NBC NEWS -- Charles Postel, an American historian and professor at San Francisco State University, is the author of the new book, “Equality: An American Dilemma 1866-1896.” He won the Bancroft Prize in American History for his previous book, “The Populist Vision.” Postel wrote this opinion piece for NBC News.
“This is not the first time Americans have confronted such choices. The Civil War, fought over racial slavery, unleashed a torrent of claims to equality, and these struggles were fractious and messy,” Postel writes. “The Gilded Age’s often competing great social movements speak to our current crisis in telling ways. The question was — and remains: equality for whom?
“For many African Americans, breaking the chains of bondage meant that now was the hour to gain racial justice and equality. Women’s rights activists, however, saw it as the moment for female suffrage and equality of the sexes. The votes of white women, they believed, took priority over the votes of black men. Meanwhile farmers, workers and other anti-monopolists asserted it was time to challenge the power of corporate capitalism.”