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Radical Reform

Radical Reform: Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Radical Reform
    Book Description:

    Radical Reformdescribes a remarkable chapter in the American pro-democracy movement. It portrays the largely unknown leaders of the interracial Republican Party who struggled for political, civil, and labor rights in North Carolina after the Civil War. In so doing, they paved the way for the victorious coalition that briefly toppled the white supremacist Democratic Party regime in the 1890s.

    Beckel provides a nuanced assessment of the distinctive coalitions built by black and white Republicans, as they sought to outmaneuver the Democratic Party. She demonstrates how the dynamic political conditions in the state from 1850 to 1900 led reformers of both races to force their traditional society toward a more radical agenda. By examining the evolution of anti-elitist politics and organized labor in North Carolina, Beckel brings a new understanding to party factionalism of the 1870s and 1880s. As racial conditions deteriorated across America in the 1890s, North Carolina Republicans forged a fragile coalition with Populists. While this interracial pro-democracy movement proved triumphant by 1894, it carried the seeds of its ultimate destruction.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3052-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the fall of 1954 C. Vann Woodward delivered three lectures at a conservative Southern institution, the University of Virginia (UVA). He insisted that the audience at Maury Hall be racially integrated, which was at that time nothing short of revolutionary. Woodward had contributed an essay to support the legal brief prepared by Thurgood Marshall and his National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legal team for theBrown v. Board of Education of Topekacase, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that May. In the Court’s decision Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that racial segregation in public...

  5. ONE Rebellious Southerners
    (pp. 17-35)

    Unique among Southern states, North Carolinians carried on contentious two-party politics from the development of the new party system in the early 1830s through the Civil War. The state Whig and Democratic parties competed fiercely from the mid-1830s until the mid-1850s. These political contests were driven by local issues, economic conditions, and geographical divisions in the state. Long-standing conflicts based on geography, economic class, and racial demography led politicians to articulate cross-class reforms that would expand representative democracy and empower white men. By 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court’sDred Scottdecision validated white Southerners’ conviction that African Americans possessed no...

  6. TWO Becoming Republicans
    (pp. 36-53)

    Post-emancipation African Americans carried intensely mixed memories of North Carolina history. In pursuit of freedom and independence, black men had served on both sides of the Revolutionary War. As ministers and teachers, North Carolina blacks had attained public influence until white lawmakers suppressed these professions in the early 1830s. While most blacks had been slaves, some antebellum African Americans had gained their freedom. Free black men had been allowed to vote before 1835. A very few free blacks had amassed considerable property, including slaves. But freedom itself had not insured rights or even survival. Both slaves and free blacks suffered...

  7. THREE Reconstruction and Home Rule
    (pp. 54-74)

    When William Holden and James Harris helped found the interracial Republican Party in 1867, they vowed to uphold Congressional Reconstruction. Forming the state Conservative Party that same year, William Graham, Zeb Vance, and Jonathan Worth felt that the radical Reconstruction measures were unconstitutional. They believed that the U.S. government had no legal authority to intervene so blatantly in state affairs, as proposed by Congress’s Civil Rights Act and the still un-ratified Fourteenth Amendment. North Carolina’s political leaders held opposing views on the right of the federal government to enforce male democracy in the former Confederate states. This underscores the importance...

  8. FOUR Battling over the Public Good
    (pp. 75-93)

    Memories of wartime violence against Unionists had been reinforced by postwar traumas of ostracism, humiliation, torture, and murder of Republican families. Prominent leaders feared being run out of the state or killed. Rank-and-file Republicans often had to choose between survival and voting. Against this violent, racist background, Republicans seemed to manifest contradictory behavior. Many white Republicans espoused conservative ideas about race relations, while they continued to defend male political equality. At the same time, black Republicans disagreed among themselves about how they should respond to white supremacists in and outside their party.

    In the early 1870s debates between Republicans and...

  9. FIVE The Quest for Common Ground
    (pp. 94-112)

    Republican President Ulysses S. Grant had won the Civil War for the Union, but had been unwilling to deploy enough troops after the war to protect Southern Republicans. By 1876–77 the Southern freedpeople and pro-democracy movements no longer captivated the U.S. government. Radical Republicans no longer led a Republican-dominated Congress. Many white Americans thought that the national government should not enforce civil rights over the objection of state governments. With the victory of Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877, the last of the federal soldiers were withdrawn from the former Confederacy. Through his “let alone” compromise, the...

  10. SIX Workers and Farmers Organize
    (pp. 113-134)

    Democratic Party leaders faced new threats to their control of North Carolina, as labor reformers organized the biracial Knights of Labor by the mid-1880s. Against the background of a white supremacist and economically polarized society, the biracial Knights of Labor sought to ameliorate racial relations and economic conditions. In joining the Knights of Labor many workers and farmers were determined to improve the deteriorating economic situation by engaging in buying and selling cooperatives and political action. Led by white union printers and experienced black labor organizers, the state Knights of Labor nurtured Republican and Independent labor activists. Through organization and...

  11. SEVEN Southern Democracy
    (pp. 135-154)

    In December 1889 the Southern Farmers’ Alliance and the national Knights of Labor joined forces to form a massive confederation of American reform organizations representing millions of people. Alliancemen and Knights agreed to cooperate politically at the national and state levels to facilitate the passage of laws to benefit farmers and workers across the nation. North Carolina Knights and Alliancemen felt that this agreement compelled them to take joint political action. They planned to endorse candidates who would further their goals and to build political coalitions that would prevail against the old-guard obstructionists in both the Democratic and the Republican...

  12. EIGHT The Rise of Populism
    (pp. 155-177)

    By the fall of 1890 white Republican spokesman J. C. L. Harris anticipated the disintegration of the North Carolina Democratic Party. The party’s old-guard political bosses were furious at L. L. Polk, who had urged Alliance Democrats to scrutinize their party’s leaders to determine what they were doing to help farm families. Alliancemen had taken an “oath,” Harris explained, to insure that lawmakers enact legislation that benefited farmers, including laws that would make credit easier to obtain and reduce the exorbitant rates for railroad shipments.¹ But Harris was prematurely optimistic.

    Suffering from a reduced voter base due to the...

  13. NINE Race and Home Rule
    (pp. 178-204)

    While they were divided on many issues, North Carolina fusionists (including Republicans, Populists, and Prohibitionists) agreed that a free male vote and a fair count of votes must prevail. They had repudiated the Democratic Party’s electoral fraud, as embodied by Democratic leader Furnifold Simmons. Fusion lawmakers passed legislation that expanded voting rights for men of both races and reestablished the popular election of local officials (local home rule).

    In the mid-1890s political loyalties became increasingly issue-based instead of party-based. As a zealous pro-silver Republican and advocate of corporate regulation, Daniel L. Russell Jr. had more in common with Populist leader...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 205-212)

    The pro-democracy movement in North Carolina was fiercely contested and unpredictable. During the Revolutionary War era North Carolinians experienced increasing political tensions based on geography, as settlers populated the western areas of the state, while the eastern gentry dominated the state government and the appointment of local officials. The apportionment for representation in the General Assembly favored the slaveholding east. Substantial landholders had the most extensive voting and office-holding rights. From the 1780s until the 1830s, westerners demanded that the 1776 state constitution be revised to make representation more equitable. They sought to expand voting and office-holding rights for non-elite...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 213-260)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-284)
  17. Index
    (pp. 285-298)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)