Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-xii

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Introduction: The Folly of Political Solidarity

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pp. 1-10

On January 16, 1901, an interracial crowd of more than 1,500 men and women packed the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Boston’s West End to capacity. They were there to mourn the loss of Edwin Garrison Walker, one of the city’s most notable black activists. A black Civil War veterans association escorted his body in procession to the church, and some of Boston’s other prominent black leaders were among his pallbearers. “Walker was a fearless advocate for his race,” one eulogy read, “he was proud of the fact that he was a colored man and as such sought the highest ideals in life.”1...

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Part I: All Outside Is the Sea

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pp. 11-12

In 1872, Frederick Douglass addressed a national convention of African Americans in New Orleans and described black voters’ relationship to the two major political parties. To Douglass, the choice was clear. “For colored men,” the world-famous activist and orator explained, “the Republican Party is the deck.” All other parties, the Democratic especially, “[are] the sea.”1 The reputation of the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, and the architects of Reconstruction, contrasted starkly with that of the Democratic Party, with its sympathy for slavery, secession, and a...

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Chapter One. An Atmosphere More Liberal, Although by No Means Unbiased: Black Boston in the Late Nineteenth Century

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pp. 13-21

In December 1901, the New York Times published a series of studies of northern urban black communities written by renowned sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois. The fourth in the series described African Americans in Boston. Du Bois celebrated the history of black Bostonians and gave a tempered, yet optimistic account of racial advancement in the city. “In Boston,” he wrote, “the atmosphere has been more liberal, although by no means unbiased....On the whole, Boston negroes are more hopeful than those in New York and Philadelphia.”1 The limited successes and continued struggles, combined...

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Chapter Two. No Peace until the Suffrage Question Is Settled: Black Politics in the Age of Reconstruction

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pp. 22-37

On December 1, 1865, prominent African Americans from throughout New England joined Frederick Douglass in the Twelfth Baptist Church on Phillips Street in Boston’s West End “for the purpose of taking action on matters concerning the colored man and his status in the United States.”1 The attendees made clear that they saw their political destiny as connected to the state of African Americans across the nation. George T. Downing from Rhode Island declared, “The colored people of the North could not be secure in the partial rights which they now possess, so long as the colored people of the South were...

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Chapter Three. Vote, That the Work Might Be Finished: Black Electoral Politics and the Presidential Election of 1872

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pp. 38-52

While African Americans celebrated the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment, they viewed it as just another step on a longer journey toward full and meaningful citizenship. Progress was slow, but black activists had faith that through diligent organizing and hard work through the Republican Party, they could prevent backsliding and assure further advancement. As the first presidential election after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment approached, most black activists remained loyal Republicans and dedicated their service to electoral victory. “Vote,” George Ruffin told a Boston convention crowd in...

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Part II: No Longer Pliant Tools

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pp. 53-54

On August 18, 1882, an editorial in the Boston Daily Globe declared that “the negro is the most pliant tool in the hands of the Republican Party. Ignorant and superstitious, a few paid leaders guide the flock with the ease that a shepherd dog guides a flock of sheep.”1 The statement provoked an immediate outcry from segments of Boston’s African American community.2 Howard L. Smith, black Bostonian and advocate for independent politics, countered the Globe’s “gross misrepresentation of our status” in a letter to the editor published two days later. Countering allegations of blind party loyalty and political...

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Chapter Four. You Will Find the Colored Voters on the Butler Ship This Fall: Urban Politics and Conflicts over African American Partisanship

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pp. 55-85

In late September 1879, a Boston Daily Globe reporter interviewed black activist John Ruffin about the political sentiment of African American voters in the West End in the final weeks of the gubernatorial campaign. Ruffin praised the political judgment of African Americans, who, he suggested, had great instincts when it came to choosing the best candidates. “[African American voters] have the welfare of the state and the nation at heart,” Ruffin explained, “and if any white man is in doubt...let him watch the black man and he will not go astray.”1 With this judgment, Ruffin told the reporters that black voters in the...

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Chapter Five. A Recognized and Respected Part of the Body Politic: Grover Cleveland and Pursuit of Patronage

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pp. 86-108

In February  1886, members of the Sumner National Independent League (SNIL) gathered at 27 Cornhill Street, the former headquarters of the antislavery newspaper the Liberator, to declare their support for the administration of President Grover Cleveland. At the conclusion of the meeting, the attendees, led by league president Edwin Garrison Walker, penned a letter to the Democratic president. The letter, “respectful, and at the same time, manly and dignified,” explained why this group of black Bostonians supported the president and requested that they be rewarded for their dedication.1 Their...

