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America's History in the Making

Contested Territories

In the Video

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Historical Perspectives

When interpreting the term “westward expansion,” one must consider the perspective of the author and understand that expansion caused hardship for many. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 fuelled an expansion of slavery into the Deep South, and led to the expulsion of several Indian tribes who had partially acculturated to the white ways of doing things. Slavery also played a large role in Texan independence and the Mexican- American War, exacerbating sectional tensions and pushing the nation towards war.

Faces of America

The acquisition of territory in the West was a process of dispossessing both Native Americans, who were the original inhabitants, and European groups that had settled there. At the same time, the West offered opportunity, attracting new groups that exploited its natural resources.

Black Hawk was one of several Sauk leaders who rejected white settlement in what would become Illinois. He eventually withdrew across the Mississippi River but returned in 1832 with several hundred followers in search of food.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was a well-educated and wealthy Californio, who hoped that the U.S. would take over California. After the U.S. acquired California, however, Vallejo was imprisoned, and eventually lost most of his land and fortune.

Yee Ah Tye came to California from China. Although he faced great prejudice, his knowledge of English set him apart and made him a leader in the Chinese community.

Hands on History

Archaeologist Eric Blind works at the Presidio of San Francisco. He believes that archaeology offers an opportunity to “democratize the past” by studying all people’s lives. He relies on technology to create three-dimensional images of the rooms he excavates, so that subsequent generations of researchers can view them as he did. Read edited Hands on History interview with Eric Blind.

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