Browse Exhibits (80 total)

Slavery Or State's Rights? Reasoning Behind the Civil War

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A look at the age old question; was the South's reasoning for the Civil War over state's rights, or to preserve slavery.

Common man or con man--was Andrew Jackson a fraud?

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Andrew Jackson is often remembered as a self-made representative of the “common man.” His humble origins are a stark contrast to the posh upbringings of America’s first six presidents. Indeed, everything about Jackson--from his meteoric rise to political relevance in rugged Tennessee, to his platform, and even to the circumstances of his election--spoke to everyday Americans. 

Jackson's first run at the presidency in 1824 only cemented the divide between Jacksonian populism and his elite political rivals. After shady dealings kept Jackson out of the presidency (despite his winning a plurality of the vote) he doubled down and won decisively in 1828. During his two terms as president, he fought the national bank, dealt with the nullification crisis, and removed Native Americans who resided within American states. His campaigns and platforms consistently revolved around the so-called "common man," which, in this case, meant the poor, newly-enfranchised masses rather than the wealthy upper class.

However, it is possible that not everything was as it appeared. While he fought centralized banks and corruption, Andrew Jackson was a staunch supporter of state’s rights, and, as a successful politician, he even became a wealthy slaveowner. In supporting state's rights, he was sometimes directly complicit in propping up institutions that concentrated wealth among society's elite, such as slavery. Furthermore, while he set out to clean corruption out of political positions, his cabinet and appointments were rife with his own friends and supporters. This results in a complicated image--Andrew Jackson may not have really been a pure hero for the lower classes after all.

So, was Andrew Jackson really a champion of the common man, or did he share more with America’s first six presidents than his political persona originally let on? The answer lies in his personal beliefs, his policies, and their effects on the American populace. This project seeks to uncover that answer by analyzing Jackson's presidential campaigns, his Bank War, his views on slavery, and his spoils system.

The California Gold Rush

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The California Gold rush was one of the most exciting time periods in American History. Beginning in 1848 when James Marshall Discovered gold at sutter's mill, the gold rush created a global frenzy for riches and success. Before long hundreds of thousands of people had moved to California from all over the earth, they abondoned their old lives all in the name of hope. The gold rush lasted less than ten years, but created one of the biggest economic upturns ever. With over five-hundred thousand pounds of gold collected, and an influx of nearly three-hundred thousand people, America's economy had reached new hights, and California became the most influential state in America. 

American Military Might and the Mexican War

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The Mexican-American War was crucial in gaining territory on the Pacific coast and realizing American manifest destiny. But why was the conflict so incredibly one sided? The answer involves advantages in artillery strategies, small arms developments, and leadership. With these factors in mind, there was little to no chance of the Americans losing the war. 

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Siege of Veracruz

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Capturing the city of Veracruz was vital for cutting off the supply chain of the Mexican Army. General Winfield Scott was charged with conquering Veracruz. My question was how did the amphibious landing of Veracruz turn out to be such a bloodless affair considering when we think of most amphibious landings like D-Day, Iwo Jima, and battle of Tarawa the casualties from amphibious landings were large.

Minstrelsy in Pre-Abolition America

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This exhibit grapples with racism and blackface in American history and contains material that can be emotionally challenging to view. In an effort to explicitly reject the proliferation of racist content, the musicians depicting blackface minstrelsy and its music have been cropped to hide their faces. The full artifacts, in addition, have been outsourced to the online archives of The Library of Congress so that they can be viewed in totality. 

Blackface minstrelsy carries with it sobering, deeply troubling realities of white "entertainers" of the day depicting African Americans for the sake of comedy. They employed demeaning song and dance, often in addition to offensive lyrics perpetuation stereotypes of African Americans at the time, to a hungry American audience that ate it up. 

The effects of minstrelsy expand into multiple facets of life in the early American Republic. In addition to the proliferation of racist imagery like that of "Jim Crow", blackface minstrelsy increased tensions amongst the Northern working class divisions and provided outlets for mobs and brawls. However, one of the more profound effects of minstrelsy extends to the present: and that is modern historians and musicians who grapple with historical acknowledgement of the origins and contributions of minstrel music to enslaved people of the United States.

Sarah Bagley and Early Feminism

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“[I]n the mill we see displays of the wonderful power of the mind. Who can closely examine all the movements of the complicated, curious machinery, and not be led to the reflection, that the mind is boundless, and is destined to rise higher and still higher; and that it can accomplish almost any thing on which it fixes its attention!” (1). Sarah Bagley penned this quote in her “Pleasures of Factory Life” article published in “The Lowell Offering” in 1840. Her fiery attempts to rally laboring women in a new feminist movement sparked the rebellion that would release women from their confinement within a patriarchal economy (2). In a nation in which it was expected that women were solely dependent on men, these factory girls of the mid nineteenth century found the political grounds to unite and voice their opinions (3). Although often neglected from the forefront of history, these women were influential figures that deserve to be recognized for their achievements and contributions. 

 

Footnotes

(1) Yumpu.com. “From-Pleasures-of-Factory-Life-Classzone.” yumpu.com. Accessed September 22, 2019. 1. https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/11472149/from-pleasures-of-factory-life-classzone.

(2)  Freeman, Elizabeth. 1994. “What Factory Girls Had Power to Do": The Techno-Logic of Working-Class Feminine Publicity in ‘The Lowell Offering.’” Arizona Quarterly 50 (2): 116. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=31h&AN=45868575&site=ehost-live.

(3) Stansell, Christine. City of Women Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987, 21.

The Black Hawk War

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The Black Hawk War was a momentary military skirmish between the United States government and Native Americans that lasted from April 6th to August 27th, 1832. Sauk war chief, Black Hawk, was attempting to resettle his tribe back into former Indian territory (now Illinois), after losing it in the controversial 1804 Treaty of St. Louis. Black Hawk claims his attempt at resettlement was intended to be peaceful, however, Illinois state militia were quickly notified of Indian trespassers and the war broke out. Black Hawk War began and ended the Native American’s struggle to reclaim their land in the Great Lakes region, after a crushing defeat by Illinois militia and other Native American tribes. This event not only further solidified the powerful Indian Removal Act of 1830 but also created a dependent relationship for the Native Americans with the United States.

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Rachel Donelson Jackson: Her Legacy In Politics

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Although she was never officially the First Lady, Rachel Donelson Jackson, wife of President Andrew Jackson, had a significant impact on his presidency and was a major part of the Presidential Election of 1828. Rachel, who preferred to stay out of the political sphere, was still a loving supporter of her husband.  After her tragic death in 1828, Rachel was still a driving force in Jackson's life, and her legacy is evident in events that took place during Jackson's presidency.

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Erie Canal and Native American Removal

At the time of its completeion, the Erie Canal had been a project originally thought to be impossible. People refered to the early days of the Erie Canal as "Clintons Ditch" with the idea that it would eventually fail. once finished it brings a rise for migration to the new territories in teh Midwest. People flood in from the coast to lands that hjad once been controled by Native Americans and in some land still controled by the Natives. The Erie Canal hlelped boost migration to the west while also speeding up the efforts of Indian Removal.