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39 2 Cov­ er­ ing His Past with Re­ bel­ lion and Jour­ nal­ ism, the Early 1880s It was only when ­ blacks began to flirt with the Dem­ o­ cratic party that ei­ ther party moved re­ alis­ ti­ cally to­ wards po­ lit­ i­ cal ­ rights and equal­ ity. Roger D. ­ Bridges, “Equal­ ity De­ ferred” By 1880 black vot­ ers were reach­ ing a cross­ road. ­ Nearly all had re­ mained loyal to the party that had lib­ er­ ated them from slav­ ery and that had ­ fought for their civil ­ rights in the ­ decade after the war. ­ Through their votes, ­ blacks in the North had ­ shifted the bal­ ance of po­ lit­ i­ cal power in a few areas where their num­ bers mat­ tered. To ob­ tain their sup­ port and to keep them at­ tached to the party, Re­ pub­ li­ can lead­ ers had prom­ ised re­ forms and pat­ ron­ age but had been slow to de­ liver on ei­ ther, claim­ ing that ­ blacks were not yet ready to hold ap­ pointed of­ fice and that seg­ re­ gated ­ schools were bet­ ter, at least until a later day. Many in ­ Cairo’s black pop­ u­ la­ tion had ac­ cepted those ex­ pla­ na­ tions and prom­ ises and had ­ waited with grow­ ing im­ pa­ tience for con­ di­ tions to im­ prove. And, to a de­ gree, they had. A black ­ school was in place, and sev­ eral ­ blacks had been given city jobs. But by 1880 white Re­ pub­ li­ cans had ba­ si­ cally for­ got­ ten those guar­ an­ tees and had moved on to other is­ sues that re­ flected a chang­ ing party and time.1­ Cairo’s ­ blacks had not.­ Scott’s cross­ road in 1880 was more per­ sonal than that. His arena until 1880 had been pri­ mar­ ily Cairo, where his busi­ ness and po­ lit­ i­ cal ex­ pe­ ri­ ences were­ grounded, but that too was chang­ ing. He had been ac­ tive in se­ cret so­ ci­ eties and had at­ tended the na­ tional ­ Prince Hall Ma­ sonic Con­ ven­ tion in Wilm­ ing­ ton, Del­ a­ ware, in May 1878, where he was ­ Illinois’s lone rec­ og­ nized del­ e­ gate and chair of that ­ convention’s com­ mit­ tee on cre­ den­ tials. He was ­ elected a vice pres­ i­ dent of the na­ tional so­ ci­ ety, a post he began to take as a given if he were the only del­ e­ gate from Il­ li­ nois at­ tend­ ing a con­ ven­ tion.2 While his busi­ ness inter­ ests Covering His Past 40 re­ mained cen­ tered in Cairo, his po­ lit­ i­ cal focus grad­ u­ ally came to in­ clude ac­ tiv­ i­ ties at the state and na­ tional lev­ els. Scott was a mas­ ter at keep­ ing these two­ worlds sep­ ar­ ate. A pop­ u­ lar ­ speaker, Scott often ad­ dressed Eman­ ci­ pa­ tion Day au­ di­ ences out­ side of Cairo. In 1876 he and John Bird ­ traveled the state in sup­ port of Re­ pub­ li­ can can­ di­ dates, mak­ ing his name and face known through­ out the state and re­ gion. Rail­ roads ­ joined Cairo to Chi­ cago, Saint Louis in Mis­ souri, and Vin­ cennes in In­ di­ ana, with Cairo the cen­ ter of a vital north–south rail net­ work. That made it pos­ sible for him to move about ­ quickly and often.3 Peo­ ple lis­ tened to him and to his mes­ sage of rec­ i­ proc­ ity, which trans­ lated gen­ er­ ally as a de­ mand for re­ wards in ex­ change for votes cast. And he was ques­ tion­ ing­ whether the party he had sup­ ported for bet­ ter than a ­ decade was will­ ing or able to de­ liver on any of its prom­ ises. The Col­ ored State Con­ ven­ tion, also known as the State Con­ ven­ tion of Col­ ored Men, which met in ­ Illinois’s cap­ i­ tal city of Spring­ field in ­ mid-July 1880, was the­ fourth of its kind in Il­ li­ nois. It also was the most im­ por­ tant event to mark the be­ gin­ ning of ­ Scott’s trans­ for­ ma­ tion from Re­ pub­ li­ can to Demo­ crat, al­ though Scott ­ claimed in a...


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