Colored Agricultural Wheel

Organized in the mid-1880s shortly after the establishment of the Agricultural Wheel in Tennessee, the Colored Agricultural Wheel supported the same demands for economic and political changes that white Wheelers advocated. Similarly, the Colored Wheel adopted secret passwords and rituals and operated under a hierarchy of officers like that of the white organization. Members of the Colored Wheel published news of local, county, and state wheels in The Weekly Toiler, the official organ of the Tennessee State Wheel. They bought and sold through the Wheel's State Business Agency in Nashville and Memphis.

That the Colored Wheel endured a greater degree of white supervision over their internal affairs than was true for the Colored Farmers' Alliance is perhaps a reflection of the organization's economic weakness; the Colored Wheel had to borrow money from the white organization in order to obtain a charter. John H. McDowell, editor of the Toiler, attended a July 1888 meeting of the Tipton County Colored Wheel and reported favorably on the proceedings, praising the attentiveness of the audience and the enthusiasm for the cause of agrarian reform. That same month, the state conventions of the two organizations met simultaneously at Dunbar Cave near Clarksville. The two Wheels held one joint meeting and exchanged representatives for other sessions. They ended their conventions by reaffirming their commitment to Wheel demands.

The Colored Wheel experienced conflicts with the white Wheel and the Colored Farmers' Alliance. McDowell lambasted James Y. Bernard, the president of the Tipton County Colored Wheel and later state president of the organization, for his insistence on using only African American organizers, apparently to prevent divulging the secret work to whites. When the Colored Alliance moved into West Tennessee, the two organizations battled briefly over members before resolving the conflict. The Colored Wheel and Colored Alliance never achieved the unification of the two organizations that their white counterparts achieved in 1889, and the Colored Wheel faded from view before 1890.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Colored Agricultural Wheel
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 14, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018