Located in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota, United States… Mount Rushmore is a national memorial park that attracts millions of people from all over the world.
The United States of America is a country of 50 states that stretches across most of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending its reach into the Pacific Ocean. On the Atlantic Coast, New York City is a global financial and cultural hub; Washington, DC is the nation's capital. A world-renowned filmmaking center on the west coast is Hollywood, while Chicago is known for its architecture. In addition to states, the country also has 5 populated territories and about 9 uninhabited small territories.
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A vast area that would become the United States was inhabited by native people for centuries. The first settlers arrived in the New World in the 16th century, established colonies, and displaced these native peoples.
In 1565, Spaniards arrived at St. Augustine, Florida, and in 1587, British settlers landed in present-day Roanoke, Virginia. An additional British colony was established in 1606 in what would become Jamestown, Virginia. A French colony was founded in Quebec in 1608 and a Dutch colony was founded in New York in 1609. Over the next couple of centuries, increasing numbers of Europeans settled in the New World.
Native American conflict
Native Americans resisted European attempts to gain land and power, but they were often outnumbered and lacked the kind of weapons Europeans possessed. Furthermore, the settlers brought diseases that the native peoples had never encountered before, which sometimes had terrible consequences. Native Americans in North America died from an epidemic in 1616 that killed 75 percent of them.
As more people claimed land where Native Americans lived, fights between settlers and Native Americans erupted often. Between the mid-18th century and the mid-19th century, the U.S. government signed nearly 400 peace agreements with Indigenous tribes. However, most of these treaties were not honored by the government, and military units were even sent to remove Native Americans from their lands.
President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which granted land west of the Mississippi River to Native American tribes who agreed to give up their lands. This, however, went against other treaties he had signed with Native American tribes in the Southeast. Jackson used legal and military means to remove several tribes from their homelands and terminated nearly 70 treaties during his presidency.
In the mid-19th century, most Native American tribes had been wiped out or moved to much smaller areas in the Midwest.
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was drafted by colonists living in New England in 1776, a document which stated that the colonies were tired of being ruled by Great Britain (now called the United Kingdom). After winning their independence, the settlers formed a union of states based on a new constitution. In spite of the Declaration of Independence stating that "all men are created equal," millions of people were enslaved in the new nation.
A brief history of slavery in the United States
As early as 1619, boats brought enslaved Africans to North America. In the next couple of centuries, more than 12.5 million people were kidnapped from Africa and sold at ports throughout the Americas due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Nearly four million enslaved people lived in the country by 1860. Sugar, cotton, and tobacco flourished in the South as a result of free labor. People who were enslaved even built the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
The nation had been arguing about slavery and each state's right to allow it for more than a century when Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861. His goal was to abolish slavery. The majority of people in the northern states agreed with him. However, some southerners relied on slave labor to farm their crops and did not want slavery to end. The Confederate States of America was formed by 11 southern states to oppose the remaining 23 northern states. On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began.
People who wanted to end slavery fought against the pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War. Midway through the war, Lincoln delivered his famous Emancipation Proclamation speech, freeing enslaved people. Union forces won the Civil War two years later.
In the same year, the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery and put an end to nearly 250 years of slavery in America. Racism, however, persisted. Both former slaves and their descendants struggled with discrimination, and African American heroes are still fighting today for equality.
The 20th century: Progress & wars
As the United States expanded westward after the Civil War, it declared the West fully explored in 1890. Around five million people lived in 1800, but by 1900 there were over 80 million.
In the early 1900s, the United States experienced a period of progress. Among the reasons for this were the large number of immigrants seeking work in the country. 15 million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1900 and 1915 from countries including Italy, Russia, and Poland. Gold mines and garment factories were among the places where the new citizens worked, as well as railroads and canals. The immigrants introduced new ideas and cultures to the young country.
Industrialization also took place during the 20th century. In the 1920s, automobiles and airplanes led to an increase in factory jobs and a major shift in how people lived and worked.
It wasn't all easy though. During World War I, the United States fought alongside Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, and Japan against Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire (now known as Turkey).
