History Investigation Years That Changed America
The United States of America has had a rich and eventful history. Some events in our nation’s history have been instrumental in shaping our national identity. If we conduct a history investigation into the times surrounding these events, it may prove instructional for today’s Americans.
1929 – The Stock Market Crash
After World War I, the country’s optimism flowed into its lifestyle, culminating when Herbert Hoover was elected President. This optimism resulted in a significant increase in stock sales and a market expansion. However, those rates couldn’t be sustained, and in October 1929, stock prices fell quickly.
On October 24, 1929 (‘Black Friday’), almost 13 million stock shares were traded, and people scrambled to sell stocks. Worldwide economic panic continued through the next week, with major companies bankrupting. The stock market crash resulted in the Great Depression: a decade that featured mass unemployment and poverty in the U.S.
According to Investopedia, between 1929 and 1933, the U.S. economy declined by over 36%. 1 A history investigation will show President Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership began guiding the country to a better economy. Some companies that were doing business during the Depression period developed a residual hesitation to assume financial risks – resulting in a decrease in small personal loans. However, during the 1990s, the number of pay day loans – money borrowed against the borrowers’ next paycheck – increased.
2001 – The September 11 Attacks
On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists overtook two commercial airplanes and steered the planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. The incident killed 2,977 people, injured almost 6,000 people, 2 and has been called the ‘deadliest terrorist attack in American history.’ 3 Later the same day, a similar attack occurred at the Pentagon.
American citizens were shocked and grieved by the terrorism. A history investigation into the attacks showed the 19 hijackers were Jihadist members of Al-Qaeda. During the 1990s, Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, declared a holy war against the U.S.A. Bin Laden was reportedly angry with America for having supported Saudi Arabia.
On September 11, 2011, a memorial center for the victims was opened at the former site of the Twin Towers. The memorial consists of two reflective pools. The pools are surrounded by bronze memorial walls inscribed with the victims’ names. Each year after 2011, memorial services have been held to honor those who died.
1964 – The Civil Rights Act
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy encouraged the American people to pass legislation that would mandate equal treatment for people of all races. President Kennedy was killed before he could see his wishes made into law. Fortunately, in July 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
This legislation made it unlawful to practice segregation in public spaces such as theaters, hotels, or restaurants. It made it illegal to bar entry of people of any race to public institutions like schools and libraries. One section of the Act initiated the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
The EEOC made it illegal to discriminate based on ‘race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.’ 4 during any employment-related decision. Schools began to be integrated, and hiring practices were revised. Since the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the number of African American people in high-paying jobs, such as African American attorneys and doctors, has increased.
1865 – Conclusion of the Civil War
Between 1861 and 1865, the Northern States of the U.S. fought against the Southern States. The Northern States had a strategic advantage, having more guns and war materials than the Southern States. Most battles of the Civil War were fought on Southern territory, so the War ruined more property in the South.
After the South lost two devastating battles in 1864 (Gettysburg and Vicksburg), a Northern victory seemed inevitable. In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, and the War was over. After the War, the South went through a period of rebuilding – known as the Reconstruction.
A history investigation will show that the Civil War greatly affected the country. In addition to the emancipation of slaves, the other major issue of the War was the organization of the government. The aftermath of the War cemented the presence of a centralized government.
1859 – John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, was selected in 1794 by President George Washington as the site of the nation’s armory and arsenal. The town became a center of industry and was considered an excellent place to go for a firearm sale. On October 17, 1859, an abolitionist named John Brown led a group of antislavery supporters to capture the leading citizens of Harpers Ferry and to take over the armory and arsenal. Brown made a public proclamation of his success, vowing to burn the arsenal if all the area’s slaves weren’t freed.
Brown hoped this action would lead the freed slaves to join an army to fight for the abolitionist cause. However, Brown’s attack was halted by the militia. Later that afternoon, Colonel Robert E. Lee and his army recaptured the arsenal — and arrested John Brown. John Brown was tried in court for treason, was declared guilty, and hanged on December 2, 1859.
Southern slave owners, who had already been worried about the possibility of a slave uprising, saw Brown’s raid as a warning of future slave revolts. A history investigation would show that Brown’s raid helped to solidify the ideological positions of the Northern and Southern states. His raid was, therefore, instrumental in the road to the Civil War — and to the cause of Civil Rights.
1941 – Attack on Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, Japan flew a squadron of fighter planes over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and bombed an American battleship named the U.S.S. Arizona. The Japanese attack was in response to American trade sanctions enacted in 1937. The Japanese bombing caused the Arizona to explode and sink – with 1,000 men inside. During the next two hours, the Japanese offensive caused damage to every ship in that harbor and resulted in the death of over 2400 U.S. personnel. 6
According to usatoday.com, many people believe the Japanese chose to attack Hawaii rather than invade the mainland United States because “so many American citizens owned a firearm and knew how to use them.” 7 When the U.S. entered WWII in response to Japan, they simultaneously became embroiled in the War Britain was waging against Europe. A history investigation will show subsequent retaliatory actions against Japan that were taken by the U.S. during WWII, including the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs. U.S. retaliation also included placing Japanese Americans in prison camps.
