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Michael W. Fitzgerald
St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN 55057-1574)
Race and Railroads in Alabama Reconstruction: Economic Issues and the Challenge to White Supremacy

I seek funding for writing the two thesis chapters of my fourth book, the first full-scale examination of Reconstruction in Alabama in a century. The modern literature on Reconstruction emphasizes the struggle for racial equality, but the current economic crisis emphasizes the relationship between the era’s development efforts and racial justice. In Alabama, the Republican proponents of equal rights presided over an ambitious program of railroad subsidy, which eventually bankrupted the state. The freedmen received the blame for this fiscal disaster, even though it was designed by the conservative Republican governor to secure white converts, and to promote his own railroad project. Racists thereafter blamed black voters for corruption, profligate spending, and excessive taxation. This Alabama episode offers a revealing look at where this language actually came from, in a state that would become the focus of the climactic confrontations of the civil rights movement.

Project fields:
U.S. History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2011 – 8/31/2011