Then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country during the Second World War, alongside allies France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union (now Russia), against Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Following World Wars I and II and the Great Depression, the United States became known as a progressive country. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, America saw a great deal of innovation. Astronautics and space exploration were explored by NASA in 1958. NASA landed the first human on the moon in 1969.
During these three decades, Americans of all backgrounds fought for equal rights for their fellow citizens as they fought for civil rights in the country. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most famous speeches associated with the civil rights movement. People of color achieved historic firsts during these decades, including Dalip Singh Saund becoming the first Asian American elected to the Congress in 1957; Thurgood Marshall becoming the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court in 1967; and Shirley Chisholm becoming the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968.
In the late 1900s, the United States government was involved in several wars, including the Vietnam War, a conflict between North and South Vietnam, in which it supported South Vietnam; the Cold War, a period of non-violent tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union, now Russia; and the Gulf War, which involved more than 30 nations, led by the United States against Iraq.
A terrorist attack on the United States
The United States had become a global power by the dawn of the 21st century, despite its relative youth. This power was perceived as a threat by some.
Nineteen terrorists hijacked four planes on September 11, 2001, to protest U.S. involvement in world affairs. New York City's World Trade Center was hit by two of the planes. Another plane collided with the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. The fourth plane went down in a Pennsylvania field. About 3,000 people were killed.
After 9/11, then-president George W. Bush Jr dispatched troops to Afghanistan. In addition to Osama bin Laden, he hoped to capture those responsible for the attacks. In 2003, Bush sent troops to Iraq after rumors spread that the country was hiding dangerous weapons that the president wanted to discover and destroy.
The United States is still engaged in what is called "the war on terrorism" today, even after bin Laden was found and killed in 2011.
A Pandemic & Historical Firsts
The United States made more progress in the 21st century, particularly at its highest levels of government. As the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Kamala Harris was elected vice president in 2020, the first person of color to be elected.
Also during the early 2000s, Donald Trump, the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, was elected in 2016; and Joe Biden, the oldest person to be elected president, was elected in 2020. The United States also endured the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, along with the rest of the world.
The American Culture and People
Governance & Politics
The Natural World
From tropical beaches in Florida to peaks in the Rocky Mountains, from rolling prairies and barren deserts in the West to dense wilderness areas in the Northeast and Northwest, the landscape of the United States varies greatly. The Great Lakes, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and the Mississippi River are scattered throughout.
In the same way that the landscape is diverse, so is the wildlife. Previously, bison roamed freely across the plains, but now only live in preserves. The largest carnivores are black bears, grizzlies, and polar bears. The majority of flower species are from Europe. Over 400 areas are protected and maintained by the National Park Service, as well as many other parks throughout each state.
As a protected species, the bald eagle is the nation's symbol and national bird.
The IMF estimates that the U.S. gross domestic product of $22.7 trillion constitutes 24% of the world's gross domestic product at market exchange rates and over 16% at purchasing power parity. As of February 2, 2022, the United States owed $30 trillion in debt.
Although U.S. exports per capita are relatively low, the country is the second-largest importer of goods. As of 2010, the country had a $635 billion trade deficit. Its top trading partners are Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union.
U.S. real compounded annual GDP growth from 1983 to 2008 was 3.3%, compared to a weighted average of 2.3% for the rest of the G7. Nominal GDP per capita in the nation ranks fifth, and PPP GDP per capita ranks seventh. The U.S. dollar is the world's most important reserve currency.
86.4% of the economy was accounted for by the private sector in 2009. Despite reaching a post-industrial level of development, the United States remains a major industrial power. Approximately 51% of American workers were employed in August 2010. In terms of employment, the public sector employs 21.2 million people. With 16.4 million people employed, health care and social assistance is the largest private sector. Most other high-income countries have a larger welfare state and redistribute income through government action less.
In addition to not guaranteeing paid vacation, the United States is one of the few countries in the world without paid family leave. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 74% of full-time American workers have access to paid sick leave, but only 24% of part-time workers do.