1919 and the still unfolding story of race and populist violence in Middle America

Dr. Norm Fennema

“The resentful citizens fearing the loss of their middle-class status point an accusatory finger upward to the elites, who they believe do not see them, but also downward toward the poor, who they feel are unfairly favored.”
-Francis Fukuyama “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy”
Fukuyama’s explanation of the new nationalism that sent Trump to the White House would have sounded familiar to supporters of incumbent president Woodrow Wilson 100 years ago, for describing the forces that brought Warren Harding (generally ranked as one of America’s worst presidents) to power in 1920. Populism is nothing new: in 1919 recession-fueled anger took the form of race riots in more than 3 dozen American cities, targeted at the masses of African Americans who had come north during and before the Great War. This talk looks at how 1919 marked a watershed of sorts in the construction of Jim Crow segregation and white supremacy, within the wider and still unfolding story of race and populist violence in Middle America.