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American Laws that Supported American Philanthropy

Before 19th century, crimes against humanity were common in the United States. Clearly, genocide acts were being carried out in the country. Some of the notorious incidents that are well cited in the U.S. history include the Trail of Tears, the massacre of the Yuki in the Northern California and the Sand Creek Massacre. During the Reconstruction period which took place between 1863 and 1877, the U.S. government took control of states in the south of the Confederacy. When the reconstruction ended, a brief period of civil liberation for African Americans was experienced especially in the South. Whites were bitter towards the government. Through Jim Crow Laws the White Supremacists established segregated society which facilitated Indian assimilation. The government forced the Indians to remain in reservations. The anti-assimilation reformers resisted the integration, and this marked the birth of Dawes Act in 1887.

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The Dawes Act of 1887 was consistent with the pattern of philanthropy of 19th century. Senator Henry L. Dawes, the official sponsor of the act, authorized the U.S. government to divide the reservations into tracts and allocate them to individual tribe members. Without further negotiations, the act was implemented. As a result, the Native Americans receive allotments depending on their household compositions. The government could assess the productivity of the land. More land was allocated to individual tribe members who received unproductive land. When the act was amended in 1891, Native-Americans were equally treated regardless of their family composition of sex. Tribal lands were divided among the individual members hence Indian tribes lost legal ownership. After losing the legal standing of their tribal lands, Indians were granted American citizenship and individual land grants which varied depending on the family composition.

From a broader perspective, Dawes Act had two primary functions. Firstly, it civilized the Native people. More specifically, the philanthropists from the East who sympathize the Indians advocated for the abolishment of the reservation system arguing that it undermined economic and cultural development of the people. The influential philanthropists along other reformers believed that allocation of tribal lands to individuals would enable the Indians to flourish, and this could facilitate their full integration into the American economy. The Dawes Act supported Indians’ agricultural activities. The act proposed that the government should provide the necessary agricultural facilities to the Indians. Senator Dawes pointed out that the Indians could be civilized if the Americans direct them into the ‘sunshine’. Off-reservation boarding schools were established following the government policies which highly monitored by the reformers and the philanthropists. Secondly, the act was intended to enable the non-Natives to access and use the native-American lands. In order to allow the settlement of non-Natives in the West, the act called for the abolishment of large tribal holdings.

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The implementation of the Dawes Act led to allocation of more than 40 million acres of tribal reservation land. Notably, the government owned this land but allowed the Indians to use them for their economic benefits. The government purposes of owning the land was to enable it protect the new landowners. During the preceding periods, the state could not tax the land owned by the new landowners. The influential philanthropists suggested that the act should protect the Indians from being exploited by the land settlers.

In the fabric of American history, various acts and laws were established with the pursuit of treating people equally. The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1896-1954) is another nonviolent struggle that advocated for respect of civil rights and civil liberties of African-Americans. The movement was aimed at bringing full civil rights and interests of the people under the law. Since the inception of U.S. independence, reformers and philanthropists had relentlessly agitated for social and legal acceptance of civil rights of all people. As a matter of fact, the movement in its tactics, led to recognition of the civil rights of the African-Americans. The movement supported the views of American Jewish Community which actively supported the establishment of learning institutions for the African Americans. Julius Rosenwald is one of the known Jewish philanthropists who supported various civil right groups. He also funded the establishment of the dozens of learning institutions for the segregated black Americans. American Federation of Labor is considered one of the strongest federations of labor unions in America. Prior this establishment, the Knights of Labor had failed to address issues of workers in the country. Employees lodged numerous complaints concerning working conditions and general treatment they receive from employers. The American philanthropists have persistently argued that American employers fail to address the local issues of the employees in regard to wage scales and working conditions. American Federation Labor designed policies that permitted workers to join local and international unions where they can address their issues easily.


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America is one of the democratic nations of the world and has continuously established laws and policies which protect the civil rights and liberties of its citizens. The Dawes Act, as revealed above, is a perfect example of law which is consistent with philanthropists’ concepts.

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