The Populist Movement

Primary Source Set

In late-nineteenth-century United States, agrarian reformers in southern and midwestern states collaboratively organized for government action against business monopolies, exorbitant railroad rates, secret ballots and political corruption, and the gold standard for currency. Because the Republican and Democratic parties were not meeting their needs, these “common men” farmers and small business owners joined the “people’s party” or Populist party as a third- party alternative. Emerging from earlier political efforts of farmers, such as the Granger movement and the Farmer’s Alliance, the Populists attracted not only rural white male farmers, but also African American farmers and women reformers. This primary source set highlights prominent Populists, propaganda from political campaigns, and political arguments of the movement. After reading and viewing these documents, assess how central the “common people” are to the movement.

Additional resources for research

  1. The Populist Party, Vassar College.
  2. The Populist Movement and the Struggle for Reform, University of Colorado Boulder.
  3. Jim Crow Stories: The Populist Movement, PBS.

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