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 6

This past thursday, after my 9:30-10:45 class let off and before my next class at 1:00, I made a visit to the Fredericksburg Area Museum as recommended in the description of this assignment and by a history major friend from jogging club who knows the area pretty well. There, I browsed a bit before taking a closer look at the “These Old Walls: A Town and Its Stories” exhibit. In this exhibit, they had past and present photographic comparisons between specific spots in town, alongside explanations of the changes in those locations. Primary sources and artistic depictions of stories of Fredericksburg’s past also aided in describing stories and events within the history of the town. The exhibit begins with a a few paragraphs of text in front of an old, enlarged, high resolution photograph of Caroline Street. Next, an explanation is given as to how the building this museum calls home was the city hall from 1816 to 1982. I was surprised to see that a building as small as this one was the Fredericksburg city hall for well over a century and a half, but it makes sense that it would be converted into a museum for the area following its tenure as the city hall. After that, the gears to the clock of Saint George’s church are on display in front of a past and present photographic comparison of the church of old and present. Saint George’s church in the two photographs doesn’t look very different, but the church bell no longer rings on every half and full hour as it used to for over a century. A side by side photographic comparison of somewhat of a birds eye view of downtown Fredericksburg, showing both old and new downtown, and the growth that has taken place there is fully evident. Even the modern day photograph doesn’t include the riverside park that went through construction this past year. A 1942 photographic depiction of downtown flooded is shown, and the events of the flood from the overflowing of the Rappahannock River is described. A post-Civil War, pre-1937 photograph of the Chatham Bridge is on display. The Chatham Bridge has apparently been destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly, due to both war (I can only assume the Civil War) and flooding. The version of the Chatham Bridge photographed is the version that was destroyed in the flooding of 1937. Above the Chatham Bridge photograph is a photo of the narrow, seemingly very low budget bridge that was used throughout the Civil War, I’m assuming to replace a bridge or bridges that were destroyed in wartime. What I believe as a photograph of the old Falmouth Bridge, which was destroyed in the flood before being reconstructed, is shown as well. While Fredericksburg is one of the most historic towns in the United States, let alone Virginia, not a lot of artifacts concerning trade along the Rappahannock River have been preserved, supposedly. A weight described to be one of the oldest artifacts concerning trade along the Rappahannock is presented, marked “Falmouth Warehouse 1773”. Apparently gifted from UMW, the weight was likely used to weigh tobacco as well as other crops.

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