compare and contrast the political and social rights of the group that you have previously selected to examine with those of another disadvantaged group, as of 1924. As a reminder the groups that are examined in this class are:
- African Americans
- Native Americans
For example, if the group you are examining throughout the course is African Americans, you would compare and contrast their experiences regarding social and political rights with that of a different one of these groups, that is women, immigrants, or Native Americans.
attached are the instructions and the two other sources needed
Journal of Urban History 2018, Vol. 44(2) 123 –133
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Special Section Introduction
African American Urban Electoral Politics in the Age of Jim Crow
Lisa G. Materson1 and Joe William Trotter, Jr.2
Abstract This article reviews the literature on black politics in the United States during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It argues that with notable exceptions, the expanding corpus of scholarship on black politics has largely focused on grassroots organizing and social movements, making electoral politics a secondary force in the history of African Americans. This critique of recent scholarship frames and introduces four articles in this special section that carry forward research on urban electoral politics as a central feature of black freedom struggles. By looking at the level of local urban party politics, this new work, this article asserts, challenges familiar narratives about the history of black electoral politics, including the steadfastness of black Republican loyalty before the Depression, the characterization of the black struggle against disfranchisement as a southern story, and the representation of black electoral leadership as middle class.
Keywords party politics, electoral politics, urban politics, disfranchisement, Obama, voting rights, grassroots activism, Republican, Democrat, voting realignment
When we began work on this special section of the Journal of Urban History, Barack Obama was in the midst of his second presidential administration. We viewed the administration of the first U.S. president of African descent as an opportune moment in the nation’s political history to bring together new scholarship on the history of African American urban electoral politics. During President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, leading news outlets like the New York Times ran numerous articles covering black electoral politics, from the Democratic primary battles over black votes to the upsurge in registrants and voters among disaffected black citizens.1 Both the 2008 and 2012 exit polls revealed that the majority of black voters, as well as urban voters, cast their ballots for Obama.2 The overlap between these two groups ensured that there was no doubt that black voters in America’s major cities went to the polls heavily in favor of Obama.
The political landscape has shifted considerably since we embarked on this project. The after- math of Obama’s presidency and the election of Donald J. Trump, however, represent an even more momentous time to address this history of black urban electoral politics during the era of
1University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA 2Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Corresponding Authors: Lisa G. Materson, University of California at Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA. Email: [email protected]
746134 JUHXXX10.1177/0096144217746134Journal of Urban HistoryMaterson and Trotter research-article2018
124 Journal of Urban History 44(2)
Jim Crow white supremacy. Trump built his political career on the “birther” movement question- ing Obama’s U.S. citizenship. In his presidential campaign, Trump harnessed white working- class views that African Americans, undocumented immigrants, and other minorities unfairly benefited from social services funded by their rising taxes.3 His “Make America Great Again” slogan invoked images of Jim Crow-era uncontested white authority. Republican efforts to sup- press the votes of people of color expanded during the 2016 election season. African American voters overwhelmingly rejected Trump’s candidacy, creating, as historian Carol Anderson has described, a “firewall between a democracy continuing to evolve and one threatened by the cor- rosion of a Trump presidency.”4 This special section considers the partisan “firewalls” and rebel- lions of another era when black voters entered the electoral arena to contest the political currency of white supremacy.
Until the onset of the Civil War, most blacks had lived and labored as enslaved people on the plantations and farms of the rural South. Although a half million blacks claimed their free- dom before the Emancipation Proclamation, only five New England states offered black male citizens access to the franchise on the same terms that applied to white male voters.5 Following the Civil War, the enfranchisement of African American men through the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 seemed to signal a new era of black participation in electoral politics as a lever of full citizenship.
