The Trial of Democracy
Black Suffrage and Northern Republicans, 1860–1910

Xi Wang


"The Trial of Democracy covers this time period like no other work and provides a better context for discussion of Republican efforts to enfranchise African Americans."
—Michael Les Benedict, author of A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction, 1863–1869

"Extensively researched and well written. Wang utilizes published and unpublished government documents as well as diaries, letters, and personal papers to synthesize the debate between Republican liberals, conservatives, and moderates and their opponents over the suffrage and enforcement issues."
Civil War History

After the Civil War, Republicans teamed with activist African Americans to protect black voting rights through innovative constitutional reforms—a radical transformation of southern and national political structures. The Trial of Democracy is a comprehensive analysis of both the forces and mechanisms that led to the implementation of black suffrage and the ultimate failure to maintain a stable northern constituency to support enforcement on a permanent basis.

The reforms stirred fierce debates over the political and constitutional value of black suffrage, the legitimacy of racial equality, and the proper sharing of power between the state and federal governments. Unlike most studies of Reconstruction, this book follows these issues into the early twentieth century to examine the impact of the constitutional principles and the rise of Jim Crow. Tying constitutional history to party politics, The Trial of Democracy is a vital contribution to both fields.

Southern Legal Studies

Page count: 480 pp.
18 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Xi Wang is an assistant professor of history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.