Sample Essay on Activism in the United States in the Year 1900-2000

Activism in the United States in the Year 1900-2000


What may seem so radical and uncouth in one generation may appear very reasonable and wise for the next generation. The America of today is what it is because of the sacrifice of activists, and movements that fought very hard for better lives, rights, and freedoms. Most of the Americans know little about the history of the struggles of the last century.

Activism is the effort that is applied to bring about change for a worthy cause. What makes activism unique is the fact that it is not an ordinary rebellion or rising up in action. Activism takes place in several ways, and may include being conveyed in the media, and gatherings. Activists usually have strong agenda that needs advocacy, and is considered not popular with authorities. It should be noted that activists push for a worthy cause (Anheier, Kaldor, Glasius 40)

The role activism has played over time cannot be overstated. In several democracies enjoyed today, activism has played a critical role in its development and respect of human rights. Activists have fought to eliminate dictatorships, slavery, and discrimination among other evils that bedevil the society.

Activism in America can be traced to hundreds of years back and is credited for the enjoyment of rights in the United States. Activists are not interested in political power, but are more interested in having democratic and respecter of human rights governments. They play a critical role. The United States has had the labor, individual-rights, peace, and environmental activists for several years. These activists are responsible for better employment, and labor practices in the United States. The protection of the environment has also been critical for sustainability.

The United States goal has been to liberate its people and advance the best democratic principles. America has well known activists over time that have made a very big impact in the lives of its citizens. The Americans have made huge political, economic, and social achievements, thanks to activism (Schnelle 16). Whereas activism has been in the United States for many years, its prevalence was high in the 1950s. The civil rights movement established to fight for restoration of individual rights was established. Most of the movements were established around the 1950s. The peace activists were also not left behind after and during the Vietnam War. The peace activists were instrumental during the Cold War era and the nuclear non proliferation (Hall 236).

The Activism culture in the United States from 1900-2000: It has a role in maintaining civil liberties, environmental conservation, and improving labor conditions.

Activism and Conventional Politics

Whereas there may exist politics in pushing for particular cause, it does not erode the fact that there is activism for a worthy cause involved. There are special activism parties that have been established to push a certain agenda. For example, several countries have formed the labor parties to push for a specific agenda. This is modern day conventional politics and should be viewed positively.

In the United States, the labor movement was formed to carter for the ever-increasing responsibilities in the market. The 19th century in the United States was the year rail, and other major businesses were developed. The industry developed ant there was a need for a much larger workforce and employees to provide the much-needed services. This scenario created more problems for both the employer and the employee.

There was a realization after the 20th century that labor activism was the answer to the many problems the workforce was facing. The labor activism in the United States addressed most worker problems. Labor unions were later born to fight for the rights of employees and make sure that their terms, living conditions, and housing were favorable enough to maintain human dignity.

Activism is not only a preserve of the civil society, individuals or other organizations, but also happens in formal settings where workers raised up to express some sort of displeasure. It could be government departments, companies or any other setting that offers employment. Employees may not be pleased with decisions made by a company and may opt to challenge such unpopular decision by engaging in activism.

Methods of Activism

Activism, be it individual, labor, environmental or any other kind, has usually been done through protests in government corridors, towns or other public places. This therefore implies that before activism takes place, there has to be a way or mode of expressing it.

Protests and rebellion at times need not be violent. Placards, picketing, and slogans among other methods can be used. The American society has not experienced much violence in its activism. Activism therefore can take different forms depending on time and technology. The era of the internet has come up with a different and much faster way of doing activism. Cyber activism is very efficient if the cause is popular with cyber users. Facebook and twitter are few very strong tools that are very popular with users.

Groups and Movements

Activism develops strongly when more than one person is involved. There is a lot of publicity involved and once it is popular, protests are organized. Several groups may form a coalition to fight for a worthy cause. A hundred years ago in the United States, activism was done in an old fashioned manner where correspondence was via post, and notices in public places were also used to communicate. Telephone was the only fast and direct means of communication. Activism was global and activists shared common interests. Therefore, they used the telephone to share information. The advent of the internet offered more efficiency to this cause.

Activism in the United States is purely voluntary despite the fact that some are remunerated to sustain their services in managing the outfits. The salary is not as high as other profit organizations would offer. The American civil activism encompassed several areas of the society from environmental protection, human rights, and other societal issues.

The United States activists preferred to do their activism as groups with a common cause. These groups would later form movements, which were bigger and broader, and more efficient in pushing their agenda.

A good example of a movement in the United States is the peace movement. The peace movement in the United States began to advocate for end of war. In the United States, there existed a peace movement based in Quaker, which despite having existed did not gain popularity until the cold war times. The Quakers were scared of the escalating nuclear rhetoric in the 1950s, and they therefore formed the National Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in the 1957 (Winner 10). President Kennedy failed to stop the proliferation of nuclear warheads and this angered several activists who considered themselves sane and alive to the destructive nature of nuclear weapons. Several other organizations of peace sprouted including Student Peace Union (SPU) founded by students in the 9159, and later Students for Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960. SDS was against Vietnam War and organized several marches of protest for troops to be pulled out.

Martin Luther King Jr. would probably be the greatest civil rights advocate, and an advocate of peace the United States has ever had. Martin Luther king was very active in the 1968. Luther was an anti war crusader. He advocated for peace in the United States and with its neighbors.

