Chapter 8 Epilogue: a new Life and Old Habits

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Chapter 8

Epilogue: A New Life and Old Habits

In 1877, when the United States erupted in the Great Railroad Uprising workers in St. Louis mounted a general strike. The socialist-led workers’ council, which ruled the city for the better part of a week, at first seemed intent on making biracialism a centerpiece of strike strategy. At an early strike meeting, whites in the crowd screamed 'We will!' when a Black speaker asked whether whites would support demands made by Black workers. The Executive Committee running the strike and the first delegation negotiating with the mayor were both integrated. There was certainly ample reason for questioning racial divisions. The troops who menaced and finally broke the strike might have been protecting Black civil rights in the South had Reconstruction not ended with the compromise settlement of the election of 1876. The same troops might earlier and later have fought in anti-Indian wars. The Labor Standard bragged 'White and black workmen stood together in. ..struggle. Labor recognizes neither color, creed nor nationality.'1

But press reports from St. Louis also tell the story of an Irish-Arnerican worker blaming 'naygurs' for the strike, and of an increasing desire among white strike leaders to distance themselves from Black participation and to redefine the struggle as one of 'white labor', One of the plans of the strike committee, never realized because the strike was abruptly broken, was apparently to appoint five hundred 'special policemen' to 'clean out the nigger mob'. The reminiscences of Executive Committee leader Albert Currlin indicate that the leadership backed off from public mobilization of workers because it did not want to be identified with a 'gang of niggers'. This perception is especially significant in that the best evidence

suggests that the 'gangs' of roving pickets spreading the strike were not mostly Black, but were instead integrated crowds of largely unskjlled workers.(2) In San Francisco, another center of the 1877 uprising, socialists initiated a movement for the eight-hour working day and nationalization of railroads but anti-Chinese clubs seized the initiative. Historically enjoying what Alexander Saxton has called 'strong workjng class support', the clubs transformed the strike into an anti-Chinese pogrom with astonishing speed during the 'July Days of 1877'.(3)

The tragedy of such examples might blind us to the changes they reflect. The very idea that Black-white labor unity was desirable and important, although fragile in the St. Louis case, was an essentially post­Civil War innovation. In the 1835 Philadelphia general strike, for exam­

pIe, it was considered remarkable that Black workers were allowed in prostrike crowds.(4) In the St. Louis general strike, Black participation and even leadership was initially encouraged. In the antebellum years, virtual­ly no labor activists pointed to Black-white trade union unity as an issue of any importance. Recorded attempts at such unity from 1800 till the Civil War probably number less than a dozen. III-fated, these attempts found their temporary justification on narrow utilitarian grounds.(5)

During the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction, newspapers like the Boston Daily Evening Voice, the New Orleans Tribune and, at times, the St. Louis Daily Press and the Chicago Workingmen’s Advocate emphasized that splits between white and Black workers only served capi­tal.(6) The rationale for unity remained pragmatic, with white labor leaders askjng 'Shall we make [Black workers] our friends, or shall capital be al­lowed to turn them as an engine against us?' But there was also a stunning 'moral impetus', as Marx put it, injected into the workjng class movement by the Civil War and emancipation. Antislavery luminaries were not just welcomed onto labor platforms but courted by workers' organizations.(7)
Most startlingly, the abolitionist-turned-labor-reformer Wendell Phillips became one of the most sought-after speakers before massive Irish-­American audiences. Eight years after the 1863 draft and anti-Black riot in New York City, African-American workers in that city's eight-hour parade heard loud cheers from white crowds watching the procession.(8)
All these changes coexisted with their opposites. William Sylvis, the National Labor Union's greatest leader, both sought to unite the 'workjng people of our nation, white and black', and bitterly complained of whites with daughters 'who entertain young negro gentlemen in their parlors.' The National Labor Union, which opened its 1869 convention to Black delegates, both spoke of 'know [ing] neither color nor sex, on the question of rights of labor' and neglected to push for either integrated locals or

Black civil rights.'(9) Although talk of the necessity for Black-white unity increased rapidly, the rise in integrated strikes and integrated unions was far more modest. Race riots and hate strikes versus Black workers were far more common than biracial labor struggles during the Civil War, and even during Reconstruction the quickening of biracial organization only slowly took it to places other than waterfronts, mainly in the South. As Eric F'oner has recently observed, 'T'he Northern labor movement failed to identify its aspirations and interests with those of the former slaves.'(10) Nonetheless, its occasional forays in this direction set it dramatically apart from the antebellum labor movement.
Different too were the very size, militance and capacity of the post ­Civil War white labor movement. The St. Louis and San Francisco episodes were part of the first national strike of consequence in the United States, and the vacillations of the National Labor Union should not obscure the fact that a labor organization that was at least arguably national had suddenly taken shape. Workers who had accepted, or had not yet even achieved, a ten-hour working day, flocked almost overnight into Eight-Hour Leagues at the war's end. City central labor unions, especially in New York City and Chicago, gained unprecedented strength.(11) The much-quoted passage from Marx's Capital connecting Black emancipation and the rise of white labor identifies at least a coincidence and perhaps a relationship of cause and effect:
In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Repub­lic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. But out of the death of slavery anew life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight hours' agitation, that ran with the seven-leagued boots of the locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (12)
But why? Why should Black freedom and that of the white working class have been connected at all? Why, as George Rawick put it, should 'the pressure of Blacks for equality' have 'intensified' class conflict generally?(13) Before the Civil War, figures like the German-American radi­cals Joseph Weydemeyer and Karl Heinzen and the labor abolitionist John A. Collins stood isolated for their suggestion that abolition was a necessary concern for those who would imagine freedom for white workers.14 Far more common until well into the Civil War were labor and popular political leaders who predicted that Black emancipation necessari­ly meant the reduction of whites to slavery." If Reconstruction proved Marx far closer to the mark than the proslavery Democrats, the link be­tween Black freedom and white labor mobilization still needs explanation.
The meager record of biracial organization does not allow us to fall back on the generalization that Black-white unity automatically placed labor in a better tactical position from which to attack capital. This epilogue sug­gests a much broader solution, arguing that the Civil War and emancipa­tion removed the ability of white workers to derive satisfaction from defining themselves as 'not slaves' and called into question self-definitions that centered on being 'not Black'. The weight of whiteness by no means completely lifted, but both the 'new life' for white workers growing out of the Civil War and the ways in which whiteness was reasserted and con­tinued to burden workers of all colors deserve attention.
A White Man's War

