Opinion | The Irony in the ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ (2023)



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Opinion | The Irony in the ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ (1)

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

You may have heard about Oliver Anthony, a Virginia-based folk singer who has become a conservative folk hero on account of his populist anthem, “Rich Men North of Richmond.”

But Anthony’s populism is, as Eric Levitz details for New York magazine, decidedly right-wing.

Resentment of inequality and the precariousness of working-class life pervades the rest of the song too. But Anthony persistently channels these resentments away from the bosses and shareholders who profited off his ill-compensated labor and onto targets sanctioned by conservative orthodoxy: tax-hiking politicians, pedophilic cabals, and obese welfare moochers.

I don’t have any particular interest in either Anthony or the song in question (although Levitz’s piece is good and you should read it). But as an almost lifelong Virginian myself, I do think it is interesting that this musical spokesman for conservative populism comes from Farmville, Va. — a town of historical significance in the fight for civil rights — which is a little more than an hour west of Petersburg, once the political home of the “Readjuster” movement of the late 19th century.

One of the most common misconceptions about Jim Crow is that it came directly out of the defeat of Reconstruction. But Jim Crow — a system of white supremacist class rule — wasn’t a response to Reconstruction as much as it was a response to the aftermath of Reconstruction, when biracial coalitions of laboring men and their allies continued to vie for power and influence throughout the states of the former Confederacy.

In Virginia, this took the form of the Readjuster movement, named for its call to partially repudiate, or “readjust,” the state’s debt in order to maintain the social services, and, crucially, the public schools, that conservative elites hoped to dismantle in the name of “economy, retrenchment and self sacrifice.”

(Video) MUST-SEE: “Rich Men North of Richmond” singer SHUTS DOWN Republicans

An independent coalition of (mostly) Black Republicans and white Democrats led by the former Confederate general and railroad magnate William Mahone, the Readjusters governed Virginia from 1879 to 1883, electing most of the state’s legislature as well as a majority of its delegation to Congress. The Readjusters were, the historian Jane Dailey writes in “Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia,” “the most successful interracial political alliance in the postemancipation South.”

A Black-majority party, the Readjusters legitimated and promoted African American citizenship and political power by supporting black suffrage, office-holding, and jury service. To a degree previously unseen in Virginia and unmatched elsewhere in the nineteenth-century South, the Readjusters became an institutional force for the protection and advancement of Black rights and interests.

With their support for policies that favored debtors over creditors and working men over the wealthy, the Readjusters and other similar independent parties represented an effort to find threads of “common interest that emphasized class status and civil rights and downplayed race.”

As fraught and tenuous as it was, the Readjuster movement still represents a moment of possibility in the history of the American South — one that would be eclipsed by a relentless “counterrevolution of property” that, in its success, cemented relations of domination, across lines of race and class, for most of the next century.

Compared with some of the signature moments of Virginia history — whether the settlement of Jamestown or Bacon’s Rebellion or the Battle of Yorktown or the surrender at Appomattox — the rise and fall of the Readjusters is obscure, if not outright unknown to everyone other than those with a serious interest in the American past.

For my part, I can’t help but think there’s something ironic about the fact that, despite sitting close to this history, the latest populist voice to come out of the commonwealth has chosen, in the end, to give comfort to those with the boot on his neck and scorn to those who might try to help lift it.

What I Wrote

My Tuesday column was on the anti-democracy inclinations of the anti-abortion movement.

This is why the war on abortion rights is properly seen as a war on bodily autonomy and why the attacks on reproductive freedom have moved hand in hand with renewed attacks on the gay, queer and transgender community. It’s all part of the same tapestry of reaction. And this reactionary impulse extends to the means of the anti-abortion political project as well as its ends.

(Video) American Rapper FIRST time EVER hearing OLIVER ANTHONY - Rich Men North Of Richmond

My Friday column was on the past and present Rudy Giuliani.

With clear eyes, it is easy to see that the two men are of a type. They share the same demagogic instincts, the same boundless resentment, the same authoritarian manner — it is not for nothing that Giuliani reportedly tried to get the 2001 mayoral election canceled so that he could stay in office beyond the limit on his term — and the same willingness to indulge in racism and use it for their own political purposes.

Elsewhere, I joined my friend Amanda Smith on the Disaster Girls podcast to talk about the 2003 film “The Core.” And on the latest episode of my podcast with John Ganz, we discussed the 1995 crime thriller “Dead Presidents,” directed by the Hughes brothers.

Now Reading

Justin Chang on Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” for the Los Angeles Times. (I don’t normally comment on the material in this section of the newsletter but I think this is the best piece yet on the film.)

Colin Bradley on John Rawls’s critique of capitalism for Aeon.

Jane Hu on “Barbie” for Dissent.

Grace Lavery on women and gender for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

David Scott on C.L.R. James for Boston Review.

Photo of the Week


I was biking around town just to pass the time and I saw this orange couch against a bright green background. I snapped a picture and here is the result. I like it!

