Honors College Thesis


Beyond the Carpetbagger: The Emergence of Racialized Terms as a Political Weapon in the Reconstruction Era South Público Deposited

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  • The Reconstruction era, beginning in 1863, was a time of radical change and movement in American politics and society. A significant number of northern Republicans migrated southwards, for various purposes, including political involvement. To white Democratic southerners who believed they had just fought a war of northern aggression and now had to fight to protect their rights to self-determination, these northern interlopers posed a threat to the white southern way of life and governance. Thanks to the lack of journalistic ethics and the prominence of newspapers, southern Democratic newspaper editors created a myriad of terms that served to discredit and undermine the northerner Republican transplants. Much of this language was racialized, and southerners did not hesitate to use words and qualities that described African-Americans to describe the white northern migrants. The well-known term “carpetbagger” was in a way the most palatable of southern Democrats’ new linguistic arsenal. This Thesis examines the emergence and use of terms such as “piebald”, “menagerie”, and “black-and-tan” in context of the media war against Reconstruction era northern Republican settlers, finding that their racialized roots held power in the post-bellum South. Key words: Reconstruction, Civil War, carpetbagger, integration, racism, miscegenation
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