Sitting in Darkness:  New South Fiction, Education,

And the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920

by Peter Schmidt

Complete Notes and Discussion for Chapter Six

"Ghosts of Reconstruction"

Supplementing the print edition of this book


1.  My epigraph from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote comes from the fine new translation by Edith Grossman, p. 56.  Although much recent work has been done on the history of U.S. expansionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I would like to stress the continuing importance of two classic histories by R. W. Van Alstyne and David Healy.  A helpful introductory survey of some of the material covered in this chapter is David Southern’s The Progressive Era and Race: Reaction and Reform, 1900-1917, which includes discussion of the complicated relations between African American reformists, Southern progressivists, and national figures such as Roosevelt and Wilson.  A key omission in Southern’s text, however, is analysis of Progressivist foreign policies for the new colonies in relation to Progressivist domestic programs, particularly regarding race relations.  For more on Southern progressivists, see Grantham and Link.  For a strong recent version of the argument that racism was antagonistic to the imperialist project, see Love.

2.  For information and documents regarding Roosevelt’s revision of the Monroe Doctrine to include economics as well as politics, see Gambone, 136-37, and Van Alstyne 168n2, which focuses on Robert Lansing’s memo to President Wilson, endorsed by him, regarding key strategies for U.S. economic dominance in the Caribbean and Latin America, all in the name of protecting those states’ economic and political independence.  Lansing suggests that the U.S. should guard against such countries accumulating debts to European banks that would make them vulnerable to European political manipulation.  Latin and Caribbean indebtedness controlled by the U.S. financial interests, by implication, was never from the U.S. point of view defined as a problem.  See Lansing Papers, 1914-1920, Vol. II, 466-70.  Healy records the revelatory example of a Wall Street financial syndicate before 1898 trying to push Spain to give Cuba her freedom.   In return for repayment to Spain of a portion of the enormous debt involved in fighting the Cuban rebellion, a U.S. financial syndicate would have received interest-bearing bonds for the debts of the new “Cuban Republic” and control of a slice of all its customs revenues, with the U.S. government acting as guarantor:  Healy 81-82.  From this perspective, Cuban “independence” hardly involved achieving autonomy, except via the fictions of political discourse.  Perhaps we should say that war is often financial hegemony pursued by other means.

3.  For more on Sousa’s “El Capitán” providing the marching music for U.S. expansionism, see Carol Hess.  Sousa’s operetta of the same title satirized inept Spanish colonial rule in sixteenth-century Peru, but Sousa’s audience fully understood its contemporary relevance.  The operetta was the first successful Broadway musical by a U.S. composer and made a national tour following its New York performances.   The Atlanta Exposition so celebrated by Sousa’s “King Cotton” was also of course the site of Booker T. Washington’s famous “Atlanta Compromise” speech ceding black political rights to Jim Crow power, supposedly in exchange for separate economic progress.

4.  For the brutal history of early white “Redeemer” activities to destroy Reconstruction in Mississippi (1873-75), see Lemann.  On the later spread of voter disfranchisement tactics in Mississippi, Tennessee, and elsewhere, see Ayers, Promise of the New South 52-54, 146-49, 409-11.  Particularly relevant is Mississippi’s deployment of an “understanding” clause” allowing officials to eliminate voters who, they claimed, couldn’t understand well enough a selected passage from the Mississippi constitution.  For a book-length study, see Perman, who discusses the Mississippi cases in detail (70-90) and also how the U.S. Congress followed the Supreme Court’s lead in exonerating Southern tactics (224-44).  Also of course see Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow and J. H. Roper’s 1997 volume collecting essays reassessing Woodward’s thesis by contemporary historians.  A valuable assessment of Woodward’s Origins of the New South, particularly the fate of his thesis that in the New South planters were displaced by businessmen, is offered by James Cobb (5-24).  For two invaluable recent studies of black struggles for enfranchisement in the South, see Hahn and Valelly.

