The study of African American agency is usually focused on the antebellum period, exploring the ways by which slaves in the American South found ways to resist the slave system. Taking its cue from Walter Johnson’s work on rethinking agency in the antebellum South, this essay will for the first time extend Johnson’s analysis to the postbellum period. It argues that a study of black Democrats after Reconstruction makes us reconsider what we mean by African American agency in the postbellum South. It will look at how African American support for the Democratic Party varied across the South: assessing the reasons why some black men were conservative and how they embraced the politics of white Democrats, and how the majority of black men and women opposed their political choices. The degree of opposition shown toward black Democrats, and the forceful counterargument articulated by black Republicans, reveals how southern black Democrats were an important feature of African American political culture in this period, demonstrating in turn the remarkable vitality of black politics more generally in the post-Reconstruction South.


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pp. 363-382
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