Explain the difference between the terms carpetbagger and scalawag.

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Both of these two terms refer to white people who were connected to the Reconstruction governments in the South after the Civil War.  The difference between the two is that the “carpetbaggers” were people who came from the North to work with the governments while “scalawags” were native Southerners.

Both of these terms are pejorative terms that come to us from a time when Reconstruction governments were seen in a very bad light.   Historians once argued that these governments were dominated by African Americans who were unready for the task of governing (this was known as Negro rule) and by greedy whites.  The carpetbaggers and scalawags were said to have joined the Reconstruction governments largely so that they could use their positions to get rich in corrupt ways.

Today, historians have largely gone away from these perceptions of Reconstruction, but the terms are still remembered and used to some degree. 

We’ve answered 318,957 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question