The history of the U.S.-imposed Hawaiian voting plan is even more intriguing than Woodward allows.  When senators debated the “Hawaiian Organic Act” in 1900, they proposed all kinds of voter restrictions inspired by the Mississippi Plan, from $1000 minimum property requirements to poll taxes and tests that the voter “can both read and write any section of this constitution submitted to him by the [voter] registration officer.”  Yet the eligibility requirements in the final version of the Act were much less restrictive.  Perhaps U.S. senators felt less need to regulate voters in Hawaii because the white elites who had instituted a new Constitution in 1893 were in firm political and military control.  Furthermore, could Hawaii’s new “Provisional Government” indeed have been inspired by Democratic coups in the New South?  The matter is worth more investigation.  What is clear is that the white elites who took over power in Hawaii felt less need than white U.S. Southerners to have their means of controlling political power defined in writing.  The eligibility rules for Filipino voters, as approved by the U.S. Congress in 1901, were as liberal as Hawaii’s, with no mention of literacy, property, or educational tests for male voters, only bars on voting by those who had fought against U.S. rule or were delinquent on taxes (Bureau of Insular Affairs, What Has Been Done in the Philippines [1904], 13).  For a lucid, recent survey by a historian of the events in Hawaii, see Love 115-58, though I dissent from Love’s thesis that racism was primarily antithetical to imperialism.  Just to be clear: qualified Hawaiian and Philippine voters of color were allowed to vote in some local elections, not U.S. national ones.

5.  I favor the word colonialism because it foregrounds the understanding that colonies are dominated by but not incorporated into a nation.  But in the 1890s and after, colonial, imperial, and expansionist were often used interchangeably and did not consistently mark differences between direct and indirect rule in the territories controlled by an empire. 

In claiming that Jim Crow segregation became “national” policy after 1898, I do not mean that it was applied in the same form throughout the U.S. precisely at that date, or even throughout the South, but rather that it was justified in terms of national self-interest, and versions of Jim Crow spread far beyond the South in the early twentieth century.  Even a largely Quaker community such as Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, my home town, segregated its schools in 1913 (see Dougherty).  But changes in the North began soon after the demise of Reconstruction in 1877:  for instance, blacks were banned from gaining major league baseball contracts just a decade later, in 1887.

Only once in Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955) did he mention the relevance of the 1898 war with Spain: “As America shouldered the White Man’s Burden she took up at the same time many Southern attitudes on the subject of race” (54).  For more detail on this issue, consider the patterns discovered by Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., who in his meticulously researched Black Americans and the White Man’s Burden, 1898-1903 notes how critically the black press—even those newspapers that supported expansionism—monitored color prejudice in U.S. colonial policies and saw shared causes for race war at home and imperial conquest abroad.  Trains heading south with troops for Cuba were segregated, as were troop ships bound for the Philippines, while “Whites Only” barbershops, restaurants, and brothels in Manila came quickly with U.S. rule (231, 282).

U.S. commentators tended not to publicize segregation policies in the colonies, stressing instead that the U.S. was bringing civilization to savages.  Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, claimed that unless a “stronger, manlier power” stepped in to contain the Philippine independence movement, “rapine and bloodshed” would be unleashed (“Expansion and Peace,” in Strenuous Life 35).  His rhetoric invoked the Indian wars but also antebellum white fears of slave rebellions.  In the logic of Progressivism, Jim Crow segregation was meant to contain the dangers of race war and become an indispensable element of modernization. 

One other wrinkle is worth noting.  Despite instituting Jim Crow policies abroad, U.S. officials also promoted the presence of black troops in the colonies, believing they would help reconcile the population to American rule (Gatewood 298).  The Filipino insurgent General Aguinaldo, however, appealed to black U.S. soldiers to switch sides, saying that both lynching and the U.S. actions against the Philippine independence movement demanded vengeance; some blacks did indeed defect, though most did not, and a white anti-imperialist in Massachusetts published a novel about a black soldier, Washington Douglass, who joined the rebels (Gatewood 287-90).  Historians of colonialism must find ways to include simultaneous and contradictory events in their narratives.

