We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

In the Balance of Power

Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States

Omar H. Ali

Publication Year: 2008

With the presidential election looming, the “black vote” has been deemed a crucial portion of the electorate. Historically, most black voters have aligned themselves with one of the two major parties—the Republican Party from the time of the Civil War to the New Deal; and, since the New Deal, and especially since the height of the modern civil rights movement, the Democratic Party.

However, as In the Balance of Power convincingly demonstrates, African Americans have long been part of independent political movements and have used third parties to advance some of the most important changes in the United States, notably the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, and the advancement of civil rights.

Since the early nineteenth century, there has been an undercurrent of political independence among African Americans. They helped develop the Liberty Party in the 1840s, and have continued to work with third parties to challenge the policies of the two major parties. But despite the legal gains of the modern civil rights movement, elements of Jim Crow remain deeply embedded in our electoral process.

In the Balance of Power presents a history and analysis of African American third-party movements that can help us better understand the growing diversity among black voters today.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (165.3 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (110.7 KB)
pp. ix-xii

Although Americans habitually refer to our political structure as a two-party system, third parties and other independent political movements have been a persistent feature of our history. From the Workingmen’s parties of the late 1820s to the recent presidential candidacies of John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992), and Ralph Nader (2000 and 2004), some Americans have always ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (176.7 KB)
pp. 1-8

African Americans have inserted themselves into the balance of power at various points in the history of the United States by building third parties and independent political movements. In doing so, they have helped advance some of the most basic yet farthest-reaching changes in the republic: the abolition of slavery, the expansion of the right to vote, and the enforcement ...

read more

one. Declarations of Independence

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.0 KB)
pp. 9-26

It is an image that goes to the heart of why African Americans have had to declare their own independence: Philadelphia, June 12, 1776. A rebellion has erupted in the British Empire’s Atlantic Seaboard colonies of North America.Thomas Jefferson, a representative in Virginia’s House of Burgesses (founded in the same year that the first group of Africans was brought to the colony of ...

read more

two. Abolitionism, the Liberty Party, and Free Soil

pdf iconDownload PDF (240.9 KB)
pp. 27-53

Black leaders in the late 1830s and early 1840s were deeply divided over which tactics to pursue in abolishing slavery, political engagement being only one possible course of action. While some, such as Henry Highland Garnet, would pursue multiple paths—using moral suasion, building an anti slavery party, and calling for armed insurrection—others remained firmly ...

read more

three. Republicans, Reconstruction, and Fusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (219.6 KB)
pp. 54-73

With the election of 1856, the Republican Party became the second-largest party in the nation. Although the Democratic Party’s candidate, James Buchanan, won the presidential election with 1,838,169 popular votes (45.3 percent), the Republicans’ John C. Frémont received 1,341,264 (33.1 percent) and carried eleven of the sixteen Northern states. The Republicans had quadrupled the ...

read more

four. Black Populism and the “Negro Party”

pdf iconDownload PDF (241.2 KB)
pp. 74-100

African Americans born in the decade before the Civil War, who were old enough to have experienced both the promise of Emancipation and the collapse of Reconstruction, organized a new movement in the South and parts of the Midwest for economic and political reform in the 1880s: Black Populism.The independent black movement was parallel to the massive white Populist ...

read more

five. Black Communists, Socialists, and Nationalists

pdf iconDownload PDF (260.4 KB)
pp. 101-133

The shooting of Jim Kennard off of his horse in broad daylight by a defeated Democratic candidate in East Texas in the spring of 1899, only blocks away from the county courthouse, sent shock waves through the African American community. The act of brutality, one of the signals of the collapse of Black Populism, was the culmination of a decade of political violence directed to-...

read more

six. Civil Rights, Black Power, and Independent Politics

pdf iconDownload PDF (243.1 KB)
pp. 134-161

During the summer of 1964, three African American women, Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and Victoria Gray Adams, represented the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) at the national nominating convention of the Democratic Party in Atlantic City. They came from the state that led the South in first implementing and then enforcing Jim Crow, a state where 93 ...

read more

epilogue. The Black and Independent Alliance in 2008

pdf iconDownload PDF (172.8 KB)
pp. 162-168

The power wielded by the Democratic and Republican parties (domestically and abroad) is probably well beyond the imagination of those who founded the nation. Not a word about political parties is written in the U.S. Constitution, and yet within a few years of the nation’s founding, two parties effectively took control of the federal government. Over time, the parties would substitute ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (105.1 KB)
pp. 169-170

It is America’s independents, and black independents in particular, to whom I am most in debt for making this project relevant. Eric Foner, who served as my doctoral thesis adviser at Columbia University, is the person to whom I am most in debt as a scholar. He and Manning Marable, also from Columbia University, have been generous advisers, in addition to being gifted teachers. ...

Appendix: Recent Articles

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.1 KB)
pp. 171-172


pdf iconDownload PDF (285.9 KB)
pp. 173-218


pdf iconDownload PDF (166.4 KB)
pp. 219-236


pdf iconDownload PDF (123.2 KB)
pp. 237-244

E-ISBN-13: 9780821442883
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821418079

Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Race relations -- Political aspects -- History.
  • Third parties (United States politics) -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access