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The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Empire: Manifest Destiny and Beyond
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Empire
Text 1. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Text 2. Stephen Crane, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Text 3. The Future of the Red Man
Text 4. William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World
Text 5. The New Frontier, Albert Beveridge and William Jennings Bryan
Text 6. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
Text 7. The White Man's Burden
» Reading Guide
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Text 8. Mark Twain, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Text 9. Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States
Text 10. Two Wars, Memorial Day, The Twelve-Inch Gun

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
"The White Man's Burden" and Responses
- Rudyard Kipling, "The White Man's Burden," poem, McClure's Magazine, February 1899
- American Missionary Assn., "The White Man's Duty," editorial, The American Missionary, July 1899
- H. T. Johnson, "The Black Man's Burden," poem, Christian Recorder, March 1899
- T. Thomas Fortune, "The White Man's Burden," editorial, New York Age, April 1899, excerpts
- Benjamin R. Tillman, Address to the U.S. Senate, 7 February 1899, excerpts
The Black Man's Burden

Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden" appeared in McClure's Magazine in February of 1899, within days of the beginning of the Philippine-American War and Senate ratification of the treaty ending the Spanish-American War. The poem quickly became a touchstone in the growing debate over America's role in the world. Urging steadfastness in the face of failure, forbearance in the face of slander, and generosity in the face of ingratitude, it evoked strong responses. The American Missionary Society praised it for expressing "a large and fundamental truth." Parodies linked it to such domestic issues as labor and race. Editorials by African American journalists attacked it as hypocrisy. South Carolina's Senator Tillman even managed to turn it into a warning against imperialism. Its mixture of noblesse oblige, high motives, and racial superiority will evoke strong responses even today. 9 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. How does Kipling portray the subjects of colonial rule?
  2. How does he portray their rulers?
  3. What motives does he offer for imperial rule?
  4. How do the responses link it to domestic issues?
  5. How does Roosevelt's "The Strenuous Life" echo "The White Man's Burden"?
  6. How does the memory of the Civil War color responses to the poem and to America's role in the world?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the West incorporated into the nation?
  •  How did Americans respond to the nation's changing role in world affairs at this time?
  •  How did issues and concerns at home shape American policies and actions abroad?
  •  How did America project its power beyond its own borders?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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Revised: May 2005