The Cultural Hegemony of Post-Reconstruction America

W.E.B. Du Bois, a black historian and co-founder of the NAACP, ¬†saw the ’emancipation’ of black slaves as only the beginning of a new era of enslavement, which found it’s purpose in the evolution of American capitalism.

“For there began to rise in America in 1876 a new capitalism and a new enslavement of labor.” (210)

“Home labor in cultured lands, appeased and misled by a ballot whose power the dictatorship of vast capital strictly curtailed, was bribed by high wage and political office to unite in an exploitation of white, yellow, brown and black labor, in lesser lands…” (210)

Du Bois’ interpretation of what Zinn would call “Emancipation Without Freedom” lays the foundation for the encroachment of black freedoms in the decades following up to the Civil Rights movement. Rather than settle for equality, the South uses the transition from black enslavement to freedom as a means to “a new capitalism”; one dependent upon the oppression of poverty stricken blacks and whites. Southern Democrats as well as the hate-fueled Ku Klux Klan developed a cultural hegemony of sorts on most of the South and parts of the North during the post Reconstruction era, exploiting a fear tactic to force newly empowered blacks to surrender their 14th and 15th amendment rights. Howard Zinn uses Du Bois’ colorblind concept that this new capitalism is equally exploiting “white, yellow, brown, and black” persons to express the racial tension that exists after the Civil War, but also the growing economic tension between rich and poor in America which stands as an equal to the race factor.