The election of 1860, no less than that of 1856, saw Democrats and Republicans vie for votes as defenders of 'free white labor'.(16) No political challenge to the concept of whiteness was possible, any more than was a frontal attack on slavery. But in seeking to draw the line on the expansion of slavery and thus save the West for free white labor, Lincoln and the Republicans paradoxically opened the possibility of partially deracializ­ing US politics. Michael Holt has observed that the Republican success was to 'shift the focus of the sectional conflict from black slavery to republicanism', and that Republicans attracted votes from those wanting 'to save the Republic from a Southern conspiracy and to protect them­selves from enslavement, not to end black slavery.'(17) Such appeals to whiteness also paradoxically called whiteness into question. The indict­ment of the South was cultural as well as political, identifying the region as antidemocratic, reactionary, wasteful, sexually dissolute, lazy and inef­ficient.(18) To the considerable extent that Northern workers accepted this critique of the South, they could make all Southerners, white and Black -rather than all Blacks, North and South -the negative reference point against which they projected fears and longings. In addition, Lincoln, while ingeniously defending Republican positions against Democratic charges that any attack on the expansion of slavery implied a support for 'political amalgamation', also suggested that there were limits beyond which the defense of white rights could not go. While denying Stephen A. Douglas's taunts that he wished to see Blacks vote or to promote in­terracial marriage, Lincoln insisted on a white republicanism that recog­nized that Blacks were entitled to a chance to enjoy the fruits of their own labor and to a very limited and temporary citizenship prior to their settlement via colonization.(19)

Before the Civil War, cracks in the facade of working class whiteness remained hairline ones. By no means did anti-Southern critiques of a slaveholders' conspiracy or the idea that Blacks enjoyed a natural right to control their own labor win the complete assent of workers, even in the North. The vote of the Northern working class in the 1860 presidential election divjded among Lincoln, Douglas and other candidates with the Republicans making few inroads among Irish-American workers. The closest thing to 'independent movements' of the white working class com­menting directly on slavery on the eve of the war were large workers' peace mobilizations, which did not imagine that emancipation and white labor's freedom were connected in the slightest degree but instead typical­Iy declared themselves 'weary of the question of slavery ...a matter which does not concern us.'(20)
So long as the Civil War itself remained what Frederick Douglass bril­liantly called a war 'in the interests of slavery on both sides',(21) the tenden­cy of white workers to construct identities around their whiteness remained intact, and probably increased. With the South fighting to preserve slavery in an independent Confederacy and with the North declaring its willingness to preserve slavery within its existing limits, none of the grandeur of emancipation was on display. But the threat of eman­cipation, and the reality that the war was about slavery, seldom escaped the attention of the Northern Democratic press, of minstrel performers or of suffering workers and farmers in the army. Northern white workers--skilled and unskilled, immigrant and native-born--rallied to the defense of the Republic, with organized labor punning on the words union and Union. But in measuring their own sacrifices such workers nurtured a sense of grievance based on the notion that they were being exploited as whites and that favor was being, or was about to be, lavished on Blacks.(22)
The issue of job competition between the races became vastly more immediate during the early war years. Democrats now predicted that masses of ex slaves would flood into the North, either as a result of war­time escapes or of a possible Republican decision for emancipation. The idea of a Republican 'abolition-capitalist' conspiracy to unleash 'hordes of freedmen' to compete for white jobs in the North was fleshed out more completely than it ever had been before, especially since some radical Republican newspapers and politicians did almost immediately support emancipation as a war measure.(23) The movement of 'contraband' exslaves into Illinois in 1862 drew widespread criticism as a betrayal of 'white labor', with Illinois soldiers voting in 1862 for a Negro exclusion article to be inserted in the state constitution.(24) Race riots anticipating emancipa­tion expressed white workers' fears of job competition even in cities


where it was highly unlikely that an exodus of freed people would quickly swell the population. Serious pre-emancipation hate strikes against Black employment and physical attacks on Black workers by whites thus occur­red not only in Brooklyn, New York City and Cincinnati, but also in such cities as Chicago, Detroit, Boston and even St. Paul.(25)
However, even in this period it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on job competition and to ignore the wider uses of declaring oneself a white worker. Competition was, as Williston H. Lofton long ago showed, probably not sharpening, since the army's manpower needs, the death toll and the drying up of European immigration during the war more than made up for the small number of exslaves moving North.(26) Even if we allow that white workers had reason for long-term fears of competition with nearly four million freedpeople, it must be added that such fears seldom focused only on jobs. They were instead consistently alloyed with other fears ranging from political equality to sexual amalgamation and even to the peculiar terror that white women would begin to 'friz' their hair, 'a la d’Afrique'.27

