"With his attention sharply focused on farmer-labor political cooperation at local, state, and national levels—from Greenbackers through the Populists and Progressives—Hild's book is a prodigious feat of scholarship. He is a shrewd guide through a complex story, as well as a perceptive analyst of the impediments of class and race and of the fraud and violence that bedeviled the popular insurgencies."
—Sheldon Hackney, University of Pennsylvania
Hild shows that the Populist (or People's) Party, the most important third party of the 1890s, established itself most solidly in Texas, Alabama, and, under the guise of the earlier Union Labor Party, Arkansas, where farmer-labor political coalitions from the 1870s to mid-1880s had laid the groundwork for populism's expansion. Third-party movements fared progressively worse in Georgia and North Carolina, where little such coalition building had occurred, and in places like Tennessee and South Carolina, where almost no history of farmer-labor solidarity existed.
Hild warns against drawing any direct correlations between a strong Populist presence in a given place and a background of farmer-laborer insurgency. Yet such a background could only help Populists and was a necessary precondition for the initially farmer-oriented Populist Party to attract significant labor support. Other studies have found a lack of labor support to be a major reason for the failure of Populism, but Hild demonstrates that the Populists failed despite significant labor support in many parts of the South. Even strong farmer-labor coalitions could not carry the Populists to power in a region in which racism and violent and fraudulent elections were, tragically, central features of politics.
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