LivesJacob Riis’ famous book of muckraking photojournalism, published in 1890, illuminated the lives of poor urban dwellers to middle and upper-class Americans. Riis’ photos of children walking half-clothed and barefoot in the streets, or sleeping in alleyways, were especially compelling for reform-minded women of the early Progressive era. Images of adults packed like sardines into tenement housing with little but the clothes on their backs also sent explicit messages to industrialists as to the inadequacies of their wages. 
Coxey's March on Washington In 1894, during one of the most devastating economic depressions in United States history, Jacob Coxey led a march of unemployed workers to Washington D.C. to demand public works jobs. “Coxey’s Army” of nearly 10,000 citizens did not get what they came for, but officials instead arrested Coxey for trespassing on the Capitol lawn. Jacob Coxey did, however, live long enough to see his public works idea become public policy during the New Deal in the 1930s. 

Period 7 (1890-1945)

Period 7 covers just over half a century but includes significant events in United States history, including the Spanish American War, World War I, the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression and the New Deal, and World War II. Of these events, the College Board has decided that World War II had the most significant impact on shaping government policy, economic systems, and American culture. 

War Effort

Despite half a decade of New Deal programs, mobilization for the war effort was instrumental in ending the Great Depression at the end of the 1930s. The War Production Board’s mobilization was made possible by the preexisting industrial infrastructure developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and served as an essential component to aiding our troops and allies abroad.
While millions of American men went overseas to fight in the war effort, women remained at home and aided in the fight domestically. On a day-to-day level, women assisted by growing victory gardens. By growing their fruit and vegetables at home, families freed up commercial farmers to produce crops necessary for exporting to the front lines. Women also took charge as household managers for tasks like rationing and recycling of metals and other materials significant to the war effort.
Women, with the ability, also joined the workforce, aiding in the construction of war supplies like planes, tanks, and munitions. This role of “Rosie the Riveter” was not new, but rather a continuation of the practice carried out by women during World War I and arguably every war before that. Even more directly, for the first time, women joined the armed forces in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs). The WACs carried out mostly clerical jobs like typing reports and manning (or “womaning”, perhaps) the phones and telegraph lines so that more men could join the front lines of battle.
Mobilization occurred quickly and, for the most part, efficiently, under the War Production Board. With a dire need for such efficiency, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practices Commission. The commission’s purpose was to investigate and report discrimination against individuals in defense or government jobs based on “race, creed, color, or national origin,” and encourage African Americans to enter the defense workforce. The Fair Employment Practices Commission was not a flawless institution, however. After initial kickback from employers, Roosevelt provided additional strength to the commission in 1943. 
By the end of the war, though, he failed to make the commission permanent.

