People toss around the term “carpetbagger” a lot, often Southern liberals (at least in New Orleans), and I think it’s odd given so many of the so-called carpetbaggers were actually trying to do the right thing:

Although carpetbaggers often supported the corrupt financial schemes that helped to bring the Reconstruction governments into ill repute, many of them were genuinely concerned with the freedom and education of black citizens.

So, yeah, I think it’s a bit off for contemporary liberals to adopt a term coined and popularized by 19th century Southern whites bitter about the end of slavery.  I’ll climb out on that limb (see below).  I’d say the South could’ve used more carpetbaggers.  However, I don’t expect anyone to stop using the term in this fashion–the allure of reductive name calling being what it is.

A cartoon threatening that the KKK would lynch carpetbaggers, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Independent Monitor, 1868.

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

Update: For further historical context, go here.

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About the Author

Derek Bridges

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

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