this book, I examine the dynamics of organizing
across racial lines in two social movements in the US
South during the 1880s and 1890s. The Knights of Labor
and the Populists were the largest and most influential
movements of their day, and they challenged traditional
divisions of race. My goal is to provide a better under-
standing of the sources and the limits of this moment of
radical possibility. In particular, I examine the develop-
ment of interests as a process within the movements’ cul-
tural narratives linking race and class, and as an active
process of negotiation at the local level.
I advance three basic arguments in the following pages.
First, the movements were both inclusive and exclusive
at the same time. The Knights and the Populists in-
cluded some and excluded others, and they changed over
time. Despite a continuing historiographical debate over
whether they were sincere or cynical in their organizing
e√orts, I maintain that the better question is, where did
the movements draw the boundaries between an ‘‘us’’ to be
organized and a ‘‘them’’ to be excluded, and why?
Second, I argue that the movements’ republican em-
phasis on civic virtue o√ered a basis for cross-race orga-
nizing, but also provided constraints. Previous literature,
especially on ‘‘whiteness,’’ has documented how the re-
Previous Page Next Page