In fact, as the historian David Southern has documented, the worst evils of the South’s Jim Crow regime, including segregation, disfranchisement, mob violence, and lynching, all “went hand-in-hand with the most advanced forms of southern progressivism.” Remember that progressives wanted an interventionist government with sweeping powers to regulate all walks of life, an approach that fit nicely with Jim Crow’s bullying assault on economic liberty and freedom of association.
As for “white people holding onto power, and, if they see themselves losing it, trying to get it back,” let’s not forget the racist history of the American labor movement, particularly the powerful American Federation of Labor (AFL). Since most AFL unions banned African Americans outright until federal anti-discrimination laws appeared in the 1960s, blacks often had to take drastic measures to break into union-dominated fields. This led many African Americans to accept dangerous work as strikebreakers—”scabs”—while the lily-white AFL walked the picket line.
In response to this unwelcome competition, AFL chief Samuel Gompers thundered: “If the colored man continues to lend himself to the work of tearing down what the white man has built up, a race hatred worse than any ever known before will result. Caucasian civilization will serve notice that its uplifting process is not to be interfered with in any such way.”