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Chapter Six. For Ireland’s Cause: Black and Irish Political Coalition Building

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pp. 109-132

On the bright but chilly morning of November 14, 1888, a grand procession moved toward the Boston Common.1 African American Civil War veterans and an armed drill squad in full uniform led the parade.2 In addition to the soldiers, the display also included prominent leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties and from Boston’s Irish and African American leadership. In particular, Boston’s first Irish-born mayor Hugh O’Brien joined the participants.

Along the edge of the Common, the crowd stopped in front of a veiled...

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Part III: To the Negro Alone Politics Shall Bring No Fruit

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pp. 133-134

In fall 1900, the Boston-based Colored Cooperative Company published a new novel, Contending Forces, by black author and playwright Pauline Hopkins. In her fictional account of African American life in Boston, she described the debates over partisanship she saw firsthand as a participant in the city’s black political life. She was critical of black allegiance to party, and through her characters she celebrated those who placed the interests of African Americans over partisanship. Through William Smith, who emerges as one of the novel’s chief protagonists, Hopkins makes clear her disillusionment...

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Chapter Seven. Let Us Grow Strong by Organization and Earnest Cooperation: Antilynching and Independent Politics in an Era of Mass Organizing

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pp. 135-157

The same year black Bostonians called for a monument to the fallen heroes of American independence, they gathered to organize the next fight in their current struggle for liberty. In 1887, they formed the Colored National League, forged in the crucible of independent politics, with a mission of advocating black rights and racial equality across the nation. The new organization was a primary channel for black independent politics during the final decade of the nineteenth century as activists turned from mainstream electoral campaigning and political appointment seeking to confront directly the rising tide of...

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Chapter Eight. Where There Is No Will There Is No Way: The Tragedy of Partisan Politics and the Hope of Solidarity

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pp. 158-177

On October 3, 1899, Boston attorney and former Hub editor Archibald H. Grimké, who had recently returned from his position as U.S. consul in Santo Domingo, addressed the Colored National League. Grimké read aloud a letter to the president of the United States William McKinley, written at the insistence of the executive committee of the league. “We address ourselves to you, sir,” Grimké wrote, “not as supplicants, but as of right, as American citizens, whose servant you are, and to whom you are bound to listen...and upon occasion to act.”1 This “Open Letter to President McKinley by the...

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Conclusion: The Exploits and Sacrifices for the Education and Advancement of Ages Yet Unborn

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pp. 178-181

In 1901, Boston’s Colored American Magazine published an article by Pauline Hopkins about the life of Edwin Garrison Walker. As part of her Famous Men of the Negro Race series, Hopkins acknowledged Walker as among the most influential forces in African American history and politics. “The exploits, the sacrifices of these men,” Hopkins wrote, “were performed for the education and advancement of ages yet unborn, as well as for the present generation.”1 In particular, she celebrated Walker’s refusal to give his loyalty to either of the major political parties, though it cost him personally. “Lawyer Walker could...

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Epilogue: The Boston Riot and the Legacy of Independent Politics

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pp. 182-186

In 1902, William Monroe Trotter, the son of influential Boston independent James Trotter, writing in the pages of his newspaper the Guardian, celebrated the final placement of a new headstone for Edwin Walker. A newly christened organization, the Edwin G. Walker Tabernacle of the Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity, donated the new three-foot-tall monument of granite and Italian marble to mark his grave site in Cambridge’s famous Woodlawn Cemetery.1 Trotter himself honored his father’s and Walker’s lives and legacy by taking up the cause of black freedom and becoming one of its most...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 187-190

Writing this book has been a long journey, and its pages have been a constant companion during my travels across land and sea. From Boston, Massachusetts, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Lilongwe, Malawi, this book reflects and embodies stories not only of the past, which is its focus, but also of the places and people around whom it was written. The completion of this project would not have been possible if it were not for the inspiration, encouragement, and support of so many friends, family, and colleagues.

My knowledge of the past and of the African American freedom struggle was shaped...

Notes

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pp. 191-218

Bibliography

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pp. 219-242

Index

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pp. 243-250