The years 1865-1940 were chosen for this project, as they coincide with most of the largest waves of labor activity within the United States, and the labor conditions of this span of time, perhaps apart from early reconstruction, were all impacted predominantly by the second industrial revolution.

Two separate stories within the Richmond working class persisted throughout this span of time; one of the black working class, and the other of the white working class. Into the 20th century, black and white workers were rarely ever seen working in the same settings, and white labor movements were often exclusive towards Richmond’s black population, even within organizations such the Knights of Labor that have been celebrated as places that both the black and white sections of the American working class could convene during its prevalence in the late 1800s. Due to both of these reasons, the black and white sections of Richmond’s working class each took up their own distinct forms of labor struggle during the second industrial revolution.

Upon the ending of chattel slavery, a vast array of measures was thrown at the American black population, including Richmond’s, to draw from them similar gains for the white ruling class as they had seen before the end of chattel slavery. Finding their way through the struggles of sharecropping, the sudden rapid growth of convict slavery, and general entry into society with no platform to build off of were the primary concerns for the black working class of Richmond. Consistently the worst off and most viciously exploited of Richmond’s working class population, labor struggle within the black working class often came abruptly and organically, all throughout the late 1800s and well into the mid-1900s. Richmond’s white working class saw large waves of labor organization throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, until the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia saw the birth of the Red Scare in America, and labor activity among the white working class of America and Richmond soon dwindled. 

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From the readings that we were assigned this week, I improved my understanding of a myriad of topics, including the definition of American studies, and its association with the keywords of “culture,” “nation,” and “region,” among more.

It’s often the case that one’s understanding of a word is based entirely on the context in which it is used, and when asked the definition of such a word, a person will find themself surprised at the fact that they don’t really have anything to say. This goes for myself with the word “culture”. In the reading, however, “culture” is defined as a form or pattern that helps structure the thought and behavior of humans in groups, and it must be public and shared. It involves the practices of individuals influenced by one another, as well as the history of these practices. Culture can operate across multiple different layers of human cohesion, and the larger a group of people, the harder it generally is to really define their culture. Culture is both historical and constantly altered, and can often be separated from, yet is always connected in some way to the economics, politics, and ethics of the group of people it is connected to.

Ever since reading into the difference between states and nations, I’ve been interested by the concept of a nation. While the United States is a state defined by borders, and with it’s very own peculiar politics and very peculiar foreign affairs, it also consists of a whole multitude of different nations. A nation can be defined as a group of people with a shared history, tradition, culture, and sometimes language. Various Native American nations within the US, the black nation, and more all certainly have their own shared histories, traditions, and cultures. A person can also be of one nation, and a nearly entirely unassociated state. For example, I could say I’m personally of the Bulgarian nation, but I live in the American state.

Therefore, it’s important to take into consideration that American cultural studies involve a whole array of different cultures within the United States, some of which even extend far outside of American borders.

Even after going through the reading, I’m still a little confused by the definition of a region, and this may owe to there being multiple very different definitions for the word. A region can be seen as a large segment of space, especially on land, a specific district or territory, or “an area of interest or activity”. There are multiple regions within the US, all shaped and reshaped based on natural geography, human use of land, and accessibility to humankind, that we can examine through American cultural studies.

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