Louis Pios American Dream: Transplanting Socialism in the face of White Supremacy, 1875-1895

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Anders Bo Rasmussen


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 732,000




Monograph Fellowships


Between 1872 and 1894, Danish-born labor leader Louis Pio was in the midst of the world's most important class-based conflicts (e.g. the 1886 Haymarket Affair which led to the 1st of May International Workers' Day) and organized a Scandinavian Knights of Labor chapter in Chicago to bridge traditional class, race, and gender divides. Yet, by the 1890s the Knights of Labor had all but vanished and labor leaders such as Pio were increasingly engaged in exclusionary racial practices in America. "Transplanting Socialism" examines this shift based on a hypothesis that Danish socialists like Pio arrived in the United States convinced that international solidarity held the key to remaking the world, but found themselves shackled to - and ultimately remade by - American ideas of white supremacy.


Little is known of Louis Pio's attempt to transplant socialist ideas to America, despite archivist Børge Schmidt's 1950 call for such a study to shed light on "the Danish labor movement's earlier history." Nor has Pio's potential been recognized as a key to a century-old scholarly mystery: Why is there no socialism in the United States.


Building on rich newspaper and manuscript archives across America (e.g. Wisconsin Historical Society, Illinois Historical Society, and Harvard University), this project uncovers letters, pamphlets, newspaper articles, memoirs, diaries and travel accounts to examine previously unexplored Danish-American debates over the ideology of transplanted socialism.

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