Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Charles Reagan Wilson

Second Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Third Advisor

Ted Ownby

Relational Format



The Southern Farmers' Alliance led the largest coalition of late-nineteenth-century farmers' and urban reformers. The reform movement called for laws opposing speculation on agricultural prices, restricting the powers of business trusts, regulating railroad freight rates, and increasing the circulation of currency based on silver. Advocates also strongly opposed the proponents of sectionalism who emphasized differences and conflicts between the primary sections of the country, the North and the South. Differences between the North and South largely revolved around the issue of slavery and emerged shortly after the founding of the nation. Tension accelerated in the years following the Mexican-American War and reached a climax during the American Civil War and post-war Reconstruction. Although the Civil War and Reconstruction ceased by 1877, for decades the legacy of sectionalism continued to heavily influence regional identities and politics. Because of its continued prevalence in the late-nineteenth century, Alliance supporters identified sectionalism as a major barrier to national economic and political reform. Agrarian supporters depicted regional, gender, and racial identities as artificial compared to shared interests of the producer class. Reformers described the producer class as the vast majority of Americans who labored in urban and rural settings to create tangible goods of value for sale. The Southern Alliance led this coalition of the producer class by 1890. In its efforts to mobilize a national movement, the Alliance consistently emphasized sectional reconciliation. This work shows that sectionalism ultimately played a great role in the destruction of the farmers' reform crusade by 1896.

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