Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics: 1876-1925

Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics: 1876-1925

Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics: 1876-1925

Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics: 1876-1925

Excerpt

With the end of Radical Reconstruction in Mississippi in the winter of 1875-1876 the whites came once more into complete control of the state government. The agency through which the whites governed was the Democratic party, and save for one or two occasions, their control was undisputed by the Republicans, whose organization rapidly disintegrated. Thereafter, all political issues had to be settled within the councils of the Democratic party, and control of the party machinery was, therefore, of paramount importance. In the early decades after the "revolution" this party machinery was in the hands of those who had led the revolt, and these leaders were, in general, sympathetic to and influenced by the new corporate and financial interest in the state--the railroads, the banks, the merchants.

In post-Civil War years agriculture in Mississippi, as elsewhere, was in a depressed condition. The price of cotton steadily declined, and the farmer was hard put to meet the payments on his mortgage. At the same time the corporate and banking interest of the state seemed to prosper. There were reasons for this beyond the ken of the poor hill farmer--the redneck, as he was popularly termed. But the redneck came to regard this situation--chronic depression for him while his mercantile neighbor prospered--as a conspiracy against him, a conspiracy which was aided and abetted by the leaders of his party.

This history is a study of the struggle of the redneck to gain control of the Democratic party in order to effect reforms which would improve his lot. He was to be led into many bypaths and sluggish streams before he was to realize his aim in the election of Vardaman tot he government in 1903. For almost two decades thereafter the rednecks were to hold undisputed control of the state government. The period was marked by many reforms and by some improvement in the economic plight of the farmer--an improvement largely owing to factors which were uninfluenced by state politics. The period closes in 1925 with the repudiation and defeat at the polls of the farmer's trusted leaders, Vardaman and Bilbo.

I wish to express appreciation to Professor Charles S. Sydnor of the history department of Duke University, whose kindly advice and wisdom have done much to bring out whatever merit this study may . . .

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