6.  For discussion of the ambiguities of the word “insular” (Latin for island) as they pertain to the Supreme Court Insular Cases involving colonial rights, see Amy Kaplan’s Anarchy of Empire, “Introduction.”  Legal historians are not in agreement about which cases should properly be termed the Insular Cases, but in general these refer to Supreme Court decisions between 1901 and 1904 about the shape and limits of U.S. congressional authority and constitutional rights in the new colonies, such as Downes v. Bidwell(182 U.S. 244, 45 L.Ed. 1088, 21 S.Ct. 770 [1901]) or Hawaii v. Mankichi190 U.S. 197, 47 L.Ed. 1016, 23 S.Ct. 787 [1903]).  An easily available introductory survey of these and other rulings may be found at the Island Law site:; see also Thompson.

7.  For a biographical sketch of Charles Denby, including his being raised in Virginia and France and his business interests in trade with the Far East, see Healy, ch. 10.

8.  See Wilson, Public Papers, Volume One (“College and State”), 368-95; the quotations are from 388 and 394, respectively.

9.  Wilson lectures were published in 1908 by Columbia University Press as Constitutional Government in the United States.  My line of argument regarding the “tutelary aims of colonization” has been aided by Vicente Rafael’s groundbreaking article and book; Rafael also discusses this particular Wilson citation on 215-16n8.  For other analysis of contemporary arguments that Anglo-Saxons were best suited to the manly arts of self-mastery, and therefore possessed the right to master others, see Reginald Horsman and (stressing the gender politics involved) Nina Silber, Gail Bederman, Kristin Hoganson, and Dana Nelson’s National Manhood

For a representative early essay of Woodrow Wilson’s on education’s role in shaping national identity, see his “University Training and Citizenship” from 1894.  An Arnoldian defense of the liberal arts, Wilson’s piece stresses the modern education should heal the split between the sciences and the humanities by presenting the best that has been thought and said in both fields.  Its ultimate goal should be to create liberal and adaptable citizens sharing common cultural ideals: “More worthily than any other it can be made the means of nationalizing the men whom the universities send forth” (Public Papers, Volume One, 257).  Made at a time of great support by whites for industrial, not liberal arts, education for blacks, however, Wilson’s remarks by implication exclude black education from these high goals of citizen-making. Arnoldian goals of citizen-making were sometimes claimed (though in a more limited way) by pundits for “industrial education” too, even as blacks were systematically being denied citizenship rights in the public sphere.

10.  “The consent of some of the governed”:  Sen. Orville Platt, quoted in Literary Digest 18.2 [Jan. 14 1899]: 31-34; italics and brackets mine.  I cite the Senate debate coverage in this popular, easily available magazine rather than the Congressional Record because it was one of several ways that the majority of interested citizens could have followed the Senate debates on U.S. colonial policies.  For the quick recycling of this phrase and “logic” into U.S. popular culture in 1899, see the Puck cartoon by Louis Dalrymple on this book’s cover.

11.  Campomanes mentions William Appleman Williams as one of the first to identify the paradox, which he named “anti-colonial imperialism”: see “1898 and the Nature of the New Empire.”  I especially recommend Sandra M. Gustafson’s “Histories of Democracy and Empire” for an incisive overview of longstanding debates in Western political thought about how the terms “democracy” and “empire” have had their definitions shift as some theorists have argued that they are incompatible, while others have claimed that—as the history of Athens proves—democratic freedoms are often associated with some form of imperial state power.

12.  Roosevelt quoted in Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power, 32 and 34; cf. Eric Cheyfitz, Poetics of Imperialism 4.  For analyses of links between the New South and national Progressive movements, see Louis Gould, Nancy Cohen, William Link, Dewey Grantham, Steven Diner, and David Southern.  For discussion of the anti-colonial colonialism paradox historically considered, see especially anthologies edited by Amy Kaplan (with Donald Pease) and John Carlos Rowe; Rowe’s own book, Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism 3-24; Walter Benn Michaels’ “Anti-Imperial Americanism”; and the Gustafson essay mentioned in the previous note.  Nina Silber’s The Romance of Reunion, particularly her chapter “New Patriotism and New Men,” has also been inspirational for my project here, though she focuses primarily on Northerners who wrote about the South.

13.  Key precursors to Boeckmann’s analysis include Thomas Gossett; George Fredrickson; Reginald Horsman; Joel Williamson, Crucible of Race; Robyn Wiegman; and Walter Benn Michaels.  I would like here the express my thanks to my colleague Kendall Johnson for helpful conversations on the convolutions in racial discourse in this period in U.S. history.

