‘DEVOTED TO THE INTERESTS OF HIS RACE’: BLACK OFFICEHOLDERS AND THE POLITICAL CULTURE OF FREEDOM IN WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA, 1865-1877
Jackson, Thanayi Michelle
Rowland, Leslie S.
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This dissertation examines black officeholding in Wilmington, North Carolina, from emancipation in 1865 through 1876, when Democrats gained control of the state government and brought Reconstruction to an end. It considers the struggle for black office holding in the city, the black men who held office, the dynamic political culture of which they were a part, and their significance in the day-to-day lives of their constituents. Once they were enfranchised, black Wilmingtonians, who constituted a majority of the city’s population, used their voting leverage to negotiate the election of black men to public office. They did so by using Republican factionalism or what the dissertation argues was an alternative partisanship. Ultimately, it was not factional divisions, but voter suppression, gerrymandering, and constitutional revisions that made local government appointive rather than elective, Democrats at the state level chipped away at the political gains black Wilmingtonians had made.