The hardships generated by the bloodiest war in US history -and one that apparently took a greater toll on poorer and immigrant Yankee sol­diers than on the wealthy -contributed to the anxieties concerning whites being victimized. As Michigan corporal Marion Munson reported, the rank-and-file of the Union Army did not want 'to go through the rough life of a soldier and perhaps get shot, for ad -d nigger.'(28) Leaving wives and lovers behind to fight in dire circumstances may well have helped to trigger the 'enflamed sexual anxiety' that, as Philip Shaw Paludan has ob­served, was manipulated by the proliferating number of Democratic broadsides showing Blacks 'as beasts embracing young white women [who] were usually presented as acquiescing in the alleged horror, sug­gesting the depth of the anxiety being probed.' Press accounts accentuat­ing the supposedly savage sexuality of African-Americans likewise appeared at levels unprecedented in both number and pitch.(29)

Under these circumstances, the early war failed to produce decisive changes making whiteness less important as a source of Northern working class identity. Anti-Southernism did of course vastly increase, and some Protestant denominations representing the religious affiliation of a sec­tion of the working class did declare for immediate abolition, though the Catholic Church still vigorously opposed emancipation.JO But these chan­ges did not directly lead to any fundamental challenge to the logic of herrenvolk republicanism, which identified blackness with dependency and servility and therefore with a threat to white freedom. Even the heroic actions of slaves fleeing from bondage were often cast as cowardly, con­-
fused or lazy. Minstrel songs recycled 'plantation darky' images and portrayed slaves who, as Alexander Saxton has put it, 'lamented the inex­plicable "white folK,," war.' Movement toward freedom could easily be seen as movement away from danger: 'Niggers dey can pick de cotton ­dey'll do it very freely/But when dey smell de bullets, how dey'll run for Horace Greeley.' Fleeing to Union Army camps, according to some of the same newspapers that paradoxically also regarded contrabands as for­midable competitors for 'white' jobs, reflected the desire of Blacks to avoid working.(31)
Emancipation from Whiteness

Nevertheless, the literal movement of slaves toward freedom set in mo­tion a process that created unprecedented possibilities for Northern workers to see Black freedom as increasing the well-being of whites. The unsentimental words of the popular song 'Sambo's Right to Be Kilt' best capture the most direct such connection. The song's author, Charles Graham Halpine, had served as P.T. Barnum's private secretary before the war. As a staff officer in 1862 he prepared the order mustering one of the first troops of Black soldiers into the Union Anny. Aware of in­tense rank-and-file opposition to serving in a biracial, if segregated, army, Halpine adopted the pseudonym Private Miles O'Reilly to show how calculations regarding saving the lives of whites could lead to the conclusion that contrabands should serve as soldiers:

Some tell me 'tis a burnin' shame

To make the naygers fight,

And that the trade of bein' kilt Belongs but to the white.

But as for me, upon my soul!

So lib'ral are we here,

I'll let Samho be shot instead of myself

On ev'ry day of the year.(32)

Halpine's verses ran far ahead of the opinion of rank-and-file Union troops and Northern popular opinion, which only slowly came to accept that contrabands could shorten the war. White soldiers were often among the most vociferous opponent." of emancipation, but they gradually came to accept Black participation in the military, first in doing work around the camps and later as combat troops. Once this happened, the common enemies of death and Rebel troops produced a very partial and quite

grudging respect for Black soldiers, which could undermine firm racial distinctions even as it spoke in the language of Black and white. As Hal­pine wrote:
The men who object to Sambo

Should take his place and fight;

And it's better to have a nayger's hue

Than a liver that's wake and white.

Though Sambo's black as the ace of spades,

His fingers a trigger can pull,

And his eye runs straight on the barrel sight,

From under the thatch of wool.

The emancipation of slaves created broader possibilities for Black sol­diering and broader challenges to the idea that whiteness alone implied freedom and dignity for workers.(33) But broader changes were also afoot.
Shortly before his death in 1866, the American Marxist Civil War of­ficer and Republican politician Joseph Weydemeyer wrote in the St. Louis Westlicbe Post:
With the eight-hour movement. ..the labor question, i.e. the modern labor question -the quesrion of hired labor, which is better known under the euphemistic name of 'free labor' -steps before the social forum, strips off the secondary character which heretofore adhered to it on this conrinent, raises itself to asocial quesrion.(34)
Weydemeyer's brilliant description of the heady changes that trans­formed American labor between 1863 and 1866 skips a vital step. What brought the question of hired labor to center stage, what quickened the sense of expectation and possibility for the entire working class, indeed what made the eight-hour movement itself possible, was the spectacular emancipation of slaves between 1863 and 1865. Abandoning the effort to fight a war to preserve slavery against a slaveholding power, Lincoln in effect acknowledged with the Emancipation Proclamation that the failure of the Union to defeat the South quickly and the momentous efforts of slaves to free themselves necessitated turning the Civil War into a revolu­tion. His order, and later its expansion into the Thirteenth Amendment, provided for the greatest uncompensated revolutionary seizure of proper­ty (that is, slaves) in history prior to the Soviet revolution.
Among many other things, the fact of emancipation sharply called into question the tendency to equate Blackness and servility. To some small extent Northern popular culture acknowledged that Blacks were not only
hecoming free but freeing themselves. Even minstrel performances occa­sionally caught the drama of emancipation:
We own de hoe, we own de plow, We own de hands dat hold;

We sell de pig, we sell de cow, But neber chile be sold.

