Memphis during the Progressive Era, 1900-1917

Memphis during the Progressive Era, 1900-1917

Memphis during the Progressive Era, 1900-1917

Memphis during the Progressive Era, 1900-1917

Excerpt

Senator Robert M. LaFollette once observed that he did not know "of any progressive sentiment or any progressive legislation in the South." Since then historians have shown that he was wrong and have demonstrated that there was a progressive movement in the South. The historians, however, disagree over what, precisely, progressivism was, and they likely will continue to disagree, for it is impossible to define it precisely. The movement was thoroughly pragmatic and therefore incapable of being systematized. It can be characterized only loosely, and one would hardly go further than to say it was a reaction of conscience to the injustices that came with the industrialization of American life. It was a humanistic movement, whose leaders believed that man was essentially good, that if he were freed from special injustice and from the dehumanizing pressures of the industrial city, he would flourish and real progress, that vague goal of the movement, would be made.

By this definition, Memphis between the turn of the century and the first World War had a progressive movement, a localized manifestation of the national one. While its leaders in Memphis never called it by this name, rather calling it a "reform" movement, it nonetheless followed closely the pattern of progressivism as it was being laid down on the national scene.

But progressivism was not the only theme of the history of Memphis of this period, which is known as the progressive era.

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