Role of Minorities

During the war, both government and social groups wrangled over the roles of minorities. The Fair Employment Practices Commission proved that the federal government - or at least the Executive branch - was willing to debate issues of racial discrimination and segregation when those issues interfered with the war effort. At the same time, however, the armed services remained segregated throughout the war. 
African American troops like the Tuskegee Airmen flew missions with outdated and run-down planes at physical risk to themselves. The Marine Corps placed Navajo Code Talkers in mostly separate platoons, which the Corps argued was for secrecy and function. The Army banned Japanese American men, who volunteered to leave concentration camps to fight for the United States, from fighting in the Pacific front and placed them in segregated units. It was not until Executive Order 9981, issued by President Harry S. Truman, that segregation finally ended in the armed forces. 
Disparities like these led to a movement within the African American community during the war called the “Double V” Campaign - victory abroad and victory at home. African Americans wanted to make sure that they were not fighting to defend democratic ideals on the other side of the world, just to return home and have those same democratic principles watered-down by Jim Crow institutions. This was especially true for those who could remember the Red Summer of 1919 - months of violent race riots across the nation following the conclusion of World War I. 
Other minority groups also shared experiences during World War II that shaped their collective identities and calls for social change. 
Japanese Americans
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, suspicion of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in the United States festered on the West coast. Independent investigations from the United States’ intelligence agencies, however, turned up no evidence of suspicious activity or behavior from people of Japanese ancestry. Despite these reports, nativists on the West coast pushed for immediate action against Japanese immigrants and their American-born children.
In February 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which allowed for the removal of any person or group from designated military zones. Within weeks, the War Relocation Authority forced all persons of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West coast and placed them into concentration camps in the interior of the country. When petitioned as a violation of civil liberties, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Korematsu v. U.S. (1944) argued in favor of internment as a wartime measure. 
After the war, many Japanese Americans preferred to move on from their wartime experience and look toward the future. The federal government did not take responsibility for its actions until decades later with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which paid reparations to Japanese Americans.
Mexican Immigrants
During World War II, when African Americans moved North in the Second Great Migration, the United States government instituted the Bracero Program to fill jobs in the Southwest. The program created an agreement with Mexico that allowed short-term agricultural work contracts to Mexican immigrants. While these individuals filled essential labor positions, the policy was controversial. Less than a decade earlier, the United States government actively deported millions of Mexican immigrants and their American-born children in what was known as Mexican Repatriation.
The tension between Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, and white Americans in the United States was already high in the United States before World War II. As far back as the Mexican-American War, white Americans expressed hostility to Hispanic individuals living in the West, especially due to anti-Catholicism. 
During the war, a new form of hostility broke out in the Zoot Suit Riots. The zoot suit, a flamboyant suit made of a long drape jacket and ballooning trousers, symbolized a new style of dress for young Latino men. Returning U.S. servicemen, fueled by preexisting racialized resentment and anger toward what they perceived as flouting of rationing, engaged in physical altercations with the young zoot suiters. In most cases, the young Latino men, not the servicemen, were arrested by authorities. 

Period 8 (1945-1980)

Period 8 covers a lot of ground when it comes to tracking challenges to societal structures and norms. Most of this centers around the modern Civil Rights Movement, which includes (but is not limited to): African Americans, Chicano/a Americans, American Indians, Women, and the LGBTQ+ community.


