The Possession of Civic Virtue: Movement Narratives of Race and Class in the Knights of Labor

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Abstract

This article explores how race is understood within an explicitly class-based movement, the Knights of Labor. The movement presents an empirical puzzle: it simultaneously pursued racial openness and racial closure, and it justified both in the name of class interest. The article examines movement-level narratives of race and class to show how underlying conceptions of class become implicated in the construction of interests regarding race. Communications drawn from the movement's official journal provide comprehensive data for identifying and interpreting the movement narratives of race and class. There were three separate Knights of Labor narratives. Although each connected race and class in a different way, all were driven by the movement's understanding of class and to "civic virtue" as a particularly important resource.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-615
Number of pages36
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume108
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2002

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