The Spanish America War: How American Interventionism and Sensationalism is still prevalent today

By Leonardo Reyes

The Spanish-American War that occurred in 1898 led to the end of Spanish colonization and rule in the west, which then led to America’s development into one of the most powerful countries at that time.  As a result of the war, America gained the control of territories in Latin America and in the West, which significantly made America more formidable to other world powers.

This war essentially revolved around Cuba and their struggle for independence from Spain.  When Spain brutally repressed the Cuban insurrection, U.S newspapers took notice of this and introduced sensationalized depictions and descriptions of the Spanish oppression overseas.  This form of journalism became popularized and named “yellow journalism”, and it brought popular demand for U.S intervention after the sinking of the USS Maine.  Afterwards, America and Spain officially declared war, leading to a Spanish defeat and America eventually gaining control of Spain’s territories in both the East and West.  

Although America was not as oppressive and tyrannical as Spain, it definitely established its dominance over the territories it gained control of.  This led to many Americans to support American interventionism and calling the war a “splendid little war”.  This support for war and foreign intervention led to the America that we see today.  An America that feels the need to step in between every foreign conflict, sending troops to fight other nations battles, a nation that puts most of its money into the military-industrial complex.

 

Recently, America’s current president, Donald Trump, has decided to indulge in tax cuts, but instead of putting the money to more beneficial uses, he chooses to further fund the military.  The Nation addressed this situation in recent article saying,

“Donald Trump used his first Joint Address to the Congress of the United States to engage in an unprecedented flight of fiscal fantasy. Specifically, the president imagined that the United States could cut taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations, rip tens of billions of dollars out of domestic programs (and diplomacy), hand that money over to the military-industrial complex, and somehow remain a functional and genuinely strong nation”

The Spanish American War established the America’s desire to constantly intervene in foreign affairs, however it also established sensationalist writing that is seen in newspapers or articles today.  Pulitzer and Hearst are often adduced as the cause of the United States’ entry into the Spanish–American War due to sensationalist stories or exaggerations of the terrible conditions in Cuba.  Just as those two who sensationalized writing got on the front pages of newspapers, today we see the internet used to spread false stories or misleading material that is without reliable research or data.  

All in all, the Spanish American both introduced Sensationalist writing and American interventionism, and although this was in the late nineteenth century, there is without a doubt that the effects of the Spanish American can still be seen to this day.

 

Works cited

“Educational Travel Lesson Plans.” Spanish American War of 1898: Puerto Rico – Educational Travel Lesson Plan, www.passports.com/teachers/link/lesson-plan/spanish-american-war-puerto-rico.

Nichols, John. “Donald Trump Goes All In for the Military-Industrial Complex.” The Nation, 1 Mar. 2017, http://www.thenation.com/article/donald-trump-goes-all-in-for-the-military-industrial-complex/.

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Comprehending how the Civil War can be studied rather than used for controversy

By Leonardo Reyes

America is well-renowned as one of the strongest military powers that the world has ever seen.  Considering that America always finds itself in foreign conflicts and wars.  However, throughout all its wars, the battles that took place on America’s own soil will always be remembered, as it was the most devastating war and it altered America significantly.  The Civil War saw heavy casualties, Americans killing Americans over states’ rights.  America today remembers through history books, reenactments, and most notably, statues.  As these statues allow many Americans to look back and commemorate the past, they also bring about racial issues to African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the same people who are celebrated by these statues.

As it may be easy for one to simply say, “let’s just remove these monuments that support the confederacy so it may no longer cause controversy”, every argument must have both sides considered.  These Confederate monuments and statues were erected in order to honor the men who gave their lives for a cause they believed was just.  In that sense, I understand how people in Charlottesville can defend these statues, as these statues are in honor of their ancestors who died in the war.  Furthermore, those same confederate soldiers whose dead bodies riddled battlefields were not given a proper burial, so their families and loved ones were unable to grief like families are able to today.  Faust speaks on further in “This Republic of Suffering”,

“The particular circumstances created by the Civil War often inhibited mourning, rendering it difficult, if not impossible, for many bereaved Americans to move through the stages of grief…Denial and numbness were, in fact, prominent means by which civilians-like soldiers-attempted to cope with war’s losses” (Faust 144-145).

Faust demonstrates how difficult it was for those who lost loved ones due to the war, as they were were unable to properly mourn and were left melancholia.  If the monuments that are seen today can allow people today to honor their ancestors, then that is fair.  

