After Reconstruction, Democrats known as Bourbons rose to power in the South. The Bourbons thought that the South needed to have more industry and rely less on agriculture for its economic welfare. In Georgia, three leaders dominated state politics: came to be known as the Bourbon Triumvirate.
Bourbon Triumvirate was made of the following men: Joseph E. Brown John B. Gordon Alfred H. Colquitt The Triumvirate expanded railroads, and increased industrialization in the South. The Triumvirate also promoted “white supremacy” – the idea of white being superior to African Americans.
Editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Used the paper to promote what he called the “New South”. Grady believed the South needed to be more like the North economically and stop relying on cotton and farming. Convinced many northern business to invest in the South. Started a new university that came to be known as “Georgia Tech”.
In an attempt to attract northern businesses to the South, Grady promoted the first International Cotton Exposition. Expositions are public shows, often put on by businesseses. Despite the efforts of the Bourbon’s and Grady, agriculture remained the states biggest business.
Not everyone agreed with Henry Grady’s vision of the New South. Political leader Tom Watson criticized the New South program because he claimed it hurt small farmers in Georgia. Many farmers had reason to believe Watson was correct. Many of the farmers were going into debt do to the crop lien system. Crop lien system allowed farmers to borrow against their upcoming harvest in order to get supplies. Many times the next harvest would not be big enough to pay back the loan causing the farmers to go further in debt.
Angry and frustrated about getting further and further in debt, a large number of southern farmers joined the populist movement. Populism was a political movement that fought to help farmers. Eventually the populist group came to known as the People’s Party. Tom Watson becomes the most powerful voice for Populism in Georgia and one of the most powerful in the nation.
As industrialization continued to grow in the South, businessmen in Atlanta gained more power. Rural Georgians feared they were being pushed out of the political process by northern influences. In response to these fears, Georgia established the county-unit system. The county-unit system gave more power to the rural counties, rather than the more industrialized (populated) counties. Many felt the county-unit system was unfair because the rural counties candidates would win elections even though the majority of the state would vote for someone else.
Latimer was the wife of a progressive congressman, and an activist. Latimer and her husband challenged the Bourbon Triumvirate, and their convict lease system. Fought for womans suffrage (right to vote). First women to serve as U.S. Senator for the state of Georgia. Filling in for Tom Watson after he died.
In September 1906, due to growing racial tensions over segregation (keeping blacks and whites – separate but equal) Atlanta suffered a three day Atlanta Race Riot. White mob started the riot over unproven reports that black men assaulted several white women. Mob attacked black-owned businesses and killed several business owners. Over twenty African Americans and at least two whites died during the riot.
African Americans were not the only targets of ethnic violence during this time period. April 1913, 13 year old Mary Phagan was murdered. Leo Frank, the Jewish factory superintendent from whom Phagan worked was convicted, arrested, and later charged for the murder of Mary Phagan. Leo Frank was sentenced to hang, but John M. Slaton (Georgia Governor) commuted (reduced) the sentence to life in prison after personally investigating the case.
Slaton believed if given time eventually Leo Franks innocence would be proven. Many Georgians were outraged, and on a dark night in 1915, a group from Phagan’s hometown kidnapped Leo Frank and hung him from a tree in Marietta Georgia. This remains the only known Jewish person hung in the United States. Decades later, evidence showed that Leo Frank was innocent , and the state pardoned him seventy-one years after his death.