Populism in the South Revisited

Populism in the South Revisited: New Interpretations and New Departures

Edited by James M. Beeby
Omar H. Ali
James M. Beeby
Matthew Hild
Michael Pierce
Lewie Reece
Alicia E. Rodriquez
Jarod Roll
David Silkenat
Joel Sipress
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hxcr
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    Populism in the South Revisited
    Book Description:

    The Populist Movement was the largest mass movement for political and economic change in the history of the American South until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Populist Movement in this book is defined as the Farmers' Alliance and the People's Party, as well as the Agricultural Wheel and Knights of Labor in the 1880s and 1890s. The Populists threatened the political hegemony of the white racist southern Democratic Party during populism's high point in the mid-1890s; and the populists threw the New South into a state of turmoil.

    Populism in the South Revisited: New Interpretations and New Departures brings together nine of the best new works on the populist movement in the South that grapple with several larger themes--such as the nature of political insurgency, the relationship between African Americans and whites, electoral reform, new economic policies and producerism, and the relationship between rural and urban areas--in case studies that center on several states and at the local level. Each essay offers both new research and new interpretations into the causes, course, and consequences of the populist insurgency.

    One essay analyzes how notions of debt informed the Populist insurgency in North Carolina, the one state where the Populists achieved statewide power, while another analyzes the Populists' failed attempts in Grant Parish, Louisiana, to align with African Americans and Republicans to topple the incumbent Democrats. Other topics covered include populist grassroots organizing with African Americans to stop disfranchisement in North Carolina; the Knights of Labor and the relationship with populism in Georgia; organizing urban populism in Dallas, Texas; Tom Watson's relationship with Midwest Populism; the centrality of African Americans in populism, a comparative analysis of Populism across the Deep South, and how the rhetoric and ideology of populism impacted socialism and the Garvey movement in the early twentieth century. Together these studies offer new insights into the nature of southern populism and the legacy of the Peoples' Party in the South.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-233-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Populism in the American South
    (pp. ix-2)
    James M. Beeby

    Populism in the American South has long fascinated historians and students. The political insurgency of the People’s Party and its failed attempt to reorient society and the economy is an important story in the history of the United States. The history of American Populism is well documented but remains a site of historical disagreement and debate. This collection of essays, by a relatively new generation of scholars, attempts to refine that debate and offer new interpretations of the meaning of the Populist revolt. The focus of this collection is Populism in the American South. Although the Populist movement was a...

  5. “The Race Cry Doesn’t Scare Us”. . . Or Does It?: POPULISM AND RACE IN GRANT PARISH, LOUISIANA
    (pp. 3-35)
    JOEL SIPRESS

    The publication, over seventy years ago, of C. Vann Woodward’s epic biography of Georgia Populist Tom Watson made legend the story of the otherwise obscure Henry S. Doyle. Doyle, a young black preacher, was an active Populist and a zealous supporter of Watson. During Watson’s bitter 1892 congressional reelection campaign, Doyle delivered over sixty campaign speeches on the Populist congressman’s behalf. Watson’s call for black and white to unite in a crusade for economic justice had provoked a torrent of racist demagogy from the conservative Democrats who dominated late nineteenth-century Georgia. By his outspoken support for Watson, Doyle repeatedly placed...

  6. “Workingmen’s Democracy” in the Deep South: THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR IN GEORGIA POLITICS, 1884–1892
    (pp. 36-55)
    MATTHEW HILD

    During the past three decades historians have delved deeply into the political activities of the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, the nation’s largest labor organization during the turbulent “Gilded Age.” As Leon Fink has explained, the Knights’ entry into politics represented an attempt to inject “workingmen’s democracy” into a national political landscape that was becoming increasingly dominated by the newly emerging “robber barons” of the corporate world. Along with the growing political power of big business came increased corruption and fraud in American elections and growing concern among the working classes that “republican institutions are not...