Although it is fine to use the statues and monuments to honor your confederate ancestors, it should be understood that your ancestors were fighting to keep African-Americans enslaved.  Many will argue that the Confederacy was fighting for their states’ rights, and that slavery was not the primary issue regarding the Civil War.  However, in actuality, the Confederacy was fighting for their states’ rights to keep the practice of slavery intact.  So must those who defend the Confederate statues must take in consideration the feelings of disgust and pain that black people feel for their ancestors that were beaten and killed by those same Confederates.  Just as John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight regarding the issue, 

“I honestly get wanting a more comfortable history for you family. But in doing so, you cannot invent a more comfortable history for your country”

It’s great that white southerners would like to show their children Confederate monuments and tell them about their ancestors who fought in the war.  But those same people have to consider the African Americans that have to walk by those monuments.  I honestly believe that these Confederate statues should either be taken down or there should more African American statues of soldiers in the war or slaves who suffered during the war.  If there are statues honoring Confederates which offend African Americans, it is only fair for African Americans to have their own statues to tell their children about.  At its core, these statues should solely be used to honor and remember those who fought in the war, something with educational purpose, and nothing more.

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Here are Confederate statues that are causing controversy and issues in several communities.  These statues are in the process of being removed as many government officials have called to removed many Confederate statues from all over the country.  It is understandable that this happening considering the events that transpired involving a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, where one was killed and many more were injured.  If these monuments which celebrate the Confederacy are causing a lost of life and injuries, than there is without a doubt good reason to remove them.  Photos provide by the New York Times

How Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel started the Civil War and shifted American culture

By Leonardo Reyes

Many historians will say that the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 indefinitely resulted in the Civil War.  However, some may argue that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” resulted in the Southern states secession from the Union.  It is even said that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he allegedly even said, “So this is the little lady that made this big war”.  How did could the publishing of a book result in America’s deadliest war?  Stowe’s writing was able to both increase abolitionism in the north and inflame the southerners with her vivid depictions of slavery.

In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe is able to describe the suffering and anguish that Slaves faced prior to the Civil War, and she uses her kind and gentle protagonist, Uncle Tom, to successfully display the agony that the slaves had to persevere through and that the Northerners were ignorant to.  Towards the latter end of the novel, Tom is bought by a cruel and ruthless plantation owner named Simon Legree who viciously beats his slaves and works them to death.  Tom is constantly beat by Legree, but Tom maintains his strength and will in the face of pure evil, which is shown in chapter 33 when Tom is confronted by Legree, Stowe writes,

“In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom’s soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed,

“No! no! no! my soul an’t yours, Mas’r! You haven’t bought it, – ye can’t buy it! It’s been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it; – no matter, no matter, you can’t harm me!” (Stowe 374).

Tom’s iron will makes him a character that the northerners can root for and can have them desire to have his story conclude in happiness.  However, Stowe is aware that all slaves did not end their lives in happiness and she uses Tom to display how harsh and unforgiving the live of a slave was.  Tom is ordered to be savagely beat to death by Legree, seeing Uncle Tom murdered in cold blood primarily could be the reason why the Northerners choose to partake in abolitionism and looked to free the slaves.  So Tom is essentially a fictional martyr who died in order to awake the Northerners to the realities of the slaves’ lives entrapped by slavery.  

Stowe also utilizes another character, Eliza Harris, in order to display how traumatic and devastating it is to be separated from your family.  Eliza Harris a young enslaved woman who is married with a young son named Harry.  She lives a somewhat privileged life for a slave, however when he master sells her son, she has no choice but escape with her son.  This leads to one of the most famous moments of the novel, where she has to go across a river in the winter on a block of ice in order to escape recapture, Stowe writes,

With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake;–stumbling–leaping–slipping–springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone–her stocking cut form her feet–while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank” (Stowe 61)

Eliza Harris’ character having her feet cut to shreds by ice in order to escape with her son is efficiently used by Stowe in order to have Northern mother’s sympathize with Eliza Harris and have consider the emotional pains they would face if they were to lose their child.  

