25%+ whites voted for a black majority party in the Southern gubernatorial elections during the 1880s.
In Virginia & Tennessee, interracial alliances controlled state governments
Commentators saw this as the end of racism!
So why wasn’t it?
(Dailey, “Before Jim Crow”)
The New York Evening Post cheered the Readjusters
“They say they are fighting caste. They assert that they represent the dignity of labor. Their hero is a man of the people. They champion the rights of man against the privileges of an aristocracy of office-holding families”.
The NYT portrayed the Readjusters for “securing of human rights to the poor whites and the poor blacks” and the “formation of politics on other than the color line”
In 1881, Democratic newspapers tried to galvanise white solidarity
But Readjusters decried this race-baiting as desperate and ineffective! Falling on deaf ears.
When the Readjusters gained both houses of the General Assembly in Virginia, some people thought that racism was over!
They saw this as the “repudiation of section hate and race prejudices”.
Why wasn’t that the end of racism?
Dailey emphasises white men’s honour
1) Inter-racial solidarity weakened, due to
a) White Readjusters’ opposition to miscegenation
b) Democrats fearmongered about black men’s control over white women
c) Dems impugned white masculinity
2) Wealthy Democrats used patronage to economically punish and marginalise white voters Readjusters
3) As Black Americans gained power, whites perceived a lost of privilege, they lost “the wages of whiteness” (WEB).
4) After relentless propaganda, Democrats secured enough votes to disenfranchise black voters and then entrenched white supremacy.
So for Dailey, we can only understand the rise in racism by attending to gender.
[Obviously there are other factors too]
1a) White Readjusters largely supported civic and political rights…
But strongly opposed and denounced inter-racial marriage.
1a) Many black leaders dissented, they saw race-based restrictions as a denial of liberty and sought to repeal proscriptions on inter-racial sex & marriage.
But the white Readjusters refused.
Whites blocked attempts to revoke anti-miscegenation laws.
1b) Racism was also triggered by 2 black men’s appointment to the Richmond school board.
Appointed by Governor Cameron, both were educated, propertied & previously held public office.
Democratic leaders were OUTRAGED.
1b) Black men’s appointment to the school board would give them authority and patronage over white teachers and white girls.
Dailey argues that this challenged white Southern men’s honour, which lay in their protection and guardianship over women and children.
“Negroes to control the schools to which your little children go”… a vote for the Readjusters was a vote for ‘‘mixed schools now and mixed marriages in the future"
- The Lynchburg News.
[foreshadowing the exact same discourse of the 1950s]
“In my Precinct [Democratic] chairmen rode to the doors, called out the women and.. would wind up by asking the women how they would like (calling a most objectionable Negro by name) to visit and examine their daughters”
- Readjuster chairman.
1b) Dailey thus argues that white men had no problem allying with black men in order to collectively challenge wealth inequalities.
But whites balked at anything relating to “their women”,
i.e. racial inter-marriage and black men’s authority over white women.
1c) Democrats taunted Readjusters, impugning their masculinity.
SC Democrat Tillman remarked the coalition
“had some people of white skin, but I.. consider that a man with a white skin who consorts with negroes, hugs and kisses them to get votes, is not a genuine white man”.
“Democrats went door-to-door asking white voters,
asking potential white voters, “Are you going to vote with the whites, or n——, this time?”
The 1883 Democratic campaign song:
“Ho, this way, freemen! If ye will not heed,
Then never call yourselves Virginians more;
For men will mark you as some mongrel breed,
Unworthy of the name your fathers wore”
Democrats tried to foster fears that white men would lose privileges through political alliances with black Americans.
2) Wealthy Democrats also flexed their economic muscle..
Democratic merchants called in debts;
Democratic landlords threatened to raise rents & banish tenants;
Democratic employers discriminated against those who voted for Readjusters.
3) Black Virginians gained authority in public office, patronage jobs & schools
Democrats campaigned that whites lost what W.E.B. Du Bois called “the public and psychological wage” of whiteness
- deference in streets, access to public spaces, control of the law, better schools
Inter-racial political unions weakened…
The Virginia Populists distanced themselves from black Americans, declaring they didn’t even want their votes.
4) Democrats seized this opportunity to entrench white supremacy & alter Virginia’s constitution to disenfranchise black voters.
This was actually opposed by a majority of Virginians in referenda in 1888, 1893 & 1897.
It finally passed in 1900, after sustained racist campaigns
4) In 1900, Richmond had 6000 registered black voters.
By 1902 that was 760
The Virginia electorate had been halved.