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ix Fore­ word Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Bruce ­ Mouser, in what will be the first major biog­ ra­ phy of ­ William ­ Thomas Scott, helps an­ swer a ques­ tion I (and I’m sure many other schol­ ars of ­ African­ American stud­ ies) are asked after class, dur­ ing Q&A ses­ sions, and at cock­ tail par­ ties: If Abra­ ham Lin­ coln “freed the ­ slaves,” and Lin­ coln was a Re­ pub­ li­ can, why ­ aren’t the vast ma­ jor­ ity of ­ African ­ American vot­ ers still re­ li­ ably for the GOP, and when did that shift begin to occur? What ­ Mouser re­ veals in a pain­ s­ tak­ ingly (and crea­ tively) re­ searched study has less to do with ideol­ ogy than raw pol­ i­ tics, at least in Billy ­ Scott’s case, and, as fas­ ci­ nat­ ing, it pre­ dates the New Deal Dem­ o­ cratic Party rev­ o­ lu­ tion by a good half cen­ tury. As ­ Mouser ex­ plains ­ through the ma­ neu­ ver­ ings of a sin­ gle life, the ground­ work for “the ­ switch” was being laid as early as the 1880s and 1890s, when, in the ­ decades after Re­ con­ struc­ tion, the Re­ pub­ li­ can Party took “the black vote” for ­ granted to the point that it no ­ longer felt it had to give any­ thing back ex­ cept to re­ main the ­ lesser of two evils. The con­ se­ quences of its in­ dif­ fer­ ence were­ driven home for ­ blacks like Scott when the U.S. Su­ preme Court, made up en­ tirely of Re­ pub­ li­ can ap­ point­ ees, not only under­ mined the Four­ teenth ­ Amendment ’s prom­ ise of equal pro­ tec­ tion but ­ struck down the Civil ­ Rights Act of 1875 in the no­ to­ ri­ ous Civil ­ Rights Cases of 1883. That ­ wasn’t all. On a prac­ ti­ cal level (the rai­ son ­ d’être of po­ lit­ i­ cal par­ ties in the nine­ teenth cen­ tury), Re­ pub­ li­ can ­ bosses were ­ stingy with their pat­ ron­ age, even when ­ blacks ­ helped swing elec­ tions. It took a man as prag­ matic and am­ bi­ tious as ­ William ­ Thomas Scott to sniff this out. As ­ Mouser shows, Scott spent his life fig­ ur­ ing out—and satis­ fy­ ing— men’s inter­ ests with liq­ uor, gam­ bling, and women, and so, in turn, he was ­ keenly aware of his own inter­ ests and re­ fused to be com­ plicit in back­ ing pol­ i­ ti­ cians Foreword x who took him and the ­ broader base of ­ first-generation black vot­ ers for dupes. As ­ gifted a ­ speaker as Scott was, he was, first and fore­ most, a busi­ ness­ man who’d made his for­ tune (ap­ par­ ently, at one time, the third larg­ est in the state of Il­ li­ nois) on vice in the for­ mer Union navy town of Cairo, Il­ li­ nois, and over the years, ­ greased ­ enough palms to ex­ pect a fair shake in re­ turn. So, while Scott con­ tin­ ued to have grave mis­ giv­ ings about the Dem­ o­ cratic ­ Party’s treat­ ment of­ blacks in the South, in his home state, and in­ creas­ ingly on the na­ tional level, he was will­ ing to play ball (inter­ est­ ingly, he was an early and avid spon­ sor of the sport) even if it only meant pres­ sur­ ing Re­ pub­ li­ cans to re­ form. ­ Scott’s was a grad­ ual ­ though “fre­ netic” ev­ o­ lu­ tion from Re­ pub­ li­ can to In­ de­ pen­ dent (“Ne­ gro­ w­ ump”) to Dem­ o­ cratic ally and pat­ ron­ age ap­ pointee, ­ Mouser ex­ plains, and it was any­ thing but fixed. The high point of ­ Mouser’s drama oc­ curs in 1904, that his­ toric year of the Loui­ siana Pur­ chase Ex­ po­ si­ tion in Saint Louis, when Scott, at least for a lit­ tle while, re­ ceived the nom­ i­ na­ tion for pres­ i­ dent of the ­ United ­ States on the Na­ tional Negro Lib­ erty Party ­ ticket, a move he ­ helped or­ ches­ trate by con­ vinc­ ing his fel­ low con­ ven­ tion­ eers to undo their de­ ci­ sion to back Theo­ dore ­ Roosevelt’s na­ tional Re­ pub­ li­ can ­ ticket. Par­ tic­ u­ larly in­ tri­ guing were the is­ sues...


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