  7. “Of Whom Shall the Third Party Be Composed?”: URBAN LABORERS AND THE ORIGINS OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY IN DALLAS, TEXAS
    (pp. 56-81)
    ALICIA E. RODRIQUEZ

    In his influentialOrigins of the New South, C. Vann Woodward identified the building of a successful farmer-laborer coalition as a key Populist political strategy. Developing alliances between southern and western voters, and between white and black southerners, were also part of this strategy. Other scholars, including Robert C. McMath Jr. and Chester McArthur Destler, have highlighted the role that labor played in informing Populist political ideology, in party building, and in leadership. More recent studies have examined in greater depth labor’s role, advancing the argument that though long overlooked, urban workers contributed significantly, in more than one way, to...

  8. Agrarian Rebel, Industrial Workers: TOM WATSON AND THE PROSPECTS OF A FARMER-LABOR ALLIANCE
    (pp. 82-100)
    MICHAEL PIERCE

    By the time former Georgia congressman Thomas E. Watson ran for the nation’s vice presidency on the People’s (Populist) Party ticket in 1896, he had abandoned one of the core tenets of the party’s founding, the idea that the party should unite all of the nation’s producers of wealth. The party’s 1892 Omaha platform had asserted, “the interests of rural and civic labor are the same; there [sic] enemies identical.” But on the campaign trail in 1896, Watson conceived of the People’s Party not as a national producerist party but as an agrarian and sectional one that united the farmers...

  9. “Hard Times Is the Cry”: DEBT IN POPULIST THOUGHT IN NORTH CAROLINA
    (pp. 101-127)
    DAVID SILKENAT

    Debt stood at the heart of the agrarian critique of American capitalist society. For Populists in North Carolina, across the South, and across the country, the problem of debt, both at the personal and communal level, was one of the primary issues that drove them to enter politics. Declining crop prices drove farmers to work harder every year in an attempt to pull themselves out of debt, only to find that the harvest yielded more bushels and less money than the year before. The resulting agrarian revolt challenged the existing political, social, and economic order in unprecedented ways. By the...

  10. Reconceptualizing Black Populism in the New South
    (pp. 128-144)
    OMAR H. ALI

    The Reverend John L. Moore was among a number of key black Populist leaders directing southern African Americans to take independent political action in the early 1890s. The black minister, who served as superintendent of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance in Florida in 1891, argued that for African Americans to regain their civil and political rights, black voters would need to support candidates (including non-Republican candidates) who supported reforming the electoral process. In response to attacks on African Americans for their endorsement of legislation that would allow federal supervision of elections in the South, Moore published a letter to the editor...

  11. Creating a New South: THE POLITICAL CULTURE OF DEEP SOUTH POPULISM
    (pp. 145-176)
    LEWIE REECE

    For white southerners of the 1890s, the need for white supremacy was as obvious as breathing. Nevertheless, for such an all-encompassing frame of reference, the slightest danger to the social order could suggest a possibility of the destruction of the racial status quo. White Populists of the 1890s fully shared the racial worldview that defined their history prior to their separation from the Democratic Party in 1892. This was even more the case in the Deep South, where African Americans were either a majority of the population or a very large minority in all of these states. Nevertheless, when Populists...

  12. “[T]he Angels from Heaven Had Come Down and Wiped Their Names off the Registration Books”: THE DEMISE OF GRASSROOTS POPULISM IN NORTH CAROLINA
    (pp. 177-198)
    JAMES M. BEEBY

    In the November congressional election of 1900, John C. McMillan, the U.S. postmaster at Teacheys in Duplin County, North Carolina, went to vote in the last election fought by the Populists in the Old North State. In addition to his military record, McMillan, a captain and Civil War veteran, had a long political resume. He was a former member of the North Carolina state legislature and chairman of the Duplin County Board of Education, and he also served as a justice of the peace. From all accounts, he was one of the most respected men in his area and one...

  13. Agrarian Producerism after Populism: SOCIALISM AND GARVEYISM IN THE RURAL SOUTH
    (pp. 199-226)
    JAROD ROLL

    Insofar as the southern Populist movement fed on a single idea it was this: “Wealth belongs to him who creates it . . . ‘If any will not work, neither shall he eat.’”¹ The Omaha platform of 1892, the founding document of the Populist Party, legitimized the third-party revolt by casting it as a defense of this ideological complex, which was both political and religious. One dimension of this belief system was what historians have called “producerism,” a moral logic whereby “free men rightfully received the ‘fruits of their labor’ and, conversely, that those who did not make a contribution...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 227-230)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 231-234)