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Populism in the South Revisited - New Interpretations and New Departures

Populism in the South Revisited

New Interpretations and New Departures

Edited by James M. Beeby
Hardcover : 9781617032257, 258 pages, January 2012
Paperback : 9781496807878, 258 pages, February 2016

A survey of the full impact of the Populist movement across the South


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.


Populism in the South Revisited repositions the historiography of both the New South and Populism to address issues of race, urban development, and the emerging industrial working class within the context of Populist ideology. In the process, James M. Beeby and his co-authors move Populism from a perceived 'failed' initiative to a vibrant factor in the development of the New South in the twentieth century.

- Connie L. Lester, author of Up from the Mudsills of Hell: The Farmers' Alliance, Populism, and Progressive Agriculture in Tennessee, 1870-1915

This fine collection of essays provides a good demonstration that Populism remains a vital field for historical study. Expert historians, writing in clear language, indicate new avenues of investigation and the potential of new sources for research. This book will be of value to readers interested in the late nineteenth-century South and in the history of social and political reform movements.

- Charles Postel, winner of the Bancroft Prize for The Populist Vision

Populism in the South Revisited is a well-written and extensively researched collection of essays by younger, up-and-coming historians of the Populist movement of the 1890s. Populist attempts to reorient southern society along more progressive lines provide the unifying theme. This collection is particularly strong in dealing with issues of class and race, providing new insights and provocative interpretations of a field that has long fascinated both scholars and the general public.

- Worth Robert Miller, author of Populist Cartoons: An Illustrated History of the Third Party Movement in the 1890s

An important addition to a burgeoning new literature about southern Populism, Populism in the South Revisited provides a fresh look at an old subject. Encompassing a variety of perspectives and approaches, it suggests new paths for examining the origins, impact, and consequences of agrarian insurgency in the U. S. South.

- William A. Link, author of five books, including The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930