Date of Award

5-10-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Marni Davis

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Young

Abstract

Georgia statesman Thomas E. Watson is best known as a Vice-Presidential and Presidential candidate for the People’s Party, the progressive third party movement of the 1890s and 1900s. As a Populist candidate, Watson advocated a racially progressive platform in order to appeal to African American voters. But following a series of electoral defeats and the collapse of the Populist Party, Watson retreated from politics and began a career as the publisher of his own weekly and monthly periodicals. As a publisher, Watson utilized his editorial space to express bigoted attitudes towards African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, that greatly contrasted with views he espoused as a Populist. But Watson’s rhetorical shifts occurred during the industrialization, urbanization, and immigration of the South. These radical transformations inspired fear and anxiety for thousands of rural white southerners. Within this context, Watson, as the proprietor of a profit-driven enterprise, offered opinions about the era’s numerous social, political, and economic upheavals that his readership appreciated. Throughout his career, Watson’s rhetoric shifted with the ebb and flow of contextual variation and in this period of intense economic, social, and political change, the context was favorable for the bigoted opinions that he expressed.

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