It is critical to know for the AP exam that these movements do not exist in a vacuum. They are all connected! Many of the people involved in one movement also support other movements. And movements often draw inspiration and leadership from each other. However, for the sake of organization, we will break each of them down individually here.
African American Civil Rights Movement. One of the single most important things to remember about the movement for African American civil rights is that the fight for racial equality is one deeply embedded in a system of racialized stigmas that have existed for literally hundreds of years. The early African American civil rights movement’s focus on ending segregation is hoping to deliver on promises that should have been delivered very obviously under the Fourteenth Amendment - but weren’t. 
***Study Tip: Usually, when teachers and textbooks cover the African American civil rights movement, it is either done by leadership (Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) or in phases (segregation, voting rights, black nationalism). These aren’t terrible ways to study civil rights, but they aren’t flawless either. A better way to truly understand the progression of events and ideologies would be to overlay a timeline of the African American civil rights movement (and all the other movements, for that matter) with a general timeline of the United States. Look at how national and global events impact the way leaders in the movement perceived the effectiveness of change.
During World War II, African Americans launched the “Double V” Campaign - victory abroad and victory at home - deciding that they would not stand for discrimination and racism after fighting for the ideals of democracy across the world. By the 1950s, this idea began to take hold as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took a desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), to the Supreme Court. 
Desegregation as a concept for the federal government was not new. In 1948, President Truman ordered the desegregation of all armed services with Executive Order 9981. Two years later, the Supreme Court decided in Sweatt v. Painter (1950) that the University of Texas must allow African American students to attend their law school under the Fourteenth Amendment.
With this precedent, the court likewise ruled in the Brown case that the “separate but equal” precedent outlined in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the decision, separate educational facilities posed an inherently unequal and inferior environment for learning and growth. The decision was not without challenges, however. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to comply with the court’s decision until President Eisenhower federalized the National Guardsmen being used to block the doors of Central High School in Little Rock. 
Nevertheless, with the initial victory for desegregation underway, civil rights leaders continued organizing for greater equality. Under the organizational leadership of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), established in 1942, students in Southern cities challenged segregation through sit-ins at lunch counters, jail-ins, and the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott sparked by Rosa Parks. 
In 1957, in response to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The organization’s purpose was to coordinate efforts of nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1960, the same concepts of nonviolence fueled the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This new group of young people played a critical role in the Freedom Rides aimed at desegregating public transportation in 1961 and the Freedom Summer voter registration drives in 1964.
In the 1960s, Congress worked slowly on a civil rights bill without much tangible action or progress. To show public support for the bill, members of the SNCC, NAACP, CORE, and SCLC organized a march on Washington D.C. for “jobs and freedom.” This March on Washington culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but initially, nothing else.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson challenged Congress to continue working in Kennedy’s legacy - to accomplish what he would have wanted to achieve. With this in mind, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which attempted to dismantle Jim Crow segregation. They also passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, removing barriers to suffrage like literacy tests and the poll tax. 
Enforcement of these legal parameters, however, remained uneven at the state level. In 1965, the SNCC and SCLC organized a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest a lack of enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, however, they were brutally beaten by state troopers in riot gear. Commonly referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” these events unfolded on television screens across the United States and presented Americans with realistic portrayals of the brutality of Jim Crow. 
Continued resistance by state and local officials slowed efforts at desegregation and led to increasing disunity among civil rights activists after 1965. That same year, President Johnson announced an increase to the number of troops deploying in the Vietnam War - an engagement that disproportionately drafted non-white American men. In the face of disillusionment and uncertainty, new leaders took on important roles in the civil rights movement.
The Black Power or Black Nationalism movement grew as a response to the continued presence and influence of white individuals in the African American civil rights movement. Leaders like Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little), pushed for the idea that African Americans should take control of their movement and be self-reliant. The Nation of Islam's ideologies of black cultural pride and empowerment especially influenced him. These concepts were not new - one need only look back to the 1920s and 1930s to see similar ideas in leaders like Marcus Garvey. 
After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, Stokely Carmichael became one of the most vocal supporters of Black Nationalism. A former follower of Dr. King’s nonviolent methods, Carmichael changed his philosophy to reflect the idea that nonviolence was not the solution for every problem. He was also active in the Black Panther Party, which protested against police brutality and engaged in community uplift programs like free breakfast for children. 
Chicano/a Movement. In 1962, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta formed the United Farm Workers of America to protest the egregious working conditions of agricultural laborers in the American South and West. Many of the migrant workers in these regions worked contract jobs for little pay with terrible conditions. 
In 1965, Chavez and the United Farm Workers joined with Filipino American grape workers in a boycott against California-based Delano grapes. In this Delano Grape Boycott, Chavez borrowed from the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and insisted that all strikers remain strictly nonviolent. 