Other songs strangely asked white audiences to take the blackfaced per­former as Black and to identify with him against (Southern) whites:
We're gwine down to take de Souf,

And ride 'em on a rail,

De white folks try to win de day,

But de nigger nebber fail;

Dey'II thinkJohn Brown am coming down

To make annudder raid;

So tumble in, ye cullered folks,

And join de Black Brigade.

Meanwhile the white composer Henry C. Work's immensely popular 'Kingdom Coming' and 'Babylon Is Fallen' gloried in the South's trans­formation. The latter, which one historian has argued was never equalled in popularity by any anti-Black war song, sympathized with Black joy at the turning of tables in Dixie: 'We will be de Massa,/He will be de ser­vant.'(35)
Decades of white supremacist habits necessarily burdened all efforts to rethink working class race relations and compromised progress at every turn. The 1863 New York City draft/race riots and the vicious race bait­ing of the 1864 presidential campaign in some ways took working class racism to new depths.(36) But if Northern white workers developed new attitudes toward people of color only slowly and contradictorily, eman­cipation made for much more consistent and dramatic changes in how such workers conceived of themselves. No longer could whiteness be an unambiguous source of self-satisfaction. No longer could a counterpoint with slaves define whites as 'free labor'. No longer could the supposedly servile, lazy, natural and sensual African-American serve as so clear a counterpoint to white labor and as so convenient a repository for values that white workers longed for and despised.
The popular working class consciousness that emerged during the lat­ter stages of the Civil War, especially in the North, saw the liberation of Black slaves as a model, and not just as a threat. Like freedpeople, white
workers came to see the Civil War as a 'jubilee' and, in the words of Detroit labor leader Richard Trevellick, to hope that 'we are about to be emancipated.'J7 Workers sang 'John Brown's Body' as a labor anthem and reacted to unfavorable judicial opinions as 'Dred Scott decisions' against labor.(38)
In part, these were clearly rhetorical flourishes and natural allusions. But they also represented a new millennial hope, often rooted in long­held religious beliefs but borne of witnessing the greatest transformation in United States history -the movement of millions of Blacks from slavery to full constitutional rights in less than a decade. Ira Steward, the leading theorist of the eight-hour movement and a labor leader who appropriately enough was said to have fought alongside John Brown in Kansas, thus praised the Shorter workday as 'an indispensable first step', in labor's eventual quest 'to wholly emancipate' itself. Not insignificantly, the demand for the eight-hour day promised the same kinds of control over one's Own time and opportunities for educational groWth and fulfill­ment within families as emancipation did for slaves. Far from preaching herrenvo/k republicanism, Steward would, as Kenneth Fones-Wolfshows, 'continually refer to abolitionist speeches on equality to drive home ideas as he criticized "wage slavery".' Steward was an extremely egalitarian ex­ample and a leader who made uncommon efforts, from a congenial Bos­ton base, to fashion specifically abolitionist ideas into a defense of labor reform. But he was also the most influential American labor thinker of his age, a period in which the vigorous assertion that labor's freedom fol­lowed from Black liberation at least challenged the view that emancipa­tion for African-Americans meant degradation for whites.(39)
The Legacies of White Workerism

There is a great temptation to end a story so frequently tragic on the inspiring note of emancipation, labor upsurge and what Forrest Wood calls the 'dormancy' of popular campaigns for white supremacy. We should of Course be inspired by the remarkable changes that unfolded after 1863, and we should particularly note the way in which Black self­activity prepared the way for an advance by all of labor. Moreover, the aftermath of emancipation illustrates an optimistic side to the argument that working class whiteness reflects, even in a form like the minstrel show, hatreds that were profoundly mixed with a longing for values attri­buted to Blacks. Taking shape as it does behind dams of repression, whiteness can be swept away dramatically when the dams begin to break,

