“The Principles of Republicanism”: Black and Tan Republicans in South Carolina, 1895-1950 Restricted; Files & ToC

Louis Fagnan (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/9g54xh666?locale=en


This dissertation examines the long-neglected white and black politicians who joined forces in South Carolina’s Black and Tan Republican Party from 1895 until roughly 1950. Mining and cross-referencing hundreds of digitized newspapers previously unavailable to scholars, it highlights the diversity of motives that brought them into the organization, as well as what united them: a firm belief in the unconstitutionality and injustice of disfranchisement. Within the extremely violent and repressive political environment of the Jim Crow South Carolina, Black and Tan Republicans used the party to challenge disfranchisement and as a means to preserve a fragile tradition of black political empowerment. As such, even though the party failed electorally, it served as one of the most significant and formative institutional sites of bi-racial political activism in the Jim Crow South. In it, Black and Tan Republicans shaped the discourse, the institutions, and some of the key strategies used by African American activists of the 1940s and beyond.

This revisionist study of Republicanism has implications for scholarship on African Americans’ political rights activism in the Jim Crow era and the major partisan realignment that took place between the 1930s and the 1990s. First, in recovering the political activism that took place in the South Carolina Black and Tan Republican party in the first two decades of the 20th century – when the party brought more election contests before Congress than all other states of the Deep South combined – it contributes to recent scholarship challenging the idea that this time period was best described as the “age of accomodationism.” Secondly, analyzing the fall of South Carolina’s Black and Tan Republican party complicates the dominant narrative on the realignment. It shows that the movement of African Americans from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party was not sudden, but the results of a number of local and national long-term developments that unevenly affected African Americans of different regions and social classes. Therefore, it highlights that the partisan realignment was as much the result of presidential politics trickling down to the local level as it was the outcome of state-level developments shaping national politics.

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