The rise of Jim Crow after the end of Reconstruction in 1877 aimed to upend black gains. In the face of legal, institutionalized racism, African American communities across the nation turned inward to develop internal organizations that would serve community needs, from youth and cultural clubs, to old-age homes, to employment training and placement programs. These largely middle-class-run institutions also attempted to impress upon the working poor whom they served “racial uplift” ideology’s code of “modest” behavior as a means of combatting white rac- ist stereotypes.6 Only the modern black freedom movement of the 1940s to the 1960s, with its successful drive for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, brought millions of disfranchised African Americans into the body politic as voters in the formal electoral process. Scholars soon produced a significant body of studies exploring the transformation of black politics during the early to mid-twentieth century. These studies reinforced but also moved well beyond earlier efforts to understand the African American encounter with early twentieth-century Euro-American domi- nated urban political machines.7
But a subsequent corpus of scholarship on black politics has largely focused on grassroots organizing and social movements, making electoral politics a secondary force in the history of the black freedom struggle. A great many studies on the years between Reconstruction and the Great Depression explore the contours of racial uplift and associational life, the black left and labor activism, and black internationalism.8 A larger number of works on grassroots activism in recent years examine the civil rights movement during the post-Depression years, analyzing the roles of women and gender in these movements, the northern and international contexts of this activism, and how black power competed with, intersected, and paralleled the modern civil rights movement.9 While many of these studies discuss the grassroots struggles to end black disfran- chisement and do, indeed, consider electoral politics, with few exceptions, African Americans’ involvement in party politics is not central to the important histories that they tell.10
The history of the battle for voting rights and the history of party politics, however, are two sides of the same coin. Urban community and migration studies produced between the 1960s and 1990s first showcased the richness of Jim Crow-era black electoral politics in cities, North and South.11 Scholars of black women’s history have brought further attention to the electoral arena as an integral part of the black freedom struggle.12 Their work helped correct an imbalance in the history of black politics that favors grassroots activism over electoral politics during the Jim Crow era. The articles in this special section of the Journal of Urban History carry forward the agenda that these scholars first mapped out. Recent shifts in the Black Lives Matter movement
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underscore the significance of addressing party politics, particularly women’s participation. Women activists not only spearheaded the emergence of the movement as a grassroots phenom- enon, they also led its reorientation toward the electoral arena in the months following Donald Trump’s election.13
This special section presents four case studies of African American electoral activism in leading U.S. cities between the 1880s and 1930s: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Electoral politics did not disappear from the urban landscape during what historian Rayford Logan described as the “nadir” of African American political life between the end of Reconstruction and the early twentieth century.14 Alongside the inward turn to commu- nity institutions and “racial uplift,” partisan politics endured. Regardless of whether black urban voters supported Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, they turned to the electoral system during these years as a means of gaining access to government resources and full citizenship rights. At the national level, the story is familiar. Prior to the 1930s, the majority of black voters who were able to cast a ballot in presidential elections did so on behalf of the Republican can- didate. Black Republican voting at the national level was largely the result of the Republican Party’s historical commitment to black rights; it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, antislavery, and the Reconstruction Amendments.15 These national voting patterns, however, mask signifi- cant diversity of partisan expression at the local level in American cities. Local voting patterns frequently paralleled national trends, but not always.
These four articles in this volume by Millington Bergeson-Lockwood, Dennis Doster, Julie Davidow, and Mary-Elizabeth Murphy span the demographic transformation of black America from the 1880s, when a small percentage of African Americans lived in cities, to the 1930s, when African Americans were on the cusp of becoming a majority urban population.16 By looking at the level of local urban party politics, these articles frequently call into question familiar narra- tives about the history of black electoral politics during these years, including the steadfastness of black Republican loyalty before the Depression, the characterization of the black struggle against disfranchisement as a southern story, and the representation of black electoral leadership as middle class.
Republican Loyalty and Political Independence
These articles underscore the growth of black political insurgency within the Republican Party and defections to the Democratic Party well before the realignment of African American voters from the Republican to the Democratic Party during the late 1920s and 1930s. Black Republican loyalty prior to the 1930s was never unbending. Even at the national level, the history of black campaigning was marked by notable defections from the Republican Party. For example, in the 1912 presidential election, some prominent leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois encouraged black voters to favor Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson.17 In the early 1920s, prominent literary figure Alice Dunbar-Nelson, a former Republican stalwart, insisted that African American women use their voting rights, newly acquired through the Nineteenth Amendment, to lead African Americans out of the Republican Party and into the Democratic Party.18
We still do not know a great deal about this early history of defection from the Republican Party. By focusing on the local level of urban politics, Millington Bergeson-Lockwood’s and Dennis Doster’s articles not only complicate the traditional periodization of black abandonment of the Republican Party, pushing it back by a decade or more, but also offer important insights into the history of black independent politics. In city after city, the rejection of the Republican Party was connected to independent candidates and politics.
