A Short, Not Uncomfortable, History of the United States

(CNN)A bill backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit Florida’s public schools and private businesses from making people feel “discomfort” or “guilt” based on their race, sex or national origin received first approval [January 18] by the state’s Senate Education Committee. The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill with six Republican senators in favor of the bill and three Democratic senators opposed to it.

To avoid students’ feeling guilt or discomfort, I have written a short, non-controversial history of the United States covering the period from 1619 through the end of World War II. I will try later to write a brief version of U.S. history from the end of WWII to the present.

In 1619 a group of unemployed Africans, men and women, came to America. They found work in the southern colonies in the cotton fields working for room and board.

Around the same time some people from England came to the colony of Massachusetts. They called themselves “pilgrims,” and the men wore funny hats. They found some land and began farming it. The local natives, who the pilgrims called Indians, helped them.

About 100 years later, an army from France fought an army from Great Britain in North America. France lost and they had to leave. By then there were 13 English colonies—stretching from New Hampshire in the north to Georgia in the south. The colonies grew and prospered, especially in the south where the descendants of the original African workers and a lot more unemployed Africans who had come to America worked very hard growing cotton. They also did other jobs for their employers.

The English government wanted the people living in America—they were called colonists—to pay taxes to cover the cost of the British troops who were sent to America to defend the colonists. The colonists said they shouldn’t have to pay taxes that they hadn’t been able to vote for or against. The colonists sent representatives to Philadelphia in 1776 and they signed a document called “The Declaration of Independence,” that said all men are created equal and that the colonies were free and independent of Great Britain. The colonists and the British troops fought. The colonists won, and the British troops left.

The thirteen colonies each had a government, but they also formed a national government that didn’t work very well. So, representatives of each “state” met in Philadelphia again and they drafted another document, called The Constitution. After enough states agreed, the Constitution was “ratified,” and a new government was created, and its capital was located on the Potomac River with land given by Maryland and Virginia. The area was called the District of Columbia, and one of the cities in it was called Washington, named after the new country’s first president, George Washington. Because there were a lot of Africans located in the South who weren’t really citizens, the men who drafted the Constitution agreed that only three-fifths of the Africans should count when census of the population was done every 10 years.

The new country grew and prospered. France owned a bunch of land west of the Mississippi River and needed some money. So, France sold the land to the United States. It was called the Louisiana Purchase. A couple of decades later, the United States got some more land in the southwest from Mexico.

A lot of people in the northern part of the United States thought that the African descendants should be paid for their work. The employers of the Africans in the South didn’t agree. They said the Africans were happy working for just room and board. Eventually, though, the North and the South couldn’t agree about it, so eleven southern states decided to form their own country which they called the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate States and the Union—what was left of the United States of America—fought a war. A lot of people were killed. The Union won. The Confederate states rejoined the Union. The employers of the Africans agreed to pay them wages instead of just room and board.

The Africans were allowed to become citizens. Federal troops stayed in the southern states for eleven years. Then they left. For a while the Africans voted in the South, but the southern state governments decided that to vote everyone should have to pass a test. Most of the Africans didn’t pass the test, so they couldn’t vote. The southern states also decided that the Africans and white people would be happier if they were kept apart, so they were. Africans got to have their own schools, their own railway cars, their own space on buses, their own bathrooms and drinking fountains. People in the South said the Africans liked that system.

There were a lot of Indians all over America, but especially west of the Mississippi River. After some discussion with the United States government, Indian tribes agreed to move to land set aside for them by the government called “reservations”. That arrangement was better for everyone.

Toward the end of the 19th Century, an African named Plessy decided that he wanted to ride in a white railway car even though he knew he wasn’t supposed to and it was illegal. He was arrested and found guilty. He appealed his case which eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court said it was okay for the railroad to have separate cars for Africans if they were equal to the white cars. The African cars often weren’t equal, but the Africans didn’t complain about it.

During this period a lot of railroads were built, including a couple that went from the East Coast to the West Coast. Some people got very rich from the railroads and other things.

In 1914 a war started in Europe, but the United States said it was none of their business. By 1917, after the Germans sunk a lot of American ships, the United States entered the war. Germany lost. Woodrow Wilson, the American president, wanted to form an international group called the League of Nations to prevent another war. The League was formed, but the United States decided it didn’t need to join.

In 1929, there was a stock market “crash,” and a lot of people lost money. Then the country’s economic system had some problems, and a lot of people lost their jobs. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president after he promised that he would give the American people a “new deal”. A lot of people felt better, although not everyone liked Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was reelected three more times. During his third term as president, Japan attacked the United States. Germany also declared war on the United States. During the war, President Roosevelt decided that Japanese Americans living on the West Coast should leave their old homes and property and move to new homes in the desert. They lived in fenced areas protected by Army soldiers. The Second World War lasted almost four years. The United States won.






  1. Ian Kimbrey on February 23, 2022 at 12:54 am

    And everyone lived happily ever after. Who needs to hear all the ugly bits? They just make it way too complicated for your average, screen-addicted, ADHD-afflicted student.

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