“It would take a spectacle of Black death—including massacres such as the 1866 Mechanic’s Hall riot in New Orleans, where local police opened fire on Republicans of both races, or the Memphis Race Riot that same year, which left some 40 to 50 Black residents dead—to push congress to implement a decisive Reconstruction plan that offered protection and citizenship to former slaves. This ”Radical Reconstruction” forced freedom’s gates wide open again—or at least wide enough for some Black men, women, and children to punch their way through. But riots and vigilante violence did not end. In 1873, at least 40 Black voters and three whites were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the White League in Colfax, Louisiana. The Colfax Massacre and those elsewhere, including Mississippi and South Carolina, joined everyday attacks on individuals and families as instances of racial terror. And these excessive and constant expressions of state violence, mainly coordinated by white-nationalist vigilante groups against former slaves and their white allies, eventually forced federal troops to withdraw from the South. White southerners fought for this withdrawal, described the abandonment of formerly enslaved women, children, and men to the mercy of their former owners as a “Redemption,” and made it clear in words and arms that white (manhood) politics had returned to rule the South. If Black folks didn’t like it they could leave. Or die.
“Today, identity politics has come to mean people of color rallying other people of color as though white people have not done the same for centuries. As though “white” is not a race or an identity. When DuBois described the history of the white worker, he obliterated arguments that might favor their inclinations towards antislavery. White identity, in fact, was central to why white workers with no slaves or need for slave labor, particularly those recently arrived to the country, chose to vote for pro-slavery, immigration- and tariff-friendly Democrats over Republicans. Identity suffuses American history, wraps itself around layered and charged terms like labor, liberty, and citizenship….”
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