Black independent politics, however, took several forms. In some cases, black independent poli- tics during this era is best characterized as nonalignment with any party. In others, independence entailed insurgency within the Republican Party through the support of breakaway independent
126 Journal of Urban History 44(2)
candidates who were not endorsed by the regular party machinery. Bergeson-Lockwood’s and Doster’s articles highlight these two manifestations of independent politics. Still another type of independent politics to which some black voters turned, though not discussed in these contribu- tions, involved support for a third party. These differences in how African American voters engaged in independent politics are important not only because they demonstrate the diversity of black political expression, but also because they reveal the range of strategies that African Americans employed during the “nadir” to make the party system a responsive site for expressing citizenship rights and battling institutionalized racism. The strategy of the nonaligned independent was not the same as the independent Republican.
Bergeson-Lockwood documents the division of black male voters in Boston during the 1883 gubernatorial campaign between those who demanded Republican Party loyalty and a sizable and vocal group of black male leaders who insisted that black men in Boston should demonstrate their political independence by casting their ballot with the incumbent Democratic governor and former union general Benjamin Butler. A model of nonalignment politics, black supporters of Benjamin Butler’s gubernatorial candidacy in 1883 neither identified as Democrats nor advocated black allegiance to the Democratic Party beyond that specific elec- tion. They urged black male voters to act as independents at both the local and national levels by casting their ballots according to men and measures rather than parties, in the hopes that their defection from the Republican Party might push either major party to increase its com- mitment to black rights.
In his contribution, Doster points to a different model of black rebellion against the Republican Party—independents who remained identified as Republicans, but who ran campaigns without the support of the state’s regular Republican Party. Although Baltimore claimed a long history of black independent organizing, stretching back to the 1880s and 1890s with groups such as the Colored Republican Central Club and the Colored Citizens Committee of One Hundred, inde- pendence did not immediately translate into abandonment of Republican for Democratic candi- dates, as was the case in Boston. In the South, the Democratic Party’s strong Klan affiliation, mobilization for black disfranchisement, and use of extralegal violence against black voters dis- couraged black defection to the Democratic Party as a means of expressing disappointment with white Republicans. Rather, beginning in the 1880s, black Baltimoreans regularly opposed white Republicans running for municipal offices by backing their own independent candidates.
The strength of this black independent movement in Baltimore was on full display in 1920. Black Baltimoreans had helped to put the “regular” white Republican candidate for mayor into office in 1919 with the belief that as mayor, their candidate would use his office to appoint African Americans to the school board. When the mayor did not, a significant group of black Republicans not only criticized the mayor, but also rejected other local Republican Party candi- dates, starting with the party’s candidate for U.S. senator. They campaigned to put black, inde- pendent candidate William Ashbie Hawkins into the U.S. Senate. Although unsuccessful, black independent support for Hawkins’s candidacy strengthened the momentum of this independent revolt among Baltimore’s black voters, propelling it into the 1920s.
In their analyses of black insurgency within and against local Republican machinery, Bergeson-Lockwood’s and Doster’s articles also implicitly acknowledge the material benefits that black voters, like poor and working-class white voters, hoped to receive from expanding urban political machines, and, thus, counter the notion that black politics in the age of Jim Crow produced what later analysts would describe as a “hollow prize.”19 In Boston, black rejection of the Republican machine produced tangible results in the appointment of Massachusetts’s first black judge, George Ruffin. Furthermore, Doster’s case study of Baltimore shows that when politicians failed to recognize black support with concrete rewards in the form of local appoint- ments and jobs, black urban populations were willing to vote in open rebellion against regular Republican machines.
