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In 1892, H. Seb Doyle, an African American preacher, learned that Democrats sought to lynch him due to his support of Populist Congressman Tom Watson. Was the threat real? This question became the center of a campaign discussion of race, politics, and corruption. Democratic and Populist newspapers’ accounts of this issue reveal the role of the “rhetoric of corruption” in the Georgia Populist Party's campaigns in the 1890s. Ironically, Populists used the same rhetoric Democrats had used against Republicans during Reconstruction. Populists linked Democratic political and economic malfeasance with the racial “corruptions” of miscegenation and “Negro Domination.” Although the Populists attempted to make this link, their insistence on black and white political equality undermined their white supremacist rhetoric, thereby weakening their case. Despite the Populists’ failure, the ultimate result was the same: the Populists came to abandon biracial politics and called for greater disfranchisement, all in the name of reform.
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