T. Thomas Fortune: “The Present Relations of Labor and Capital”

(1886)

Context

When the Civil War ended in 1865, Fortune was just eight years old. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified later that year, permanently abolished slavery in the United States and marked the beginning of a new era. Fortune’s generation of African Americans would be the first to grow up in the United States without the institution, and the next fifteen years would be characterized by political strife over the rights of former slaves. The policy of Reconstruction in the former slave states, directed by the Republican Party leaders in Congress, brought new constitutional rights for black Americans, including the guarantee of equality before the law, the rights to hold political office and serve on juries, and the right to manhood suffrage. The majority of white southerners vigorously opposed these policies, and some resorted to organized violence and terrorism to deprive blacks of their rights, joining shadowy groups like the Ku Klux Klan. While...

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Scenes of the 1877 railroad strike (Library of Congress)

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