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This painting portrays the famous scene in the novel where Eliza Harris is forced to escape slavery in order to avoid recapture and having to give away her young son, Harry.  This certain scene gains its notoriety from the perseverance and determination that a mother has in order to defend her innocent child from the pain and suffering that will slavery inevitably bring to him.  Literary critics criticize Eliza Harris for being a character that lacks depth, and is solely used to have Northern readers sympathize with the fictional character.  Nevertheless, having the Northerners sympathize with her characters, Stowe is able to bring the horrors of slavery to the Northerners and convince them to bring an end to slavery.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work is distinctly an American classic as it is deeply ingrained in America’s history just as slavery is.  But it’s legacy is not solely defined by it’s content.  It also has characters that northern readers in the past sympathized with, and even readers today can still sympathize with them.  As well as a harsh but reality driven style of writing that did not shy away from exposing the pain and suffering that slaves were forced to face in their lives.  

Bibliography

Reynolds, David. “Reynolds: Did a book start the Civil War?” NY Daily News, 11 Apr. 2011, www.nydailynews.com/opinion/book-start-civil-war-uncle-tom-cabin-testament-power-culture-article-1.112605.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. London :J. Cassell, 1852. Print.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ushistoryimages.com/uncle-toms-cabin.shtm.

Wellington, Darryl Lorenzo. “Uncle Tom’s Shadow.” The Nation, 29 June 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/uncle-toms-shadow/.

Escaping Capture in Order to Capture Freedom

Being born into slavery was a common misfortune for countless persecuted African Americans.  To not even being capable to fathom what freedom is from the day you are born to the day you die should be unimaginable, however in the Narrative of the Life of Thomas Cooper, Isaac T. Hopper displays the tribulations that Thomas Cooper faced in his lifetime in order to acquire the freedom that vast amount of slaves had never experienced.  

Thomas Cooper, who was born into slavery in the state of Maryland, at the age of 25 he was able to escape to Philadelphia where he acquired a job and started a family.  After some time, Cooper is betrayed and is recaptured by his master, right in front of his children, Hopper writes:

“…poor John was handcuffed, and a rope fastened to each arm across his back…All this took place in the presence of his wife and children, who witnessed the horrid transaction with the utmost distress…his wife and children wept bitterly” (7-9).

The events that transpired here demonstrates a form of torment that many faced during the slave trade and slave auctions in antebellum America.  To be separated from the woman you cherish and the children you intend to dedicate your life to is what Thomas Cooper had to face in his lifetime.

Although in captivity, Cooper is able to escape and run to New Jersey where he is safely hidden by his friend and changes his name to John Smith.  His master soon finds his location and intends to capture him, however Cooper chooses to stop fleeing any longer and intends to stand his ground, Hopper writes:

“He had already suffered much, and now finding himself again pursued, was driven almost to despair, and determined to resist by violence…It was not long before he beheld his master advancing…towards his house…he called out, “don’t cross that fence, for the first man does, I will shoot him.” So unexpected a salutation, coming from a man with a gun in his hand, struck them with terror, and they soon turned back to procure assistance” (24-25).

 

In that moment, Cooper is able to reverse the roles of slave and master, as he displays that he has power over the men who intend to capture him.  This role reversal is significant due to the fact that slaves had always had less power than their masters, ergo causing them to bend to their master’s will, but Cooper intends to throw away those despicable roles and have to refer to no man as “master”.

Alexis Tocqueville refers to the mindset that Thomas Cooper may have been forced into had he not been able to escape enslavement and gain power over his master in order to pursue his individual freedom, Tocqueville writes:

“The Negro, plunged in this abyss of evils, scarcely feels his own calamitous situation…the habit of servitude gives him the thoughts and desires of a slave, he admires his tyrants more than he hates them, and finds his joy and his pride in the servile imitation of those who oppress him” (18).

After some time, Cooper goes to London where he makes a name for himself as a very popular preacher, however Cooper decides to take his family to Africa where he feels he belongs.  Cooper is even able to give a farewell address to the people of London, showing how well renowned he was in Britain.

 

After living in Africa for a few years, Cooper succumbs to an illness and dies.  Although saddened by his death, there were some happiness from the family considering that they know  that Cooper has lived the latter years of his life the way he wanted, Hopper notes:

Perhaps few men have ever lived, who experienced greater changes in their condition in life, than the person whose history we have been writing; we have seen him a poor menial…writhing under the lash of the tyrannical slave driver…[then] we see a minister of religion, pleading with the people to forsake the evil of their ways and shewing in his life, and by his own example, how far superior a life of virtue and integrity is, to that of vice and crime” (35).

Thomas Cooper was a man who was born into subjugation, but through perseverance and determination he was able to escape oppression and live an autonomous life right to the end.