Term of Award

Summer 1978

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)


Department of History

Committee Chair

Robert D. Ward

Committee Member 1

J. Perry Cochran

Committee Member 2

C. Charlton Moseley


The Georgia Railroad strike of 1909 found Its participants in a period of unsettled values and directions. It was fought out against an agricultural backdrop in which many Georgians still remembered the sacrifice of the war years, bitter Reconstruction, and the glorification of the Lost Cause. Nevertheless, the strike possessed all the animosities of twentieth century industrial strife. The struggle during the spring of 1909 warned Southerners that the future years of industrial growth necessary for the development of a New South might not be the smooth, progressive, uplifting transition envisioned by some Southern leaders. The union's attempt to use race as a rallying cry for its cause was a desperate move to capitalize on political and social segregation for its own interests. The failure of the brotherhood to win a clear victory in 1909 was an indication that Southern business interests, while openly endorsing racial disfranchisement and social inferiority for blacks, would not allow white unions to use race as a weapon to break their hold on the region's unorganized and unskilled workers.

Unfortunately, story of the Georgia Railroad strike of 1909 remains incomplete; in that sense it is not unlike all written history. Few records are extant which reflect the black fireman's reaction to the walkout. An inquiry into the availability and extent of railroad records remains unanswered. The testimony of railroad officials and their public statements, however, adequately reflects the railroad's attitude toward its laborers, black and white.

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