as I have argued elsewhere they today may be breaking.(40)
Black emancipation, battlefield heroism and citizenship thus ensured that white workers could never again see African-Americans or themselves in just the same way. However, more than enough of the habit of white­ness and of the conditions producing it survived to ensure that white workers would be at best uncertain allies of Black freedom and would stop short of developing fully new concepts of liberation for themselves as well. White workers continued to observe war and emancipation through a lens of race, and were often loathe to credit Black military activity and Black flight from slavery as contributing to the war effort for fear this meant minimizing the 'white' role.(41) After the war, it was perhaps briefly possible that a Radical Republican party could have united Blacks with large numbers of white Northern workers around a platform of equal rights and an eight-hour working day. But such a possibility collapsed from both ends. The Radicals, as David Montgomery has superbly demonstrated, did not move to a decisive embrace of the eight-hour day and other labor reforms. Such measures violated their desire to equate free labor with an absence of government intervention (particularly prolabor intervention) in the relations between labor and capital.(42) But popular racism in the industrializing North also helped to doom Radical­labor cooperation. Postwar opposition to Black suffrage in states like New York was overwhelming.(43) Moreover, with a few exceptions like the venerable William Heighton and those around the Boston Daily Evening Voice, labor radicals did not agitate for confiscation of rebel land and its division into plots for freedpeople. Viewing ex slaves as likely to be depen­dent, those who abstained from agitating for land reforms benefitting Blacks ultimately helped create the conditions for such dependency.(44)
A small incident from St. Louis in 1865 captures many of the larger tragedies. When printers there stopped work against three major newspapers, they began to publish cooperatively a paper of their own, the St. Louis Daily Press. Almost immediately they took note of Black replace­ment workers:
Yesterday. ..a negro was engaged and set to work alongside of a white man. ... As an apology for the white man, we may state that the negro keeps his person clean and works not hard enough to cause perspiration, so that no offensive smell is emitted.(45)
The curiously hedged language ran through the Daily Press's editorials. The paper could attempt to be completely egalitarian, maintaining that 'the policy of elevating the black man. a matter of moral and politi­cal economy may be unquestionable', and then adding ' but how can the
same party [the Republicans] abase the working man?' Within two weeks, the emphasis would be different, and the Radical Republicans would be cast as 'running over with a sentimental sympathy for. inferior race ...[but] allowing white women to starve.' Finding ex slaves 'ignorant, docile and easily to be led by designing men', it solved the 'nigger question' by balancing the position that 'the darkey may be improved until if not the equal of the white, he may at least claim equal privileges' with the comforting assertion that 'for the present we have done enough for the negro.'(46) Since 'the present' was the end of the summer of 1865, such a position implied opposition not only to land reform but to the very Freedmen's Bureau aid that might have supported efforts at Black educa­tion and progress. Like many other white Americans, Daily Press writers were able to allow that Blacks had natural rights but still to conclude that white supremacy was right or necessary. This posirion, endorsed by Republicans who for a time supported colonization of freed Blacks, came also to be embraced by Democrats, including labor Democrats like those then running the Daily Press. No longer did the dismissal of all Black claims to natural rights elicit only Democratic ridicule, but the change sometimes made little practical difference. The Boston Pilot in 1862, for example, held 'The negro is indeed unfortunate, and the creature has the common rights of humanity living in his breast; but, in the country of the whites where the labor of the whites has done everything, and his labor nothing, what right has the negro. equality or to admission.'(47)
The St. Louis case raises several other problems that would continue to divide white from Black workers. The bitter slurs against Blacks, who took jobs during the printers' strike, and later mild praise for Blacks refus­ing to act as strikebreakers during the gas workers' strike in St. Louis, illustrate the craft union position that became entrenched nationwide during Reconstruction: it was ridiculous for African-Americans to expect to work alongside whites in skilled jobs and criminal for them to take the jobs of whites during strikes. Just as craft unions reinforced white supremacy, so did white supremacy reinforce the formation of what Du Bois called 'craft and race unions' by helping to connect unskilled labor generally with degradation and to make integrated work unthinkable in many trades. This was true both in the postbellum North and in the postbellum South, though the different dynamics of race and labor in the latter region necessitate treating the postbellum South in a separate, forthcoming study.(48)
Nor was it accidental that the issue of 'black rats' working with 'white men' breaking strikes was raised in tandem with attacks on the use of 'female printers' to emasculate the trade.(49) The 'manly skilled worker', so

central to white labor organizing after the Civil War, was, as Montgomery comments, expected to 'live up to a code of "manly" behavior usually cast in ethnic and racial terms.' A labor poem describing the unity celebration following the late nineteenth-century signing of a union scale by iron puddlers makes its ethnic exclusions from manliness clear, but the final line also suggests, in the American context, the desirability of racial exclu­sion:

There were no men invited such as Slavs and 'Tally Annes', Hungarians and Chinamen with pigtail cues and fans. No, every man who got the 'pass' a union man should be; No blacksheep were admitted to the Puddlers' Jubilee.(50)
The use of racial language and racist precedents to oppose advance­ment of darker ethnic groups -the equation of blackness with the eth­nicity of new immigrant groups -ran through the postbellum labor movement. The most dramatic example was of course in California, where the Chinese working population was large and where since even before statehood the definition of 'whiteness' had been an important issue involving the status not only of Blacks and Asians but of the indigenous Indian and mixed Mexican, Indian and Spanish populations. The labor and anti-Chinese movements overlapped so thoroughly as to be scarcely distinguishable in California, where the exclusion issue provided the basis for labor unity at key points.(51) Outside California the anti-Chinese move­ment won tremendous working class response in areas such as Chicago and Massachusetts, where threats of 'swarming' were at worst slight or episodic. The Irish, whose own status as whites had only recently been won, were among the first to ask, 'What business has the likes of him over here?'(52) Some Blacks even attempted to join the anti-Chinese movement and to change its emphasis from a defense of whiteness to a defense of Americanism.(53) But in general the Chinese and African-Americans were lumped together, with the former group being cast as nonwhites, as 'slaves' and even as Black.(54) Moreover, although the Chinese were most insistently charged with being 'nonconsuming' and undermining American standards of living, the defensive 'manliness' and perhaps the longings that characterized anti-Black attitudes among white workers also coursed through anti-Chinese propaganda, with the 'Celestials' being charged with the wholesale seduction of white women, the spread of opium addiction, and introduction of oral sex and incest into the United States.(55)
Since the Chinese had so manifestly made major contributions, espe­cially through their mining and railroad-building, the attack by labor

militants on them raised what Alexander Saxton has called 'a theoretical and moral dilemma' that undernllned the grandeur of rhetoric extolling the rights and dignity of labor. As Du Bois points out, analogous dilem­mas stemmed from anti-Black racism. Nor could racial exclusionism easily be tried on as a tactic to unite white workers, and then discarded in favor of class goals. 'Tactics', according to Saxton, 'have a way of becoming habits.'56 The tactic of questioning the suitability of newcomers on racial grounds extended to the labor movement's reception of (and opposition to) the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who arrived in great numbers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and were by no means received as unambiguously white.57 The sad drama of im­migrants embracing whiteness while facing the threat of being victimized as nonwhite would have many sequels after the Irish experience.

