Black Political Leadership During Reconstruction

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The key to Reconstruction for both blacks and whites was black suffrage. On one hand this vote made possible the elevation of black political leaders to positions of prominence in the reorganization of the South after the Civil War. For southern whites, on the other hand, black participation in the Reconstruction governments discredited the positive accomplishments of those regimes and led to the evolution of a systematized white rejection of the black as a positive force in southern politics. For white contemporaries and subsequent historians, the black political leader became the exemplar of all that was reprehensible about the period. ... continued below

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vii, 364 leaves

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Brock, Euline Williams August 1974.

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  • Brock, Euline Williams

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The key to Reconstruction for both blacks and whites was black suffrage. On one hand this vote made possible the elevation of black political leaders to positions of prominence in the reorganization of the South after the Civil War. For southern whites, on the other hand, black participation in the Reconstruction governments discredited the positive accomplishments of those regimes and led to the evolution of a systematized white rejection of the black as a positive force in southern politics. For white contemporaries and subsequent historians, the black political leader became the exemplar of all that was reprehensible about the period. Stereotyped patterns, developed to eliminate black influence, prevented any examination of the actual role played by these men in the reconstruction process. This study is partially a synthesis of recent scholarly research on specific aspects of the black political role and the careers of individual political leaders. Additional research included examination of a number of manuscript collections in the Library of Congress and the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina, state and federal government documents, and contemporary newspapers. On the basis of all these sources, this study evaluates the nature of black political leadership and its impact on the reconstruction process in all the ten states which were subject to the provisions of congressional reconstruction legislation. The topic is developed chronologically, beginning with the status of blacks at the end of the Civil War and their search for identity as citizens. Black leadership emerged early in the various rallies and black conventions of 1865 and early 1866. With the passage in March 1867 of reconstruction legislation establishing black suffrage as the basis for restoration of the former Confederate states, black leaders played a crucial role in the development of the southern Republican party and the registration of black voters. Black influence reached its apex in the constitutional conventions and the subsequent ratification elections of 1868-1869. Blacks were elected to posts in the new state governments in varying numbers, but with increasing political sophistication began to demand a larger voice in Republican party councils and a larger share of public offices. Their resulting prominence fueled a white determination to eliminate the Republican governments which had allowed elevation of black politicians. This study of state political leadership is not a history of the black in the Republican party, nor is it a history of the black masses in Reconstruction. It does examine the role of black leaders and seeks to determine the nature and degree of their influence. The development of black leadership was one facet of building a southern Republican party, and in the tenuous coalition which made up that party the black inevitably became the weakest link because he was the most vulnerable. This study challenges a number of stereotypes. Southern Reconstruction was not a period of "black rule," as both historians hostile to the black leaders and those sympathetic to them have intimated. Nor was the black politician a passive tool to be manipulated at the will of whites. Strong disagreements among black leaders show the weakness of the traditional monolithic picture of black political action. Black leaders had considerable influence in some states and practically none in others. Total failure of black political leadership would have been welcomed by southern whites, but its successes were intolerable. This study traces the development of a leadership whose successes led to its destruction.

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vii, 364 leaves

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  • August 1974

Start & End Dates

  • 1865 - 1877

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • March 9, 2015, 8:15 a.m.

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  • Feb. 22, 2017, 9:51 a.m.

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Brock, Euline Williams. Black Political Leadership During Reconstruction, dissertation, August 1974; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc500818/: accessed April 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .