1-2 of 2 Results  for:

  • Political History x
  • Southern History x
  • Labor and Working Class History x
Clear all

Article

The Freedmen’s Bureau  

Joseph P. Reidy

On March 3, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Congress granted the bureau control over affairs relating to the formerly enslaved people in the Confederate States and also charged it with administering relief to war refugees and managing the confiscated and abandoned land in federal possession. In theory, its agents would transform the habits and beliefs associated with slavery into those that prevailed in the free states of the North. Practical challenges abounded, and the original view that the intervention would be brief proved to be naïve. Complicating matters, Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, viewed the bureau as a bone of contention in his dispute with Congressional Republicans over which branch of government would control Reconstruction, the process of returning the seceded states to full standing in national affairs. Overriding Johnson’s vetoes, Congress extended the bureau’s mandate, first to 1868 and eventually to 1872. From the beginning, Southern critics accused the bureau of creating labor strife and stirring hatred between the races, a characterization that formed a central plank in later Lost Cause mythology regarding the evils of Reconstruction. Only decades into the 20th century did historians succeed in rehabilitating the reputation of this pioneering federal agency and its important contributions to restoring stability to the Southern economy and assisting formerly enslaved Southerners in asserting their rights as free and equal citizens of the republic.

Article

The Populist Movement in the 19th Century  

Charles Postel

American Populism of the 1880s and 1890s marked the political high-water mark of the social movements of farmers, wage earners, women, and other sectors of society in the years after the Civil War. These movements forged the People’s Party, also known as the Populist Party, which campaigned against corporate power and economic inequality and was one of the most successful third parties in US history. Populist candidates won gubernatorial elections in nine states and gained some forty-five seats in the US Congress, including six seats in the Senate, and in 1892 the Populist presidential candidate, James B. Weaver of Iowa, received over a million votes, more than 8 percent of the total. The Populist Party was not a conventional political party but a coalition of organizations, including the Farmers’ Alliances, the Knights of Labor, and other reform movements, in what the Populists described as a “congress of industrial orders.” These organizations gave the People’s Party its strength and shaped its character as a party of working people with a vision of egalitarian cooperation and solidarity comparable to the labor, farmer-labor, and social-democratic parties in Europe and elsewhere that took shape in the same decades. Despite their egalitarian claims, however, the Populists had at best a mixed attitude towards the struggles for racial equality, and at worst accommodated Indian dispossession, Chinese exclusion, and Jim Crow segregation. In terms of its legacy, veterans of the Populist movement and many of its policy proposals would shape progressive and labor-farmer politics deep into the 20th century, partly by way of the Socialist Party, but mainly by way of the progressive or liberal wings of the Democratic and Republican Parties. At the same time, the adjective “populist” has come to describe a wide variety of political phenomena, including right-wing and nationalist movements, that have no particular connection to the late 19th-century Populism.