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