14.  For more on the issues of free labor ideology and land redistribution, see Foner, Free Soil; and Foner, Reconstruction, especially chapters 3, 4, 6, and 8.  An interesting related issue is raised by comparative history:  the Dawes Act of 1887 promoted the “allotment” of small plots of land on reservations for Native Americans to farm, to aid their “Americanization”; its rationale was consistent with earlier “free labor” ideology.  Why would land redistribution be seen to develop good habits in Indians and bad habits in blacks?  Or could this discrepant use of free labor ideology be explained by the fact that the land blacks desired had once been white-owned?

15.  Regarding black land-ownership, William Ayers asserts that in 1900 about one quarter of blacks in the South owned the land they worked, though the proportion was far higher in the Upper South coastal regions than in the Deep South (208-09).  Such a statistic does not directly contradict Ludlow’s 1903 pamphlet, but it does indicate a more complex picture.  Another key piece of the puzzle is provided by W. E. B. Du Bois in his novel The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911), one of whose major topics is blacks’ control of land and the products of their labor.  Du Bois notes that in the Jim Crow South, “[n]o black man ordinarily can sell his crop without a white creditor’s consent” (409). 

16.  A few other biographical details of the Armstrongs  are worth footnoting, since they add layers of complexity and irony.  Richard Armstrong moved away from strict missionary work and became minister of public education for King Kamehameha III in Honolulu, eventually establishing over 500 schools in Hawaii that stressed agricultural and “industrial” training.  He also fought a losing battle for land reforms so that more native Hawaiians could farm their own land rather than work for white-owned plantations.  Engs leaves it unclear whether Richard by the end of his life understood how little his schools could combat the social stratification caused by the new plantation economy.  When son Samuel became one of the first officer recruits for the new Negro Union regiments, he invoked his father’s sense of mission:  “I feel a little of the ‘departing missionary’s’ spirit….  Here’s to the heathen, rather, here’s to the Negro!!” (Engs 216).   As a Freedmen’s Bureau agent, Samuel was in charge of building and renovating schoolhouses for the freed slaves, but also was ordered by superiors to force many blacks deemed vagrants to leave the area so that “order” could be maintained—even though many blacks on their own had begun cultivating farms abandoned during the chaos of the war.  Eventually almost all of those lands were deeded to white owners in Virginia; similar land transfers to whites occurred  elsewhere across the South.

17.  Two examples of black resistance to the industrial education model are Pauline Hopkins’ 1900 novel Contending Forces, which includes two characters closely resembling Washington and Du Bois and stages several debates outlining the rationales for industrial vs. liberal arts education for blacks (cf. 123ff and 166ff); and of course W. E. B. Du Bois’ critique of Washington’s rationale in The Souls of Black Folk (1903). 

Robert C. Morris’s study of the education of freedmen in the South during the War and Reconstruction contains extensive analysis of the textbooks used in the Freedmen’s schools.  Among the lessons’ many themes—including African and American history, models of a good work ethic, and the pleasures of nature—is a consistent emphasis on humility and forgiveness.  The Freedman’s Third Reader, published by the American Tract Society in 1866, celebrates Toussant L’Ouverture as a hero leading Haitian slaves to freedom, but he is also depicted in a manner identical to the portraits of free black servants who remained loyal to their masters that would be essential to New South literature over a decade later:  “When his late master and family were in danger he risked his own life for their escape, sent them to a safe retreat in America, with provision for their support…” (Morris 175).  Morris concludes that these radical Reconstruction models of virtue “played a part in maintaining social stability in the post-emancipation South” (211).  Reconstruction was threatening to the status quo in many ways, but after its designs to redistribute land and political power were thwarted, its vision of character-building was the one element deemed worth saving—and even that would undergo considerable revision and shrinkage.

For analysis of the skills and ethos ex-slaves brought to the postwar world that Northern whites were largely oblivious to, see John Hope Franklin; Eugene Genovese; Eric Foner; Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love; Lawrence Levine; and Anderson, Education of Blacks in the South.  More recent books by Regosin, Swann-Wright, and Kenzer provide excellent examples of state-of-the-art social history on this topic.

