Night Riders

Defending Community in the Black Patch, 1890–1915

Night Riders

Book Pages: 278 Illustrations: Published: September 1993

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, History > U.S. History

In the late nineteenth century, industrialization was making its way into rural America. In an agricultural region of Kentucky and Tennessee called the Black Patch for the dark tobacco grown there, big business arrived with a vengeance, eliminating competition, manipulating prices, and undermining local control. The farmers fought back. Night Riders tells the story of the struggle that followed, and reveals the ambiguities and complexities of a drama that convulsed this community for over two decades.
Christopher Waldrep shows that, contrary to many accounts, these wealthy tobacco planters did not resist these new forces simply because of a nostalgia for a bygone time. Instead, many sought to become modern capitalists themselves--but on their own terms. The South's rural elite found their ability to hire and control black labor--the established racial practice of the community--threatened by the low prices offered by big companies for their raw materials. In response, farmers organized and demanded better prices for their tobacco. The tobacco companies then attempted to divide the farmers by offering higher prices to those willing to break with the others. When some cultivators succumbed, their betrayal awakened a deeply rooted vigilante tradition that called for the protection of community at all costs. Waldrep analyzes the spasm of violence that ensued in which horsemen, riding at night, destroyed tobacco barns and the warehouses where the companies stored their tobacco. But despite this fierce upheaval, the Black Patch community endured.
The most thorough treatment ever given to the Black Patch war, Night Riders illuminates a moment in history in which the traditional and the modern, the rural and the industrial, fought for the future--and past--of a community.


“Waldrep’s complex and nuanced study is the best account of the Black Patch war since historians and novelists began to write about that episode in the 1930s.” — Crandall Shifflet, American Historical Review

"A well-researched work of creative scholarship . . . Waldrep's book is an important contribution to our understanding of economic relationships, rural life, and violence in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century South." — George C. Rable, Anderson University

"Historians and novelists have written about the Black Patch War since the 1930s, but Waldrep has written an account of that episode that exceeds all others in terms of research, detailed coverage, and insight. He has presented a great deal of new material on the subject, and he has developed an analysis that places the Black Patch War in a broad and meaningful context." — William F. Holmes, University of Georgia


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. The Black Patch 5

2. The Tobacco Trust 19

3. Farmers Respond 36

4. Local Problems, Federal Help 52

5. "Hillbillies" and "Possum Hunters" 63

6. Night Riders 79

7. Local Law 102

8. State Law 114

9. Federal Law, Local Order 130

10. "Shirt-Tail" Night Riders 140

11. "No Longer the Cockey Gentleman of Yore" 161

Epilogue 183

Notes 189

Bibliography 231

Index 255
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1393-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1359-5
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