Materson and Trotter 127
While studies of white efforts to suppress the vote during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have usually focused on the urban and rural South, all of these articles acknowledge patterns of racially motivated disfranchisement as national phenomena.20 Julie Davidow moves this process to the core of her analysis, not only by shifting focus from the history of southern disfranchisement to the less well-studied history of black disfranchisement in the North, but also by exploring the links between different regional movements to eliminate the black vote.
Davidow shows that during the 1890s and early 1900s, white reformers in Philadelphia forged ties with white Southerners to establish arguments for black disfranchisement that often mirrored those made by southern white supremacists. Like white Southerners, white city reformers— many with Republican ties—used accusations of black Republican corruption to call for remov- ing black Philadelphians from the voter lists. Both northern white reformers and southern white Democrats coalesced around the notion of Republican Party corruption to make claims that African Americans were unfit to participate in the electorate. These sentiments, she also shows, were closely intertwined with assaults on the political rights of poor, working-class, and immi- grant whites.
Attacks on black men’s voting rights in Philadelphia met with a swift response from leading black Philadelphians, who raised the alarm about what they identified as creeping southern white supremacy in their city. Notably, though denied the right to vote because of her sex, black woman reformer Gertrude Mossell was one of the most trenchant voices in Philadelphia during these years, simultaneously cautioning black men against the misuse of their ballot, and raising the alarm about white reformers’ efforts to deny black men the ballot with charges of misconduct. As Mossell’s simultaneous critique of black male voters and strong rejection of the racism of white reformers suggests, the gender, class, and race politics surrounding these debates over black electoral participation were complex. W. E. B. Du Bois’s public ambivalence about black alle- giance to the Republican Party, as well as the frequent visits of Booker T. Washington, the era’s leading voice of black accommodation, to the city further complicated these debates, no doubt strengthening the hand of white reformers’ claims against African American voters to some extent, however unintentionally.
Gender- and Class-Inflected Electoral Activism
Women’s voices, especially among the working poor, are some of the most difficult to recover in the history of black electoral politics. This special section makes important headway here. The Fifteenth Amendment extended the vote to black men but not to black or white women. Although some states partially or fully enfranchised women residents by the 1890s, the vast majority of U.S. women citizens remained disfranchised until 1920, with the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment.21 Even then, Jim Crow legislation blocked voting rights for southern black women.22
Scholarship on African American women’s intersectional experiences with sex-based and race- based disfranchisement makes clear that gaining the vote was part of a much broader struggle for black equality that extended into the electoral arena. As Rosalyn Terborg-Penn has demonstrated, black women entered the battle for women’s suffrage, despite white suffragists’ racism, because they saw the vote as a mechanism for improving their lives and the lives of their communities.23 In her influential 1994 and 1997 articles, Elsa Barkley Brown turned attention to black women’s electoral work without the vote. She revealed that African American women in the Reconstruction South were heavily involved in Republican Party politics in their communities. Women attended party rallies, protected male relatives and neighbors from white violence at the polls, and demanded that enfranchised men use their individual ballots in the best interest of the entire community.24 Exploring how African American women participated in the party system with the franchise, other
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historians demonstrated that with voting rights—including partial voting rights prior to the Nineteenth Amendment—they engaged in a wide range of electoral campaigns at the local and national levels to forward antiracist agendas. In these studies, Chicago and New York have received the greatest attention.25
This special section carries forward the momentum of this scholarship to show that women vigorously defended black voting rights and pushed for greater tangible returns for black votes in multiple American cities—from Gertrude Mossell who condemned white disfranchising rhetoric in Philadelphia in 1900, to African American women in 1920s Baltimore who created their own independent organizations, to the Democratic campaign work of Elizabeth Hall McDuffie in the 1930s. As Mary-Elizabeth Murphy documents in her contribution, McDuffie, a White House domestic, Democratic campaigner for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and leader of the United Government Employees Union, Incorporated (UGE), harnessed these roles to push the federal government to recognize basic economic citizenship rights. Her demands for fair wages for domestic workers and black inclusion in New Deal programs demonstrate the class components of black women’s political activism.