18.  Here is a key passage from the Atlanta speech, to provide proper context.  Note that as well as making his notorious contrast between useful labor and liberal arts “geegaws,” Washington places his famous plea to hire black labor within the context of colonialism and immigration:  see my italics below.  “Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top.  Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.  To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know….”   Quoted from, accessed October 23, 2006.  My summary in section 5 is much indebted in particular to James D. Anderson, Chapter Two.  For more on the ironic parallels between plantation slavery and the Hampton/Tuskegee systems, see Baker, Turning South Again.

19.  Some experts advising colonial policy assumed that Puerto Rico would eventually become a State.  Martin Grove Brumbaugh of the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Teacher’s Association, who served a term as Commissioner for Education in Puerto Rico, asserted that “the door of the public schoolhouse is the door to Statehood” (Navarro 61).  But many Americans, not to mention colonial policy-makers, did not share Brumbaugh’s assumption about Puerto Rico’s future.  My summary here touches only a few of the important points raised by Navarro’s chapters “The Ideology of U.S. Policy Makers” and “The Hampton-Tuskegee-Carlisle Model of Education,” as well as his analyses of history and geography textbooks and teacher examinations.  For an interpretation of parallel issues in the Philippines, see May, Social Engineering in the Philippines, especially “1910-13: The Triumph of Industrial Education” (113-26); and Renato Constantino’s “The Miseducation of the Filipino.” May’s conclusion:  “The tragedy of the U.S. educational effort was that, despite benevolent intentions, the Bureau of Education prepared Filipinos neither for citizenship nor for productive labor” (126).  For a general introduction to U.S. debates and policies about the Philippines, see Love 159-95.

20.  One key difference between the U.S. South as a whole and the new colonies, of course, was the issue of language:  would instruction in the colonies be in Spanish or English, or be bilingual?  From the beginning, the policy-makers chose a moderate course and emphasized English as the proper language for teacher-training, while Spanish should be used in the regular schools.  But the rhetoric used to discuss the language issue was highly revealing.  In U.S. colonial discourse, Spanish was feminized and associated with the women’s sphere and the tribal and colonial past, while English was treated as the father tongue appropriate to the future and the public sphere of politics and commerce.  Part of the role of education was to indoctrinate the Puerto Rican people into believing that their choice was between a kind perpetual cultural childhood associated with Spanish, vs. a healthy and outward embrace of progress and civilization embodied not just by English but by U.S. culture.  Linguistic theorists of the time held a theory of language decadence that fit well with the above assumptions.  Proper Spanish had to be taught in the schools because without such reinforcement Spanish would, in the words of one manual for teachers written by an American expert, “degenerate into a vulgar and ungrammatical patois, which, while it would not loosen its tenacious hold upon popular sympathy, would cease to be an active force in the culture and enlightenment of the people” (quoted in Navarro 49).  Once again, the key pattern of Progressivist colonialism emerges:  colonialism presents itself a project not of subjugation but subject-creation, not repression but the creation of modernity and independence.  Colonialism even, as above, sees itself as protecting from degeneration the few tribal and colonial traits thought too valuable to be lost.  Colonialism aspires to archive the past while it engineers modernity.  English was mandated as the new language of instruction in the Philippines, unlike in Puerto Rico—just one example confirming David Healy’s general thesis in U.S. Expansionism that U.S. colonial policy was not unitary but full of disparities and contradictions.

In other key respects, though, reports concerning education in the Philippines show an analogous pattern to Puerto Rico.  Judge William Howard Taft’s Report of the Philippine Commission (1900) critiques and catalogues the deplorable state of education under Spanish rule and boasts that its work will be heartily approved by the Filipinos:  a “system of free schools for the people—another American institution, it will be noted—has been an important element in every Philippine programme of reforms” (Vol. 1, 120); see also Vol. I, Part III: Education, 17-41.  Later, in 1904, in the U.S. Bureau of Insular Affairs pamphlet What Has Been Done in the Philippines, statistics and growth rates for schools are charted and the natives’ aptitude for education and Americanization lauded.  But today’s historians of the effects of the U.S. occupation on education tell a rather more complex tale: see for instance Maria Luisa Canieso-Doronila, Limits of Educational Change