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Common Themes among Imperialism, Colonialism and Slavery

A study of imperialism and colonialism at the turn of the century in the United States will draw many parallels to the treatment of African Americans in the South. Although many arguments for imperialism appear to have an economic basis, prejudice and white-race superiority are just below the surface. The United States has a history of the white Christians being superior from the first moment they land was discovered and the Indians were met. The words in the definition of imperialism include; power, control and intent, with an empire existing when a strong nation or society imposes control over a weaker one. (Gilded Age, p.22). These same terms come to mind with African slavery.

In the 1890s, the United States acquired an island empire. Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, as well as, the protectorate over Cuba. Each has its own story of motives on the part of the United States, but the common denominator in each location is the national ideology that emphasizes the racial inferiority of non-whites. (Gilded Age, p.12)

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In 1880, the US brought back its navy, and by 1890 congress had given money for three new battleships. With this new strength, the US perceived its mission to be protecting is commerce. (Gilded Age, p.263) As the ability to protect commerce grew, so did the need to expand beyond the domestic market. According to Secretary of State James G. Blaine in 1890, “the great demand is expansion.

I mean an expansion of trade with countries where we can find profitable exchanges.” (Gilded Age, p.264) The desire to enlarge markets for the prosperity and growth of the country was only one portion of a larger ideology. Americans had long believed nonwhites to be inferior, and hence incapable of providing government or properly using their land and resources. (Gilded Age, p.264)

Setting out with missionaries and businessmen after 1820, the attempt to “civilize, Christianize, and enlighten” (Gilded Age, p. 270) led the United States to Hawaii. The native culture, religion and language in Hawaii were believed inferior, and the process of “Americanization” began. Before long all public education was in English, children were taught American values, and by 1886 Hawaiians were the minority in their own land. (Gilded Age, p.271) With the domination of the United States over Hawaii culturally, the US as able to dominate the sugar industry, and used the government to continually protect these interests. In 1898 Hawaii was officially annexed by the United States.

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Common Themes among Imperialism, Colonialism and Slavery. (2021, Feb 14). Retrieved July 27, 2021, from