The final legacy suggested by the St. Louis printers' strike is the most subtle, pervasive and important. The brief, sneering reference to the Black laborer as not working hard typified the manner in which whites could still use Blacks as a counterpoint to come to terms with their own acceptance of steady and even regimented labor. White workers held Blacks in contempt as both lazy and, incongruously enough, as too ac­cepting of overly taxing 'nigger work'. It was seldom considered that there might have been something of tremendous value in what Eugene D. Genovese has called the 'Black work ethic', which was much like the work ethic that most plebeian whites had recently abandoned and the one that many immigrating whites still held. Few of them appreciated how much African-Americans, who had by far the most experience of any Americans with regimenting systems of mass labor and of successful resistance to them, had to teach white labor. As Du Bois wrote in a fascinating and romantic passage in The Gift of Black Folk, African-Americans carried a distinctive attitude toward labor:
The black slave brought into common labor certain new spiritual values not yet fully realized. As a tropical product with a sensuous receprivity to the beauty of the world, he was not as easily reduced to be the mechanical draft horse which the northern European laborer became. ...[H]e brought to modern manual labor a renewed valuarion of life.(58)
But this was a gift spurned by white labor.
In the middle of Reconstruction, the story of the Black steel-driving railroad or tunnel worker John Henry came to be immortalized in folklore. The song 'John Henry', recalling his freewheeling life and his epic confrontation with a newly invented steam drill almost personifies the Black work ethic. It uses, as Pete Seeger comments, a basically

European verse form, but the melody and rhythm are more African than European.' Some early folklorists' informants even described John Henry as white. But, as Guy Johnson's classic study observes, 'Whatever the origins of first beliefs and ballads about John Henry, Negro folk have been almost solely responsible for the preservation and diffusion of the legend.'(59) He could not have been raceless or both white and Black. As 'John Henry' was composed, white workers were still tragically set on keeping even John Henry out of the House of Labor.


1. David R. Roediger, "'Not Only the Ruling Classes to Overcome, But Also the So-­Called Mob": Class, Skill and Community in the St. Louis General Strike of 1877', Journal of Social History 19 (Winter 1985).213-39; St. Louis Dispatch, 23 July 1877; Labor Standard, 26 August 1877.

2. St. Louis Globe Democrat, 26-28 July 1877; David Thayer Burbank, Reign of the Rabbit, New York 1966, 151; St. Louis Times, 4 August 1877; Roediger, "'So-Called Mob'",225.
3. Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California, Berkeley, Calif. 1971, 113-16.
4. Susan Davis, Parades and Power: Strttt Thtatrt in Nineteenth Century Philadelphia, Philadelphia 1986, 135-36.
5. Leon F. LitWack, North of .Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, Chicago 1961, esp. 165; Philip S. Foner and Ronald L. Lewis, eds, Tht Black Worker' A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present, Philadelphia 1978, 1:190-96; Philip S. Foner, Organized Labor and the Black Worker; 1619-]973, New York 1976,4-11.
6. P. Foner and Lewis, Black Worker, 1:390-406 and 2:274-75; David R. Roediger, 'Racism, Reconstruction and the Labor Press: The Rise and Fall of the St. Louis Daily Press, 1864-1866, .Science and Society 42 (Summer 1978). 173-75.
7. John R. Commons et al., A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, Cleveland 1910,9: 157-60; Saul K. Padover, ed., Karl Marx On America and the Civil War, New York 1972, 274-75 and 244; David Montgomery, Beyond Equality' Labor and the Radical Republicans, ]862- 72, New York 1967, 123-24; Boston Daily Evening Voice, 12 October 1865.
8. David R. Roediger, 'What Was the Labor Movement? Organization and the St. Louis General Strike of 1877', Mid-America, 67 (January 1985).47; Gilbert Osofsky, 'Abolitionist" Irish Immigrant and the Dilemmas of Romantic Nationalism', American Historical Review 80 (October 1975). 893; Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War, New York 1990, 233-34 and passim; P. Foner and Lewis, Black Worker, 2.279.
9. P. Foner, Organiud I~abor, 23 and 26;James C. Sylvis, ed., The Lift, ,S-pttchts and Essays of William H. Sylvis, Philadelphia 1872, 339-46.
10. Eric Foner, Rtconstruction: Amtricas Unfinishtd Rroolution, ]863-]877, New York

1988, 480; P. Foner and I~ewis, Black Worktr, 1:269-85, 352, 358-59, 392 and 398; 2.279, 282-86; P. Foner, (Jr!(aniztd Labor, 22.

11. See David R. Roediger and Philip S. Foner, Our Own Timt- A History of Amtrican

Labor and tht Workin!( Day, London 1989,81-122.
12. Marx, Capita{ A CritiqUtOfPoliticalEronomy, New York 1967, 1:301.
13. George P. Rawick, From Sundo11m to Sunup: Tht Making of tht B/IJck Community.


