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xiii Pref­ ace­ William ­ Thomas ­ Scott’s name first sur­ faced while I was doing re­ search for a biog­ ra­ phy I was writ­ ing about ­ George Edwin Tay­ lor of Ot­ tumwa, Iowa. Scott was ­ nearly ­ twenty years older than Tay­ lor, and he and Tay­ lor had col­ lab­ o­ rated on many is­ sues at the end of the nine­ teenth and be­ gin­ ning of the twen­ ti­ eth cen­ tury. But the story was more com­ pli­ cated than that, and Tay­ lor was as much a part of ­ Scott’s his­ tory as Scott was of ­ Taylor’s. Both were from small cit­ ies in the ­ American Mid­ west, and both were news­ paper own­ ers and ed­ i­ tors. Both had tran­ si­ tioned from In­ de­ pen­ dent Re­ pub­ li­ can to Demo­ crat at a time in Amer­ ica’s his­ tory when few of Amer­ ica’s black lead­ ers were will­ ing to iden­ tify them­ selves with the po­ lit­ i­ cal party that had vig­ or­ ously de­ fended slav­ ery. Scott was vice pres­ i­ dent and Tay­ lor was pres­ i­ dent of the Na­ tional Negro Dem­ o­ cratic ­ League­ between 1900 and 1902, and they had ­ joined arms in nu­ mer­ ous other re­ gional and na­ tional ­ leagues, serv­ ing high of­ fices in most of them. Re­ pub­ li­ can news­ paper ed­ i­ tors de­ scribed them as trai­ tors to the party that had lib­ er­ ated ­ blacks from slav­ ery, while Dem­ o­ cratic ed­ i­ tors hoped that they rep­ re­ sented the be­ gin­ ning of a tidal shift from po­ lit­ i­ cal iden­ tifi­ ca­ tion ­ linked ­ solely to eman­ ci­ pa­ tion.­ Scott’s his­ tory is one of a com­ plex per­ son who rose from mod­ est or­ i­ gins to na­ tional prom­ i­ nence and who in­ volved him­ self in busi­ nesses that could have de­ prived him of pub­ lic of­ fice and re­ spect. And they did. Scott was a gam­ bler, a bonds­ man, a hotel owner and op­ er­ a­ tor, a real es­ tate bro­ ker and land­ lord, and an op­ er­ a­ tor of ­ liquor- and ­ vice-related busi­ nesses that ­ brought him cen­ sure as well as ­ wealth. For a time, oth­ ers con­ sid­ ered him the third wealthi­ est black per­ son in Il­ li­ nois. It was he, not Tay­ lor, who was the can­ di­ date that the con­ ven­ tion of the Na­ tional Negro Lib­ erty Party chose in 1904 to head that ­ party’s ­ ticket for the of­ fice of pres­ i­ dent of the ­ United ­ States, and yet his name is still con­ spic­ u­ ously Preface xiv ab­ sent from ­ African ­ American po­ lit­ i­ cal his­ tory. The tu­ mult that ac­ com­ pa­ nied his ­ abrupt re­ moval from the Na­ tional Negro Lib­ erty Party bal­ lot soon after the party con­ ven­ tion con­ cluded its busi­ ness dem­ on­ strated that op­ po­ nents would use his re­ ported mis­ deeds ­ against him in any po­ lit­ i­ cal cam­ paign he might at­ tempt. Search­ ing for in­ for­ ma­ tion about Scott pre­ sented its prob­ lems. There were no sur­ viv­ ing ac­ counts of busi­ nesses he op­ er­ ated and no per­ sonal diar­ ies, let­ ters, photo­ graphs, or fam­ ily me­ men­ tos. He pub­ lished no books or ar­ ti­ cles. None of the news­ papers he owned and ed­ ited sur­ vived. Only one ar­ ti­ cle was pub­ lished about him, and that was writ­ ten as a guide for ­ Illinois’s sec­ on­ dary ­ school teach­ ers and as a les­ son plan that could be used in class­ rooms. Pow­ er­ ful ­ African­ American ­ voices in large urban cen­ ters in the upper Mid­ west and upon the East Coast over­ shad­ owed his ac­ com­ plish­ ments. He was ar­ rested doz­ ens of times on­ charges that ­ ranged from sell­ ing liq­ uor with­ out a li­ cense, to il­ le­ gal gam­ bling, and to op­ er­ at­ ing “houses of ill re­ pute.” In ­ nearly all cases, how­ ever, po­ lice­ charges were set­ tled ­ quickly ­ within a ­ city’s mag­ is­ trate court, where mini­ mal­ records...


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