We often think of the typical segregationist politician of yore as a genteel member of the white upper crust. But the more common mode was the fiery populist.

The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 and the Tulsa / Greenwood massacre of 1921, two of the bloodiest massacres in white supremacist history, were led respectively by Josephus Daniels (Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy and Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Mexico) and Tate Brady (one of Tulsa’s founders and a Democratic National Committeeman).

And while there were unquestionably populist-style bigots, there were also populist-style anti-bigots: Ralph Yarborough, Estes Kefauver, and Huey Long (who incidentally was Huey Newton’s namesake). Even LBJ was called a populist by elite liberals.

As far as I can tell, after 1896 everyone was racist, including the Republicans. (Another instigator of the Tulsa riot, which killed at least a hundred people and probably many more, was Richard Lloyd Jones, a progressive Republican). The Wilmington Insurrection overthrew the legally elected, mixed-race Republican government of Wilmington, N.C., and along with it the N.C. Populist Party. (Ben Tillman, another leader of the insurrection, was populist “in style”, but a loyal anti-Populist Democrat).

 

 

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