The Japanese army surrendered on September 2, 1945. After the War, Japan adopted a pacifist stance, and the U.S. pledged to defend Japan, due to its strategic location. The alliance America forged with Japan during that time has done much to repair resentment on both sides. The American-Japanese alliance remains essential to both countries’ ongoing military security.
2020 – COVID-19 Shutdowns
The coronavirus outbreak, now referred to by many as COVID-19 or The Pandemic, is reported to have originated in China in December 2019. By January 30, 2020, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared the virus a Public Health Emergency. By March 9, 2020, countries worldwide were instituting business shutdowns and enforcing the public wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Through the spring of 2020, people began lining up at clinics to be tested.
The virus became so prevalent that the government mandated everyone – except those workers deemed necessary for basic survival – to stay at home and quarantine themselves. Businesses had to figure out how to transfer their business functions to workers’ homes. A history investigation would reveal that, during 2020, only essential companies were allowed to stay open, increasing the number of online purchases, as well as touchless food delivery. Healthcare facilities – including hospitals and nursing homes, were overflowing with dying patients who had caught the virus.
The contagious virus caused all healthcare personnel to wear extensive barrier devices – resulting in a significant increase in the need for medical hazardous waste disposal devices. Although people still catch the virus today, it is no longer as deadly, and quarantines have been lifted in homes and businesses. As of March 2023, the WHO declared COVID-19 was no longer a world health emergency.
1933 – Beginning of the New Deal
As a result of the poverty in America after the stock market crash, President Franklin Roosevelt devised a plan to repair the country’s economy. He then designed programs intended to provide jobs for Americans, such as the T.V.A., the S.E.C., and the W.P.A. The first of these programs was the T.V.A. – a group of workers (with skills such as masonry) who would work to build dams in the Tennessee Valley and enable the region to have hydroelectric power.
When these measures proved insufficient, the President began the Works Progress Act. The workers from the W.P.A. built government-sponsored projects like schools, highways, and bridges. President Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act of 1935, which guaranteed pension incomes for retired people.
Despite some lingering effects of the Depression, a history investigation will show that Roosevelt’s actions brought employment to many Americans. His creation of Social Security remains a source of income for the elderly. A history investigation would show that President Roosevelt’s vision would make a significant impact in ending the Depression.
2005 – Hurricane Katrina
On August 29, 2005, a hurricane caused overwhelming destruction to Louisiana and Mississippi, especially in New Orleans – where the levee broke. By the next day, 80% of New Orleans was underwater. The storm would go on to cause over $160 million in damages and take the lives of 1800 people.
The flooding in New Orleans destroyed many businesses – including emergency facilities like hospitals. People and their pets were stranded in their flooded homes with no resources. The hurricane was estimated to have caused 1,200 deaths and millions of dollars in damages. Because of the extent of financial ruin caused by the storm, even people whose homes may have been restored with the assistance of emergency water damage companies were unable to access those services.
The damages caused by the hurricane destroyed over 100 homes, and 1.5 million people were left without electric power. In the aftermath, analysis of the lack of adequate disaster relief resulted in the criticism of the mayor of New Orleans and Louisiana’s governor. The head of FEMA in that area was asked to resign, and many formerly powerful elected officials also stepped down from their offices. A history investigation into Katrina — and the seeming lack of response by officials — makes it one of the worst and the costliest natural disasters in the US.
1963 – The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
In November 1963, President John Kennedy was shot in the head in Dallas, Texas. The President was getting ready to declare his intention to run for a second term as President. As his car turned into Dealey Plaza, shots were seen coming from the Texas Book Depository Building. Bullets entered the President’s neck and head, and he slid into his wife’s lap.
President Kennedy was taken to a nearby hospital, (the urgent care clinic didn’t exist until the 1970s) but his injuries were too grave, and he was pronounced dead. His body was later transported to Air Force One. At the same time, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson took the Oath of Office. A man named Lee Harvey Oswald was named as Kennedy’s killer.
The history investigation into Oswald’s guilt has raised questions which – for some – persist today. Conspiracy theorists have named others who they believe assassinated Kennedy. Others have blamed different political forces who may have coerced or paid Oswald to kill the President.
These dates have brought significant changes to the country, and their effects are still felt today. As a nation, the U.S.A. has been blessed with people of vision who brought us these ideas and actions. It’s reassuring to hope there may be people like these in the future and that they will have new and exciting ideas to help our country.