"The Newspapers Will Invade Their Firesides": Politics, the Press, and the End of Reconstruction in Alabama
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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In 1874, Alabama Democrats exploited racial tensions to animate disaffected whites, producing the highest voter turnout in Reconstruction and the end of Republican rule. Throughout the campaign, newspaper editors and demagogues prescribed social ostracism and political violence, which their audience received and acted upon. Murders of Republicans in Sumter County and riots at polling places in November indicated a willingness to resort to the brutal tactics espoused by political leaders. During the last two official years of Reconstruction, Democratic newspaper rhetoric isolated Republicans and championed the conservative crusade. This research reveals the active print culture that defined Alabama politics at the end of Reconstruction, and demonstrates the power of nineteenth century editors and politicians to influence their constituency through their control of news networks. Testimony from Alabamians, coupled with assertions from party leaders, points to the role played by printed news in state politics. The relationship between rhetoric and action, largely only hinted at by historians, becomes clear as a result.