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FW: H-South Review: Fitzgerald Responds to Dee's Review [_Uban Em ancipation]

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  • A.J. Wright
    More fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: H-NET List for Southern History [mailto:H-SOUTH@H-NET.MSU.EDU]On Behalf Of Ian Binnington, H-South Sent:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2004
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: H-NET List for Southern History [mailto:H-SOUTH@...]On
      Behalf Of Ian Binnington, H-South
      Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 7:18 AM
      To: H-SOUTH@...
      Subject: H-South Review: Fitzgerald Responds to Dee's Review

      Michael Fitzgerald's response to Christine Dee's Review of _Urban

      Faced with so appreciative an evaluation of _Urban Emancipation_, one might
      simply thank the kind reviewer and leave it at that. But a few of the
      points raised deserve comment, and it is difficult for an author to let such
      an opportunity go by.

      I am gratified with Professor Dee's enthusiasm for the second half of the
      book. Even though African Americans were a clear minority of the
      electorate, the evidence of meaningful political participation after
      Redemption is strong. At least in Mobile, the evidence supports Woodward's
      image of a twilight period after Reconstruction in which race relations
      remained somewhat fluid. Insurgent coalitions with black-backing
      recurrently won elections, and the lively electoral competition seems to
      have mitigated racism in the public sphere. African American participation
      did not end in 1877, and the post-Reconstruction thaw in the public climate
      makes the later solidification of Jim Crow doubly tragic.

      The reviewer found this latter portion of the book most interesting.
      Perhaps it is, but readers hopefully will not overlook the Reconstruction
      chapters. I conceptualized the book as an examination of the social origins
      of Republican factionalism. Modern scholars of the era, notably Eric Foner
      and Michael Perman, have commented on the self-destructive infighting that
      characterized Republican rule. State after state witnessed a stereotyped
      struggle between "scalawag" moderates and "carpetbag" Radicals for control
      of the party. Lawrence N. Powell's path-breaking article similarly
      highlighted the "Politics of Livelihood" among the often-impecunious
      leaders. For Powell, Republican factionalism was largely a struggle over
      patronage originating from the top. [1]

      However, if one looks at this issue from the viewpoint of the African
      American community, the situation takes on an added dimension. Ambitious
      black activists often split between rival factions led by white politicians.
      In Mobile, the divisions between moderates and Radicals strikingly followed
      the lines of social division within the black community. The moderate
      faction was led by privileged men, mostly prewar free blacks who had long
      been resident in the city. These activists were predominantly of mixed
      ancestry, most obviously the Afro-Creoles who in the Gulf region constituted
      something of a third racial caste. These leaders cultivated a respectable
      public image, but over time, their preeminence was challenged by an
      alternative leadership, men who were more inclined toward direct action
      tactics. These militants were often recently arrived freedpeople from the
      countryside. They were also less likely to be of racially mixed background.
      In social terms, these leadership issues intersected with the in-migration
      of destitute rural freedpeople, which gave the contest on the streets much
      of its popular energy. The broader implication is that the process of
      emancipation itself propelled the factionalism that bedeviled

      Professor Dee of course is aware of these aspects of the book, but I thought
      these points deserve some emphasis. Professor Dee is doubtless right that
      the book could have used some charts to make the analysis of population
      changes clearer. I'd like to thank her for her thoughtful critique of the
      book and her generous comments.


      [1] Lawrence N. Powell, "The Politics of Livelihood: Carpetbaggers in the
      Deep South," in J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson, eds., _Region,
      Race and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward_, (Oxford and
      New York, 1982), 315-47.

      Michael W. Fitzgerald
      Department of History
      St. Olaf College
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