Elna C. Green


"Outside agitator" is an epithet frequently hurled by southern white conservatives at those with opposing political positions. Claiming that they cannot fathom how any "true" southerner could reject regional orthodoxies, white conservatives conclude that such a person must be from somewhere else. Beginning in the antebellum era, southern conservative partisans have attempted to tarnish their political opponents with the stigma of being "an outside agitator." In an assertion of a southern ideological monolith, conservative whites have used the label against abolitionists, feminists, civil rights activists, labor organizers, and radicals of varying hues. Indeed, in the collective mind of the white southern leadership, all such groups were largely one and the same. Hence a slavery apologist writing in the 1850s could conflate "the abolitionist-woman's-rights- spiritual-rapper-negro-server-reformerinn to one. A century later, southern industrialists recognized that the "outsider label" was "the biggest thing they had" in their fight against labor union.2