Nell Irvin Painter on Faulting Freedpeople

Although assimilated Blacks could in no sense be equated with white Democrats in the scale of mischief against the rural Black folk, they came to criticize the folk for deviating from “civilized” Victorian values and conventions. They denigrated folkways and agreed with many whites that rural Blacks must change culturally before they could expect to enjoy their basic citizen’s rights, thus furnishing a handy peg for the demagoguery of white supremacists. Instead of unequivocally demanding enforcement of state and federal laws protecting rural Black’s rights, persons, and property, “representative colored men” and whites asked unschooled Blacks to change their way of life. In effect they told rural Blacks to accommodate themselves to the illegal activities of the white bulldozers. Thus, the burden of political violence slipped from the bulldozers and assassins to their victims. Whites and “representative colored men” discussed legal and political questions on the cultural level, faulting the people. Few rural Blacks swallowed whole the “representative colored men’s” exhortations to get schooling, money, and temperance first, suffrage later.

  • P.16, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3

Nell Irvin Painter

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