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Social Issues of the Progressive Era. Background for Broken Blossoms, The Birth of a Nation, and Within Our Gates. Progressive Era . Usually 1900 through U.S. entry into WWI (1918), although reforms dated from the late 1880s

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social issues of the progressive era

Social Issues of the Progressive Era

Background for Broken Blossoms, The Birth of a Nation, and Within Our Gates

progressive era
Progressive Era
  • Usually 1900 through U.S. entry into WWI (1918), although reforms dated from the late 1880s
  • Belief in the power of governments at local, state, and national levels to effect political and social change
  • For women, “national housekeeping” movement toward more involvement in government, including woman suffrage
progressive era issues
Progressive Era Issues
  • Industrialism, unions, and worker safety (corporate rapacity)
  • Population control and women’s sexuality
  • Immigration
  • Race
  • Rise of organized crime
  • Drug abuse and alcoholism
  • Prostitution and “white slavery”
  • Poverty and the urban underclass
  • Urbanization, “overcivilization,” and the destruction of the wilderness
reforms and reformers
Reforms and Reformers
  • Theodore Roosevelt
    • Cleaned up police corruption as Police Commissioner of New York City
    • As President of the U.S. (1901-1908), established the National Parks system (Gifford Pinchot)
    • Supported an investigation in United Mine Workers’ strike in 1892 that led to higher wages
    • “Trust-buster” enforcing the Interstate Commerce Act (1887), the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)
    • But--supported annexation of the Philippines and other imperial ventures
reforms and reformers5
Reforms and Reformers
  • Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House (settlement house)
  • Margaret Sanger, birth control movement
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • Robert M. LaFollette (politician)
  • William Jennings Bryan, presidential candidate
  • John Dewey (education)
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act of 1906)
  • Ida Tarbell, The History of The Standard Oil Company
  • David Graham Phillips, “The Treason of the Senate”
  • Ray Stannard Baker, The Right to Work
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases
  • Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives
  • McClure’s Magazine
social issues in film
“White slavery”

Reginald Wright Kauffmann, The House of Bondage

Traffic in Souls (1913)

The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (1913)

The Red Kimono (1926)

Birth Control and Abortion

Where Are My Children? (1916)

Social Issues in Film
crime and addiction
The Black Hand

Musketeers of Pig Alley

Regeneration (1915)

Human Wreckage (1923)

The Cocaine Traffic / The Drug Terror (1914)

John Barleycorn (1914, based on the book by Jack London)

Crime and Addiction
labor and industrial exploitation
Griffith, A Corner in Wheat (1908)

The Valley of the Moon (1914, from the novel by Jack London)

Children Who Labor (1912)

The Cry of the Children (1912)

Fires of Youth (1914)

Labor and Industrial Exploitation
ethnicity and immigration
The Italian (1915)

Broken Blossoms (1919)

The Immigrant (1917)

Hungry Hearts (1922; based on the stories of Anzia Yezierska)

Ethnicity and Immigration
d w griffith 1875 1948
D. W. Griffith (1875-1948)
  • Began as an actor and then a director with American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (14th St., New York)
  • 1-2 reel pictures, including A Corner in Wheat (1908)
  • Judith of Bethulia (1913), feature-length film
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Intolerance (1916), four parallel stories
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • Way Down East (1920)
  • Orphans of the Storm (1921)
  • The Struggle (1931) (last film)
the birth of a nation 1915
Based on the novel The Clansman (1905) by Thomas Dixon

NAACP protested its release in most major cities

Woodrow Wilson is supposed to have said it was “like writing history with lightning.”

The myth of the “Old South”:

white supremacy; aristocracy of “blood”

purity of Southern womanhood as a symbol of the South’s values and Southern chivalry toward women as an emblem of masculinity

racial hierarchy

What does the artwork on this poster emphasize about the film?

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
w e b du bois 1868 1963
W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk (1903): “The the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”


“Talented tenth”

“the veil”

“double consciousness”

Being a “race man” versus passing for white

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963)
oscar micheaux 1884 1951
Homesteader, novelist, director

Conquest, the Story of a Negro Pioneer (1913) (novel)

The Homesteader (1917) (novel)

The Homesteader (1919, film)

Within Our Gates (1920)

Body and Soul (1924, starring Paul Robeson)

Veiled Aristocrats (1932)—based on the novel The House Behind the Cedars by Charles W. Chesnutt. Micheaux had made a silent version in 1925 under Chesnutt’s original title.

Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951)