THE RACIAL POLICIES OF THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR AND THE ORGANIZATION OF SOUTHERN BLACK WORKERS.

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    • Abstract:
      The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, like any organization seeking to build a Southern membership in the 1880s, was compelled to confront the complex, emotionally explosive racial issue. The order could not ignore Blacks, for their presence was a major determinant of labor economics, as were the prejudices of whites. To succeed, the order had to formulate a workable approach to the racial problem. For the Knights, as for so many their organizations, the task proved to be too difficult. To be effective, the Knights' racial policies had to offer hope to Blacks, overcome some of the prejudices of white laborers, and blunt the inevitable criticism of those who opposed the order. The Knights' leadership sought to meet these requirements by implementing two separate strategies. Although somewhat contradictory, both were implemented simultaneously. On the one hand, the order tried to circumvent the issue by maintaining that it sought to redress purely economic grievances. Race had no relation to economic questions and should not be allowed to interfere with the work of the order.