The peace crusade has never stopped in the United States. Peace crusaders are against any extreme nuclear armament and arms race. The United States crusaders are not only against the nuclear weapons, but also against any unfair means of war like the use of landmines and other weapons like cluster bombs and the use dum dum bullets.

It is notable however that whereas the peace movement has seen continued growth from the 1900 to the 1980s, there has been a tremendous decline except those against nuclear armaments. The government in return has abolished several departments put in place to monitor peace due to declining pressure from activism

The peace movement was later mostly owned by university students who came up with manifestos to advance their goals and advance what they intended to achieve. The students would demonstrate and picket. They held large gathering led by strong peace and civil rights leaders like the martin Luther king. Activists also use notes and leaflets, and follow it up with the masses who heed the call of the leaflets.

Areas of Activism

The incoming Europeans settlers who began clearing forests for settlement necessitated environmental activism in the United States. However, the continued settlement and clearing of forests changed the river courses and what followed was destruction of settlements. Conservationists in the 1900 and 1920s made such destruction public and began to advocate for conservation of the environment due to the resulting devastating effects. Early environmentalists were students, sportsmen, fishermen, and hunters. President Roosevelt played a very key role in advocating for environmental conservation.

There have been very few activists on the environment because the government took a key role in addressing several concerns raised by the people. Several writers have used written books to convey their concern. Henry David, for example, published books on the conservation of the wilderness. There has also been the anti nuclear movement like the Physicians for Social Responsibility among others who have managed to halt construction of several nuclear sites (Mongillo 274).

There are other activists dealing with antitoxins in the conservation of the environment. This involves constructions in toxic dumping sites and other areas with hazardous wastes. The environmental movements in the United States, unlike other movements, are getting stronger by the day. The activists in this field unlike other areas have refused to relent. The government seems to be giving up on environmental conservation, especially with regards to pollution. The activists have maintained a continuous presence at every G8 summit advocating for cutting down of carbon emissions. Some government departments have institutionalized some concerns and are working towards reduction of carbon emissions. The environment is considered very critical to our survival and the American government has been forced to take the concerns seriously.

America Civil Rights Movement

America is one of the few completely cosmopolitan countries in the world. However, there has been widespread discrimination on race where there is segregation and discrimination. Racial discrimination was widely reported from the late 1949, and that is when a movement was formed. Racial hatred was considered one of the biggest challenges the United States was yet to address effectively.

Initially, the African Americans came to the United States as slaves but after the abolition of slavery, the age old discrimination did not fade away. The American civil rights movement was to fight for the rights of individuals, and the notable activist advancing this cause was martin Luther King Jr.

Whereas the African Americans were protected by the constitutions fourteenth and fifteenth amendment, the American civil rights movement did not stop at the amendments; they wanted the law enforced to guarantee the people of color protection from discrimination (Romano 30-35).

Individual rights are very important and they are the hallmark of any society. A healthy society is a respecter of human rights. Martin Luther King Jr. was the most prolific crusader and activist of human rights.


Activism will definitely not fade away. In fact, it is wise to say that it is indeed part of our lives. Activism will keep evolving and the modes of activism will keep changing. The developing internet and its fast adoption means that activists will now be able to pass information faster than it was done before.

The governments have also been changing with time. Institutions have been established to carry out monitoring on behalf of the government. The zeal of activists has been minimized due to institutionalization. However, it is detrimental to abolish civil rights movements or other movements because the society mutates, and the government backed institutions may not be able to respond promptly.

There are those who think that activism in the United States will face more growth than has been witnessed before. Proponents came to this conclusion from various challenges facing the society. The Global War on Terrorism, for example, has exposed the government to serious individual rights abuses ever (Alston, Goodman and Steiner 392). The Guantanamo bay prison facility was used to incarcerate detainees for longer times without trial. This was a serious violation of human rights. Whereas it is an appreciated fact that the war on terror must be fought, human rights must not be compromised at any cost. The united states is known worldwide for its development and respect of fundamental human rights.

Politics has been developed by activism; sound political parties are a product of activism in the United States. If the government and the structures worked selflessly and upheld the constitution with constant auditing and self check, activism would not have been used as a tool of advocacy. With the high literacy levels, the society should be able to work in a way that does not violate human rights or the environment we live in. Activists learn from each other and the United States has been a pillar for other nations to emulate. The United States should not only do the right but also lead from the front and for other states to emulate.

Works Cited

Alston, Philip, Ryan Goodman, and Henry J. Steiner. International Human Rights: Text and Materials. , 2013. Print.

Anheier, Helmut, Mary Kaldor, and Marlies Glasius. Global Civil Society 2004/2005. London: Sage Publications, 2004. Internet resource.

Booth, Bibi, and John F. Mongillo. Environmental Activists. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2001. Print.

Hall, Mitchell K. Vietnam War Era: People and Perspectives. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.

Romano, Renee C. The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Athens, Ga. [u.a.: Univ. of Georgia Press, 2006. Print.

Schnelle, Nils. The Christian Right in the United States – Origin, Structure, and Political Activism. München: GRIN Verlag, 2009. Internet resource.

Wittner, Lawrence S. Toward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1971 to the Present. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univ. Press, 2003. Print.