Mapping the General Strike: The Political and Economic Impact of African American Self-Emancipation under Reconstruction

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 11:10 AM
Palladian Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
John Clegg, New York University
Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, I am launching an online crowdsourcing project to collect individual-level data on African Americans who fought for their freedom in the Civil War. I have also assembled a geocoded dataset on wages, political participation and incarceration rates for freed men and women throughout the South in the period 1865 to 1870. My goal is to measure the impact of African American enlistment on the latter variables. What difference did Du Bois’ “general strike” make for freed people, individually and collectively? How did variation in rates of self-emancipation affect long term patterns of race and class formation in different regions of the United States?

Preliminary results (based on a sample of 20,000 soldiers) indicate that enlistment was positively correlated with 1870 levels of African American voter registration and agricultural wages, and negatively correlated with incarceration, when controlling for the size of the African American population and other relevant variables (such as urbanization and land values). This paper presents these findings, along with additional research into the longer term impact of self-emancipation on disenfranchisement, lynching and Northward migration under Jim Crow.