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. 

Blog 10

Reading over the New Yorker article titled “Our Obsession with Ancestry Has Some Twisted Roots,” that was linked in the syllabus, it makes sense to me that we all like to have our own origin stories. There was a book that I forgot the name of that I read in 11th grade, about the author’s ancestral connection to the country of Haiti, that discusses the matter of humans all having their own personal origin stories, and while I once again don’t remember the name of that book, or who wrote it, that idea really stuck out. While it was the foundational memories within our developments as people that was discussed within that book, the knowledge of where one’s family comes from is also a central theme throughout that book, and can certainly form a part of one’s “origin story”.

It seems to me that it’s how one uses the knowledge of their ancestry, how one interprets and prides or scorns or shrugs off their family history, that proves one’s studying of their family ancestry to be productive or harmful, and to what magnitude. To first or second or even third generation Americans, connection to their lineage can be very important in preserving the cultures that they come from, and forming their unique identities in this land in which they may not share all commonalities with those who have been here several generations or more. I personally have one parent who’s side of my family has inhabited the Balkan Mountains in northwestern Bulgaria for several generations. I’m currently delving a bit into studying Bulgarian culture of various forms as well as well as, and more importantly, working on building my knowledge within the language, so that the next time, hopefully this upcoming summer, that my family visits my dad’s side of my family in Bulgaria, I may be able to share more of a connection and speak with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and others. Many first, second, even third generation Americans, and while more difficultly, many African Americans may inspect their ancestry for self-fulfilling purposes.

On the other hand, a more reactionary studying of ancestry for the purposes of exclusivity and “purity” very often turns into attempts at ethnic cleansing as can be seen within Virginia’s own history, or even cult-like behavior as seen in a surprisingly large number of organizations that are around today which base their membership off of the ancestry of aspiring members. While applied in an array of different scenarios, “race science” is often based, in one scenario, off of other applications of the phenomenon that have occurred in different settings. The nazis, for example, based their racial purity measures off of similar examples of the application of race science in America. Wherever race science is given any credibility, the logic behind it falls apart when even inspected a slight amount, as fascist ideology simply makes no sense, and should have no place in the world but in textbooks.

Fascism, which so frequently employs race science, is after all based on no real science of any kind, but rather on what some beneficiaries of the growth of fascism see as the prime means of radicalizing a portion of society against those often at socially and/or economically disadvantaged positions already. As Georgi Dimitrov, a Bulgarian revolutionary against the fascist and nazi-allied Bulgarian government of World War II said, “fascism is not a power standing above class, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen-proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself.” Fascism is the stripping of the rights that people have won throughout history so that those already at the top of our slippery economic ladder may profit further, without the hurdles of the rights of those who work for them, or the state issued benefits to those in need, in the way, and race science is often a weapon brandished by the aforementioned beneficiaries to turn one portion of society, very vehemently, against another.

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