The Political Crisis of the 1890s
|The Populist Crusade and Restrictions on African Americans||Previous|
|Digital History ID 3130|
During the late 1880s and early 1890s, a million African Americans joined the Colored Farmers Alliance. At one of their conventions, black farmers argued that "land belong to the sovereign people," and should not be treated as private property. As the Populist movement divided the South's white population, a number of black leaders saw a chance to forge an alliance with poorer whites.
The threat of this bi-racial alliance led many upper-class conservative Democrats to play the "race card." They appealed to white farmers to vote Democratic in order to maintain a system of white supremacy. The appeal to racism proved highly effective in undermining Populism's appeal. Upper-class conservative Democrats took the lead in calling for legalized segregation and disfranchisement of African Americans. But the reforms they offered, such as the poll tax and literacy tests, had the practical effect of taking the vote away from many poor whites.