14. Karl Obermann, Jostph Wrydtmrytr: Pionttr of Amtrican .S-ocialism, New York 1947 , 103 and, more fully, in Josteph Wrydemryer. Ein Lebensbild; /8/8-/866, Berlin 1968, 342-44; Carl Winke, Against the Current: The Lift of Karl Heinzen, Chicago 1945, 172-76; Herbert Shapiro, 'Labor and Antislavery: Reflections on the Literature', Nature, Society and Thought 2 (1989) 482.
15. See Chapter 4 above and Forrest G. Wood, Black Scare: The Racist Response to Eman­cipation and R~ronstrucion, Berkeley, Calif. 1970, 22 and 35; L. Seaman, What Miscegenation Is and What We Are to Expect, Now That Mr Lincoln Is Re-elected, New York 1864? , 5-6; V Jacque Voegeli, Free But Not Equal The Midwest and the Negro during the Civil War, Chicago 1967 , 54-55.

16. Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor; Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Parry Before the Civil War, New York 1970, 262-69; Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 3-4.

17. Michael Holt, The Political Crisis of the /850s, New York 1978, 216-17.

18. See Ronald Walters, 'The Erotic South: Civilization and Sexuality in American Abolitionism', American Quarterly 25 (May 1973): 177-201.

19. E. Foner, Free Soil, 267-300. The point is brilliantly explored by Foner and Olivia Mahoney in their pertnanent 'House Divided' exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society.

20. P. Foner, Organized Labor, 12, including the quotation from Boston in 1860; Bernstein, Draft Riots, 99-101.

21. WE.B.DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America, /86O-/880, NewYork 1971 (1935), 61, quotes Douglass and reflects Douglass's insight.

22. David Montgomery, The American Civil War and the Meaning; of Freedom, Oxford 1987, 18; Montgomery, Beyond Equality, 93-101 ; Finch’s Trades Review, I October 1864; St. Louis Daily Press, 5 November 1865; Roediger and P. Foner, Our Own Time, 83; Jean F. Baker, Affam of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, Ithaca, N.Y. 1983, 250-53.

23. P. Foner, Organized Labor, 14; Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 5-6 and 82. 24. Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 17 and 92 n 26.

25. Williston Lofton, 'Northern Labor and the Negro during the Civil War', Journal of Negro History 34 (July 1949): 259-62; Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 35 and 89; David A. Gerber, Black Ohio and the Color Line, /86O-/9/5, Urbana, III. 1976, 28; P. Foner and Lewis, Black Worker, 1:276-85; Joseph M. Hernon, Jr., Celts, Catholics and Copperheads: Ireland Views the American Civil War, Columbus, Ohio 1968, 19.

26. Lofton, 'Northern Labor', 252-56.

27. Wood, Black Scare, details the various fears. On hair, see L. Seaman, Miscegenation, 5. See also Baker, Affam of Parry, 251.

28. Randall C.Jamerson, The Private Civil War: Popular Thought during the Sectional Con­flict, Baton Rouge, La. 1988,93-103 with the quote from p. 103; on class and casualties, see Maris A. Vinovskis, 'Have Social Historians Lost the Civil War? Some Preliminary Democrapruc Speculations', Journal of American History 76 (June 1989): 49.

29. Philip Shaw Paludan, 'A Peoples Contest': The Union and Civil War; /86/-/865, New York 1988, 95; Kerby A. Miller, 'Green over Black: The Origins of Irish-American Racism' (Unpublished paper, 1969), 73; Wood, Black Scare, 25-29 and 64-65.

30. Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 59 and 138-39; John C. Murphy, An Analysis of the Attiudes of American Catholics toward the Immigrant and the Negro, /825-/925, Washington, D.C. 1940, 50-51 and 71-79.

31. Alexander Saxton, 'Blackface Minstrelsy and Jacksonian Ideology', American Quarter­ly 27 (March 1975): 21-22; John W Blassingame, Black New Orleans, /86O-/880, Chicago 1976), 27; Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, 7-8.

32. Irwin Silber, ed., Song; of the Civil War, New York 1960, 308-9 and 328-30.

33. Jimerson, Private Civil War, 92-111; Gerald E Lindertnan, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, 4:247-48; Leon F. Litwack, Been in the StO7?1t So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, New York 1979, 71-72; James I. Robertson, Jr., Soldiers BIue and Gray, Columbia, S.C. 1988, 30-35; Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier in the Civil War, Indianapolis, Ind. 1952, 40-43, and, for the quote, Silber, Songs of the Civil War, 330.

34. As translated and reprinted in St. Louis Daily Press, 8 August 1866.

35. Buckley’s Melodist, Boston 1864, 23-24 and 109; Silber, Songs of the Civil War, 306-7; Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 55-127, the classic account of emancipation, is peppered with insights on changing white popular attitudes toward abolition.

36. On the riots, see especially Bernstein, New York Draft Riots, and on the 1864 elections, see Wood, Black Scare, 53-79 and Sidney Kaplan, 'The Miscegenation Issue in the Election of 1864', Journal of Negro History 34 July 1949). 274-343.

37. Trevellick as quoted in Albert Blum and Dan Georgakas, 24; Philip S. Foner, ed., 'Songs of the Eight-Hour Movement', Labor History 13 (1972). 574-80; George McNeill, 'The Labor Movement of 1878 in Chicago' (Unpublished MS, State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison, 1878).

38. See the Foner and McNeil1 references in n37 above and David R. Roediger, 'Ira Steward and the Antislavery Origins of American Eight-Hour Theory', Labor History 27 (Summer 1986): 423.

