Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Beth Schweiger

Committee Member

Michael Pierce

Second Committee Member

Calvin White

Third Committee Member

Patrick Williams


Philosophy, religion and theology, Social sciences, African-American organizations, Afrocentrism, Civic discourse, Fraternal organizations, Racial identity


Drawing on ritual books, organizational records, newspaper accounts, and the data available from cemetery headstones and census records, this work argues that adult fraternal organizations were key to the formation of civic discourse in the United States from the years following the Civil War to World War I. It particularly analyzes the role of working-class white and African-American organizations in framing racial identity, arguing that white organizations gave up older, comprehensive ideas of citizenship for understandings of Americanism rooted in racism and nativism. Counterbalancing this development, now-forgotten African-American fraternal organizations were among the earliest advocates of Afrocentrism. These organizations, form a bridge of continuous intellectual and cultural development between the post-Civil War clashes of the first Ku Klux Klan and the African-American Union League and the World War I era emergence of the second Klan and Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. While white organizations clung to a cultural and political vision rooted in the traditional, patriarchal family, African-American organizations showed a breadth of responses to modernity, including creating organizations that breeched the gendered public and domestic spheres and allowed women to exercise significant leadership in partnership with male co-fraternalists.