Now Eating: Brownies with Rye Flour

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I made with these my five-year-old Friday afternoon — it was a mostly-successful lesson in cracking eggs and learning some addition, subtraction and fractions — and they came out beautifully, as you can see from the picture above. As always with brownies, be sure to use the highest quality chocolate and cocoa powder you can get your hands on — it makes all the difference. Recipe from New York Times Cooking.


  • 11 tablespoons/156 grams unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, more for greasing pan

  • 10 ½ ounces/300 grams bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70 percent cocoa), chopped

  • 1 ½ cups/200 grams whole grain rye flour

  • ½ cup/50 grams unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

  • ½ teaspoon/3 grams baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams fine sea salt

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar

  • 1 cup/200 grams light brown sugar

    (Video) REACTION! -Oliver Anthony - Rich Men North Of Richmond

  • 1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling on top


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Using a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a saucepan containing an inch of simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch the water), melt the butter and chocolate, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula. Let cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together rye flour, cocoa, baking powder and sea salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, granulated and brown sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Beat in flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle lightly with flaky salt and bake until brownies are mostly firm, but with a very slight wobble in the center, about 25 minutes.

Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Eat with ice cream or, as I did, with a nice petite syrah.

Jamelle Bouie became a New York Times Opinion columnist in 2019. Before that he was the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine. He is based in Charlottesville, Va., and Washington. @jbouie



(Video) John Rich Slams Record Labels Trying to Sign Oliver Anthony


What is Rich Men North of Richmond reddit? ›

"Rich Men North of Richmond" is a sudden viral hit by an artist from Virginia named Oliver Anthony. The video is eight days old and currently has 17m views (another 5m streams in Spotify in its first six days). Speaking objectively, the delivery is fiery and unvarnished and Anthony's voice carries a lot of weight.

Why do people like Oliver Anthony? ›

Oliver Anthony's fans say that his lyrics give voice to the feelings of people who often get left out of popular discourse and pop culture. Natalie Weiner points out that every performer, regardless of genre, creates a public persona — and Oliver Anthony is no different.

What rank is Rich Men North of Richmond? ›

Oliver Anthony Music's viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” spends a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart. A week earlier, the song rocketed in on top, making the singer-songwriter the first artist ever to launch atop the survey with no prior chart history in any form.

Where is Oliver Anthony from? ›

The 31-year-old country-folk artist from Farmville, Va., is at home here at the Blue Ridge Rock Festival: strumming on his resonator guitar while his dogs sit onstage, reading scripture from the Gospel of Luke to a rock-and-metal crowd dominated by Slipknot shirts, fishnet tops and plumes of cigarette and marijuana ...

What is considered north side of Richmond? ›

The Northside is an area composed of northern Richmond, Virginia and some parts of Henrico County, Virginia. The area is home to many diverse neighborhoods, especially early streetcar suburbs, including Barton Heights, Bellevue, Ginter Park, Washington Park, Hermitage Road, Highland Park, Sherwood Park, etc.

Who was the North leader at Richmond? ›

The great army's commander, Major General George B. McClellan, "The Young Napoleon," as the newspapers called him, was already the idol of his army and had many admirers among the people of the North and the powerful of Washington.

How many people did Oliver sleep with? ›

Laurel, Sara, Samantha, Isabel, Felicity, Susan, McKenna, Helena, Shado, Adrian's girlfriend (supposedly), and tons of others during his days as a playboy prior to the gambit sinking. So 9 girls on screen, and about 10,000 girls or so off screen.

Was Oliver in love with James? ›

At their closest Oliver was in love with James, not Meredith, and James was the one Oliver wanted to see after leaving prison. At best, Meredith was Oliver's second choice. Oliver deserved better than James, but Meredith deserved better than both Oliver and Richard.

Who does Oliver have a crush on? ›

Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Laurel had romantic feelings for each other in the beginning of Arrow, but at least one of them moved on. A love story between Oliver and Felicity took shape starting in Arrow season 2, culminating in a wedding in season 6.

How old is Oliver Anthony from? ›

A: As of now, Oliver Anthony is 31 years old, born on June 30, 1992.

How old is Oliver from Tiktok? ›

Oliver Moy is 22 years old as of 2023. He was born on March 7, 2001.

How much is Oliver Anthony worth? ›

What's Oliver Anthony's net worth? His estimated net worth ranges between $1 and $2 million.

What is the wealthiest suburb of Richmond VA? ›

1. Wilton. With a median home price of $3,032,823 and a median rent of $1,596, Wilton is the most expensive neighborhood on our list.

What are the gentrifying neighborhoods of Richmond? ›

In Richmond, gentrification has been pretty significant in neighborhoods such as Jackson Ward, Church Hill, and more recently, the city's Northside.

How can i buy rich men north of richmond? ›

Rich Men North of Richmond [Explicit] by Oliver Anthony Music on Amazon Music - Amazon.com.

Is Richmond an affluent area? ›

The Royal Borough of Richmond upon Thames is one of London's most expensive areas, with house prices sitting significantly above the London average.


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