39. Roediger, 'Steward', 411 and passim; Steward, PIJVerty , Boston 1873, preface; Com­mons et al., Documentatary History, 9.288-89; Kenneth Fones-Wolf, 'Boston Eight Hour Men, New York Marxists and the Emergence of the International Labor Union', Historical Journal of Massachusetts 9 (1981): 48.

40. David R. Roediger, 'Notes on Working Class Racism: A Tribute to George Rawick', in David R. Roediger and Don Fitz, eds, Within the Shell of the Old: Ersays on Workers' Selj­Organization, Chicago 1990, 11-16; Rawick, Sunduwn, 158; Wood, Black Scare, 79.

41. Democratic Campaign Document No. II; 01; Miscegenation Indorsed by the Republican Party, New York 1864, 2-3; Randall M. Miller and Jon W. 7--0phy, 'Unwelcome Allies: Billy Yank and the Black Soldier', Phylon 34 (1978): 238-40 and n33 above.

42. Montgomery, Beyond Equality, esp. 230-386.

43. Leslie H. Fishel, Jr., 'Northern Prejudice and Negro Suffrage, 1865-1870', Journal of Negro History 34 (1954): 14-15, 21-26; Montgomery, Bryond Equality, 186-87; Michael Allen Gordon, 'Studies in Irish and Irish-American Thought and Behavior in Gilded Age New York City' (ph.D. dissertation, University of Rochester, 1977), 19; Phyllis F. Field, The Politics of Race in New York: The Struggle for Black Suffrage in the Civil War Era, Ithaca, N .Y.1982,117-23.

44. See The Equality of All Men before the Law, Claimed and Defended in Speeches by Hon. William D. &I/ry, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass and Letters from Elizur Wright and Wm. Heighton, Boston 1865, 42-43; Philip S. Foner, 'A Labor Voice for Black Equality: The Boston Daily Evening VOice, 1864-1867', Science and Society 38 (1974): 304-25.

45. St. Louis Daily Press, 17, 18, 24, and 28 December 1864.

46. St. Louis Daily Press, 14 March, 26 May, 6 and 17 August and II October 1865. 47. St. Louis Daily Press, 2 August 1865; P. Foner and Lewis, Block Worker, 1:270-71; compare David Warren Bowen, Andrew Johnson and the Negro, Knoxville, Tenn. 1989, 118.

48. Du Bois, Block Reconstruction, 596; Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 268-73. On race and strikebreaking and Black exclusion from postbellum unions, see Sterling D. Spero and Abram L. Harris, The Black Worker, New York 1969, 18-35; P. Foner, Organized Labor, 27-29 and 82-107.

49. Roediger, 'Racism, Reconstruction and the Labor Press', 164 and 168.

50. David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925, Cambridge, Mass. 1987,25, includes the poem by 'pud­dler poet' Michael McGovern. The use of jubilee is worthy of note, hearkening back to eman­cipation as it does. John R. Commons, Races and Immigrants in America, New York 1913, 48-49 nicely reproduces the craft labor movement's views on the lack of 'manliness' among African-Americans. On blacksheep and its usage in the US and earlier in England, see Mary Ellen Freifeld, 'The Emergence of the American Working Classes' (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1980), 523.

51. Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 19-20 and passim; Eugene W. Berwanger, The Frontier against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy, Urbana, Ill. 1967, 60-75.
52. Robert D. Pannet, Labor and Immigration in Industrial America, Boston 1981, 29 and 28-30 passim; Stuart Creighton Miller, The Uml'ekvme Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, /785-/882, Berkeley, Calif. 1969, 176-201; Wood, B/ack Scare, 98, for the Irish quote and 100--101.

53. Amold Shankman, Ambivalent Friends: Afro-Americans View the Immigrant, Westport, Conn. 1982, 8.

54. Gunther Barth, Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in America, 1850-1870, Cambridge, Mass. 1964, 133-34; Miller, Unwekome Immigrant, 178, 180 and 198; Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 260; Pannet, Labor and Immigration, 30.

55. Wood, Black Scare, 99-101; Pannet, Labor and Immigration, 29-30; Shankman, Am­bivalent Friends, 19; Miller, Uml'ekome Immigrants, 180--83; Bemstein, Draft Riots, 227; J. Sakai, The Mythology of the White Proletariat, Chicago 1983,35-37.

56. Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 265-67; Du Bois, The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has P/ayed in World History, New York 1965, 18-21.

57. Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 275-78; Gwendolyn Mink, Old Labor and New Im­migrants in American Political Development: Union, Pa11y and Stote, /875-/920, Ithaca, N.Y. 1986; Herbert Hill, 'Race, Ethnicity and Org-.lnized Labor', New Politics (Winter 1987): 37­42.

58. Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The Wolrld the Slaves Made, New York 1974, 285-324; Du Bois, The Gift ofBlack Folk, Millwood, N. Y. 1975 (1924),53-54; see also Edward L. Pierce, 'The Freedmen at Port Royal', Atlantic Monthly 12 (September 1863): 301; and P. Foner and Lewis, Black Worker, 2:295; R. Keith Aufhauser, 'Slavery and Scientific Management', Journal of Economic History 33 (December 1973): 811-24. Thanks to Sterling Stuckey for the Pierce reference.

59. Pete Seeger, 'Appleseeds', Sing-Out'34 (Winter 1989): 53-54; Guy B.Johnson, John Henry: Tracking Down a Negro Legend, Chapel Hill, N.C. 1929, vii, 3, 20--32, 146 and passim; Brett Williams, John Henry: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, Conn. 1983, vii and 3-76.

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