A. The Farmers' Alliance
Farmers faced a series of economic challenges during the late nineteenth century and as a
result supported the Grange and Greenback Labor Party during the 1870s.
Falling prices, rising railroad rates, and an insufficient currency and credit system
dominated by eastern interests forced farmers to come together into regional alliances
starting in Texas, Arkansas, and rural Louisiana.
As the alliance movement grew, the farmer groups consolidated into two regional
alliances with more than 200,000 members: the Northwestern Farmers' Alliance and the
more radical Southern Farmers' Alliance .
In an effort to reach African American farmers, the Southern Farmers' Alliance worked
with the Colored Farmers' Alliance, attempting to forge a common cause.
The Farmers' Alliance reached out to workers as well as to farmers, supporting the Great
Southwestern Strike against the Texas and Pacific Railroad and the Knights of Labor.
The political culture of the Alliance encouraged the inclusion of women and children,
using the family as its defining symbol, and women rallied to the Alliance banner along
with their menfolk.
Alliance meetings combined socializing and political education and used secular
preaching to reach out to illiterate participants.
At the heart of the Alliance movement stood a series of farmers' cooperatives that sought
to negotiate better prices for their crops.
These cooperatives met with stiff opposition from merchants, bankers, wholesalers, and
manufacturers, who made it impossible for them to get credit.
10. As the cooperative movement died, the Farmers' Alliance moved toward direct political
action and demanded railroad regulation, laws against land speculation, and currency and
B. The Populist Movement
By 1892, advocates of a third party movement had convinced members of the Farmers'
Alliance to form the People's Party, thereby launching the Populist movement.
The Populists mounted a stinging critique of industrial society and devised the idea of a
subtreasury, a plan that would allow farmers to store nonperishable crops in government
storehouses until market prices rose.
For the western farmer, Populists promised land reform and championed a plan to reclaim
excessive lands granted to railroads or sold to foreign investors.
Currency was the third major focus of the Populist movement; farmers in all sections,
hoping to make credit easier to obtain, endorsed platform planks calling for free silver
The Populist platform omitted the moral reforms championed by the Farmers' Alliance,
calling issues like prohibition and women's suffrage too divisive.