Essay on The Progressive Movement in Tennessee



Essay on The Progressive Movement in Tennessee


The progressive era denotes a period in American history between 1890 and 1918 when Americans witnesses a wide range of economic, political, social and moral reforms. These reforms were initiate in a wide range of areas such as the sale of alcohol, child labour, ensure adequate provision of water and milk, among other policy, social and legal reforms. The motive that progressive reformers had in championing for this reforms was to eliminate corruption in government, to regulate how businesses conducted their activities, to improve the working conditions of the average American worker and to ensure that the public had direct control in determining how they were governed (Bond, 2015).

Tennessee had its fair share of progressive reformists. Some of these progressives included the likes of E.H. Crump who was the mayor of Memphis and was regarded as one of the most progressive mayors of his time. The idea behind progressivism was that the nation needed to be saved from what they considered to be political, economic an ethnic disintegration. Take for instance, the practice of government using separatist and segregation laws and regulations in schools. Progressive reformers from Tennessee such as Congressman John Lewis stood firmly against such laws and championed for the abolition of laws racial discriminatory laws. These progressive movement has helped shape the social, political and economic society we live in today (Ewing, Folmsbee, & Mitchel , 1990).

Thesis Statement-essay on The Progressive Movement in Tennessee

This paper seeks to identify the underlying principles of progressive movements, who these progressives were, their goals and what they achieved from their efforts. It also seeks to investigate the issue of prohibition and discuss why prohibition was such a big issue in Tennessee. Further the paper moves on to consider the effect that this prohibition might have had on the politics of Tennessee during this time.

One of the progressive era reformers from Tennessee was Ida B. Wells. During she was one of the most influential African American women who fought against racial discrimination and the ill treatment of freed African Americans. She was instrumental in exposing the cruel treatment of freed slaves through her essays and articles. One fundamental piece was “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases,” in which she exposed the lynching of men that was happening in Memphis in 1892 and for this reason she had to flee from Memphis to seek refuge as her life was in danger. Ida, however, was an example of progressives who called for the abolition of social ills (Irish , 2001).

On the other hand, and specifically in Tennessee, there existed a group of progressives who called for the regulation of the sale of alcoholic beverages. The ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages was a critical part of politics in Tennessee during the early twentieth century. Prohibition of sale of alcoholic drinks after the civil war was specifically to the blacks and poor whites was due to the fear that the consumption of alcohol would ignite their passions and increase the crime rate or worse still stir up ideas of revolt. This prohibition was readily accepted by the churches which advocated for complete abstinence from the use of distilled spirits (Majors, 1986). Essay on The Progressive Movement in Tennessee

The efforts of reformists such as Marcus Morton, who founded the American Temperance Society in Massachusetts led to the grown of the movement with Tennessee forming two temperance societies three years from the formation of the Massachusetts society. Support for the prohibition in Tennessee continued throughout the twentieth century and led to efforts to create legislation to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages. For instance, radicals republican Governor William G argued that alcohol would “bring down upon us, as a state, Sodom’s guilt and Sodom’s doom” The efforts of this reformist to attain complete temperance did not however go unopposed and by the 1920s, revolts against the attempts to achieve temperance led to the failure of prohibition laws (Majors, 1986).

Conclusion Essay on The Progressive Movement in Tennessee

Progressive reformist especially during the progressive era called for radical changes and reforms in different social, political and economic fields. The issue of prohibition, which formed a central part of the agenda of a number of progressive reformist did not however enjoy unanimity in support. The prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages in Tennessee and the different legislative attempts to institutionalize temperance was against the principles of liberty as it amounted to undue control of government over the autonomy of the citizens as to what they eat, or drink. The ideas and efforts of this reformist however play an important role in shaping American history regardless of whether or not they achieved their goals.














Bond, B. (2015). Tennessee Women:Their Lives and Times. University of Georgia Press.

Ewing, R., Folmsbee, J., & Mitchel , E. (1990). Tennessee: A Short History. Unic. of Tennessee Press.

Irish , A. (2001). Joseph W Byrns of Tennessee: A Political Biography. University of Tennessee Press.

Majors, W. (1986). Change and Continuity: Tennessee Politcs Since the Civil War . Mercer University Press .