Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy

Overview

Through the life of Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918), South Carolina's self-styled agrarian rebel, this book traces the history of white male supremacy and its discontents from the era of plantation slavery to the age of Jim Crow.

As an anti-Reconstruction guerrilla, Democratic activist, South Carolina governor, and U.S. senator, Tillman offered a vision of reform that was proudly white supremacist. In the name of white male militance, productivity, and solidarity, he justified...

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Overview

Through the life of Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918), South Carolina's self-styled agrarian rebel, this book traces the history of white male supremacy and its discontents from the era of plantation slavery to the age of Jim Crow.

As an anti-Reconstruction guerrilla, Democratic activist, South Carolina governor, and U.S. senator, Tillman offered a vision of reform that was proudly white supremacist. In the name of white male militance, productivity, and solidarity, he justified lynching and disfranchised most of his state's black voters. His arguments and accomplishments rested on the premise that only productive and virtuous white men should govern and that federal power could never be trusted. Over the course of his career, Tillman faced down opponents ranging from agrarian radicals to aristocratic conservatives, from woman suffragists to black Republicans. His vision and his voice shaped the understandings of millions and helped create the violent, repressive world of the Jim Crow South.

Friend and foe alike—and generations of historians—interpreted Tillman's physical and rhetorical violence in defense of white supremacy as a matter of racial and gender instinct. This book instead reveals that Tillman's white supremacy was a political program and social argument whose legacies continue to shape American life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Based on broad research in primary sources, including an impressive array of manuscript collections, it has immense strengths.

Journal of American History

A thoughtful biography of one of the archracists and pillars of Jim Crow in the post-Reconstruction South.

New York Times Book Review

Mr. Kantrowitz writes well, argues coherently, and has a strong point of view.

Washington Times

In describing Tillman's political maneuvers, Kantrowitz thoughtfully deals with many of the issues that concern historians today.

Washington Post Book World

A rich and insightful dissection of the rise of American racism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Charles B. Dew, New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807848395
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2000
  • Series: The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,108,478
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Kantrowitz is associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Ben Tillman, Agrarian Rebel
1 Mastery and Its Discontents
2 Planters and "the Gentleman from Africa"
3 The Shotgun Wedding of White Supremacy and Reform
4 Farmers, Dudes, White Negroes, and the Sun-Browned Goddess
5 The Mob and the State
6 Every White Man Who Is Worthy of a Vote
7 The Uses of a Pitchfork
8 Demagogues and Disordered Households
Epilogue: The Reconstruction of American Democracy
Notes
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index

Illustrations
Map of South Carolina in the 1880s
Tillman in his thirties
"Leaders of the Farmers' Movement"
Tillman as a U.S. senator
Sallie Starke Tillman
"Senator Tillman's Allegorical Cows"
"Senator Tillman to tell the difference between black and white"
Montage of Tillman
Photograph from which the image of Tillman in the montage was cropped
Tillman before an audience
"The 'Three Joes'"
Tillman in his last decade

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