To raise awareness for their cause with millions of average Californians, Chavez led a 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento. Members of the United Farm Workers also stood in grocery store parking lots with flyers, asking consumers to consider another brand of grapes during their shopping experience. 
When in the winter of 1967-1968, some strikers began losing patience and started talking about using violent means, Chavez went on a hunger strike. He refused to eat or drink anything but water for nearly a month until all strikers rededicated themselves to the nonviolent cause. After five years of boycotting Delano grapes, the company agreed to a pay raise, healthcare benefits, and safety protocols for workers. 
American Indian Movement. In the late 1960s, young Native American activists formed the American Indian Movement (AIM), fueled by decades of frustration and anger over broken promises of the federal government and reservation poverty rates well above the national average. In practice, the movement consisted of a series of demonstrations by mostly young activists hoping to build a better future for themselves and draw attention to the inequalities of their community.
In November 1969, AIM members began an occupation of Alcatraz Island - a decommissioned prison that once held the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Their purpose was to establish a Native American cultural center. In early 1970, the occupation’s core leadership began to fracture as original student supporters left to return to school, and new occupants arrived. After nineteen months, the occupation ended with a forced removal by the federal government.
In 1972, members of the movement organized a march on Washington D.C. in the form of what they called the “Trail of Broken Treaties.” Marchers stormed the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, presenting a list of demands including better housing, the return of Native American lands, and greater economic opportunities for Native Americans. 
Finally, in 1973, AIM members occupied the Native American community of Wounded Knee - the site of the brutal massacre against the Lakota Sioux in 1890. When FBI agents arrived to negotiate, the occupation turned into a siege that lasted 71 days and left three people dead.
Ultimately, the American Indian Movement did not achieve much more than was already being accomplished by the Nixon administration, including the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (1976) and increasing the budget for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Feminist Movement. In the years following World War II, many American women left the workplace for a domestic lifestyle. Several factors contributed to this shift, including the return of servicemen to their pre-war jobs and the baby boom. This is not to say that all women returned to lives as home-makers. As a general trend, however, American women returned to the same ideal that we saw in Period 4 of the “Cult of Domesticity.” 
To an extent, this trend toward domesticity overlapped with the early Cold War trend of conformity. Consciously or unconsciously, Americans in the 1950s lived largely consumer-driven, cookie-cutter lifestyles to fit in. To stand out, to seem radical or suspicious in any way, could prove detrimental.
By the 1960s, this trend toward conformity tapered off. Thus, when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the book’s critique of assumed female domesticity shook American households. The same year, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay women less than men for the same work. Friedan’s book caused women to question if there was something more for them beyond the home, and the Equal Pay Act validated that those ventures might be worth-while to explore. 
In 1966, Friedan created the National Organization for Women (NOW) as a grassroots feminist organization. In addition to pressuring employers to follow through on the Equal Pay Act, NOW organized around the goal of passing the Equal Rights Amendment - initially introduced in 1923. The Equal Rights Amendment failed to gain ratification in 1982, however, after considerable backlash from conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and the STOP ERA movement.   
Beginning in December 1971, Gloria Steinem gave a powerful public voice to the feminist movement with Ms. Magazine. Even the title “Ms.” revolutionized the female vocabulary - articulating a way to identify oneself apart from association to marriage or family. The magazine was a voice for women’s issues and groundbreaking political and economic headlines - like the decision of Roe v. Wade (1973) that the Constitution guarantees women the right to privacy for abortions in the first three months of pregnancy.
Women of the 1970s also had greater access to education than their mothers and grandmothers. Approval for the birth control pill (1960) allowed women a new option for delaying having a family to focus instead on school or a career. Additionally, legal measures like Title IX (1972) prohibited sex discrimination in educational facilities receiving federal funds. This opened up more opportunities for admissions, as well as scholarships for things like sports. 
LGBTQQAI+ Movement. Often, courses on United States history begin discussing LGBTQQAI+ communities in the 1970s as if their histories started there, but that is simply not true. American history is rich with examples of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and gender-fluid individuals. However, many of these individuals did not - due to societal pressures and legal restrictions - always choose to live those identities public-facing.
The event most often pointed to as the catalyst of the LGBTQQAI+ movement was the Stonewall Inn Riot (1969) in New York City. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar owned and run by a New York City crime family, who paid off police officers in exchange for leniency and tip-offs on when they would raid the bar. In June 1969, the police conducted an unannounced raid of the bar that turned into a riot as police officers unfairly targeted transgender people. 
In the aftermath of the Stonewall riot, organizers formed the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists’ Alliance. In 1970, activists in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City organized the first Pride Marches. By 1974, petitions from organizations such as these led the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a form of mental illness.  

Period 9 (1980-present)

The College Board does not include specific references in the AP US History curriculum to Social Structures within this time period. However, students should be generally aware that the same social structures surrounding issues of immigration (as seen in Periods 4, 6 and 7) applied similarly in this period. 

Sample LEQ✏️

Compare the ways that reform movements responded to industrial capitalism from 1790-1860 and 1890-1920. 
To what extent did women’s societal role change from 1800 to 1920?
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