"A fine work of scholarship and a significant contribution to Reconstruction historiography. It ranks with the best of the recent studies of black political leadership in the southern states."
—Kenneth M. Stampp
Lacking the sizable and experienced antebellum free-black class that existed in such states as South Carolina and Louisiana, Georgia's former slaves turned to their ministers for political leadership. Otherworldly and fatalistic, the ministers preached a message in which all people, even slaveholders, were deserving of God's mercy. Translated into politics, this message quickly and predictably brought disaster. Shortly after the black delegation to the state constitutional convention of 1867-1868 refused to support a provision guaranteeing blacks the right to hold office, blacks were expelled from the state legislature. Only then did the minister-politicians realize that they would have to become more militant and black-oriented if they were to challenge white supremacy. Propelled by this newfound toughness, they were soon able to achieve a limited success by bringing about the Second Reconstruction of Georgia.
In the preface to this new edition, Drago surveys recent writing on Reconstruction and, drawing upon his own research on black leadership in South Carolina, compares experiences in that state to those in Georgia. It is time, he says, to give greater consideration to the role black women played in shaping politics and to the emergence of a black conservative political tradition. He also suggests that revisionists, in reacting to the racism in traditional histories, have sometimes glossed over issues of corruption and the black politician.
Read more about black legislators during Reconstruction at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
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