Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Synopsis

During World War I, thousands of rural southern men, black and white, refused to serve in the military. Jeanette Keith trace this resistance, including whites' political opposition to militarism, southern blacks' reluctance to serve a nation that refused to respect their rights, and anger at class bias in federal conscription policies.

Excerpt

An American president leads the nation into an unpopular war with a distant enemy. He says that the United States is fighting for democracy and freedom, but his critics suggest that the war is being fought to benefit select economic interests. Major national media follow the administration party line, saturating the nation with prowar propaganda, but many people remain unconvinced. Frightened of potential terrorist attacks from the enemy, Congress passes laws penalizing dissent. Authorities squelch antiwar protests, sending scores of dissidents to jail. People who oppose the war learn to lower their voices in public, while self-proclaimed patriots demand total loyalty not only to “our boys” overseas but to the President. People who fail to conform lose their jobs and sometimes their liberty. Americans face questions about power and politics, propaganda and the manipulation of public opinion, secrecy and surveillance.

This was the state of affairs in the United States in 1917. in this book, I explore the development of dissent during World War I in a most unexpected place, the rural South, where ordinary black and white farmers proved that, despite strident propaganda and punitive laws, American citizens could yet maintain minds and opinions of their own.

My research into rural southern antiwar and antidraft dissent was funded by two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a summer stipend and a yearlong Grant for College Teachers. I received travel grants from the American Philosophical Society and from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Faculty Development Fund. Bloomsburg University awarded me a sabbatical, which I spent at Yale University, under the auspices of the Agrarian Studies Program.

Among the many people I wish to thank are K. Walter Hickel; Pete Daniel; Crandall Shifflett; Hal Barron; Kriste Lindenmeyer; Jack Kirby; Susan Stemont; Paul Freedman; Mary Neth; Kay Mansfield; James C. Scott; Leah Porter; Michael Casey; Ben Johnson; Anastatia Sims; Nancy Gentile Ford; Harold Forsythe; Glenda Gilmore and her graduate students in American studies and history at Yale; my colleagues at the Agrarian Studies Program . . .

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