Despite the prevailing national discourse that implicates race as an outdated phenomenon, ongoing social science data identifies race as very predictive in determining life outcomes. Over the last 40 years the emergence of “whiteness studies” has sought to redefine racism from individual actions of bigoted persons to institutional systems of privilege and disadvantage. While there have been a number of studies detailing the failures of reconstruction to embrace an equal citizenry fully, and also a number of studies detailing the eventual assimilation of European immigrants, few studies have sought to connect both into one simultaneous entity. Using historiography and historical comparison methodologies, this research examines primary and secondary data sources in order to illustrate how racism, factionalism, and violence doomed radical reconstruction and cemented white hegemony into American culture through its various institutions. It also examines the bloody decades following reconstruction and the early 20th century transformation of the category “white” from an ethnicity to a race, thus creating the badge of whiteness and securing its privileges for generations to come.