McDuffie personally bridged the predominantly middle-class world of prominent black women campaigners, and the working-class world of the women domestics whom she repre- sented in the UGE. In her analysis of McDuffie as a link among multiple political spaces that were typically separated by race and class, Murphy offers a window into the electoral politics of working-class women domestics. She leaves no doubt that the personal testimony of black Democrats during the 1930s contributed to the voting realignment. Murphy shows that McDuffie was a particularly compelling voice precisely because as a domestic in the White House, McDuffie was a mirror to the working-class constituency she frequently addressed when can- vassing. McDuffie’s commitment to the Democratic Party, however, was not uncritical. Although she vigorously campaigned for Roosevelt in 1936, praising the benefits of the New Deal for African Americans, she also turned to political spaces outside of the electoral arena to protest New Deal programs that excluded domestic workers.
By pointing to the tenuous nature of black support for the Democratic Party in the years between Roosevelt’s 1932 election and his 1936 reelection, Mary-Elizabeth Murphy reminds us that black support for the Republican Party endured deep into the 1930s. Murphy’s attention to the late 1930s and 1940s points to the chronological possibilities for future research. While reaching back into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in mapping out the history of urban electoral politics, historians will no doubt also find the post-Depression period fruitful for researching the role of local urban party politics in conservative and liberal traditions in the age of Jim Crow. Leah Wright Rigueur’s 2015 study The Loneliness of the Black Republican filled a critical void here by charting African American engagement with the Republican Party from the voting realignment of the 1930s to the rise of Ronald Reagan. With its focus on national figures, there is still more work to be done on the history of black Republican politics after the realign- ment at the local level.26 Turning to the liberal tradition, if voting rights and party politics are two sides of the same coin, it makes sense also to extend the significant attention that historians have paid the grassroots battles for black voting rights in the post-Depression years to the realm of party politics. This would mean expanding research on, for instance, local black involvement in party politics in southern cities in the years immediately following the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.27
There is still much new ground to break in both the pre- and post-Depression years, in terms of investigating previously neglected cities and exploring the archival collections of women and black working-class organizations with questions about political parties in mind. Scholars should
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also return to sources and cities previously examined in community studies produced between the 1960s and 1990s with historical tools developed in recent decades, such as gender and cul- tural studies analysis.
Using these historical tools will entail not only further work on women’s political activism, but also critical analyses of the relationship between partisan politics and the historical con- struction of gendered identities and rhetorics among African American communities. We already know, for example, that during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, middle-class African American women employed tropes of black men misusing the ballot to justify their own political leadership and make claims about both partisan loyalty and independence.28 How did this trope of black male political participation transform later in the twentieth century? What other tropes about black manhood populated the economy of partisan rhetoric? How did they manifest in diverse urban settings and among political actors who divided along the lines of party, class, and/or gender? Answering such questions by applying cultural and gender history’s insights on the construction of manhood and masculinity to the partisan history of black urban communities will reveal how gendered rhetoric has shaped voter participation and mobilization and vice versa.
These exciting new paths for future research on black urban electoral politics during the Jim Crow era overlap thematically and analytically with other rich sites of inquiry. These include further work on radical traditions and party politics, northern battles over black disfranchisement, black independent and third-party politics, and multiple biographies of key figures in urban poli- tics. Equally and perhaps most important, this volume suggests possibilities for fresh new research on the connection between party politics and the ongoing African American quest for economic citizenship.
With this new research at hand, historians will be in a position to write new synthetic histories of black urban electoral politics. Such a project is not merely academic. The ties between party politics and voting rights endure. Felon disfranchisement, part of the race-based mass incarcera- tion sanctions that Michelle Alexander powerfully analyzes as the “New Jim Crow,” has shaped the outcome of several close elections since the 1980s.29 The 2013 Shelby vs. Holder Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional a key protection against state disfranchising mea- sures in the 1965 Voting Rights Act enabled the suppression of the votes from people of color that plagued the 2016 election.30 Extending scholars’ attention toward African Americans’ campaigns to obtain voting rights to the closely linked history of their involvement in party politics is, thus, part of a larger project in U.S. history of understanding the connections between partisan culture and practices, on one hand, and the ongoing expansion and contraction of the polity, on the other.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or pub- lication of this article.
The authors received no financial support f