Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908

By Ferrell, Henry C., Jr. | South Carolina Historical Magazine, July 2003 | Go to article overview

Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908


Ferrell, Henry C., Jr., South Carolina Historical Magazine


Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908. By Michael Perman. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. xi, 397; $49.95, cloth; $24.95, paper.)

In Struggle for Mastery, Michael Perman, Research Professor in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, offers a new historical synthesis of disfranchisement that swept through southern precincts between 1888 and 1908. He labels this electoral reform as "quite possibly one of the most dramatic and decisive episodes in American history" (p. 1). His work, posed in a winning writing style, also marks the first study that considers each southern state and its processes that led to disfranchisement.

Although southern Democrats had gone along with the new electoral system established during Reconstruction, they did not accept its legality, and Perman sees Democratic leaders as itching to restore the electoral structure in effect at the end of the Civil War. Their first response produced violence and fraud. Manipulation through states' statues came next. Then, disfranchisement-voter elimination-rose to the forefront.

Perman sets aside the earlier commentary by V. O. Key, Jr. and C. Vann Woodward. The former defined the event as a "Bourbon [conservative] coup d'etat" whose strength centered in white elites in the black belts outside the cities. The latter saw the movement as a regional battle between white men in the hill country and those in the black belts. African Americans served only as a handy scapegoat. Perman observes that both neglected to base their observations upon detailed historical records. A third historian, Morgan Kouser, Perman believes, performed adequate research. Kouser, however, affirmed that the forces for change gathered among the class conscious elites in the black belts who cared neither for blacks nor lower class whites.

Perman steps beyond these and similar commentators by asking new questions. His emphasis upon the type of disfranchisement-statutory and constitutional-that broke the earlier manipulative techniques places process as a key to understanding the slow growing crusade. Disfranchisers differed from state to state, he contends. For example, outside reformers and reform insurgents had their role to play. Questions about the reformers' true intentions, whether to eliminate only blacks or blacks and whites, Perman admits "are difficult to answer" (p 6).

Beginning in 1889, the Tennessee legislature adopted a poll tax and new registration in 1890 that removed blacks and mowed "down thousands of white voters all over the state" (p. 59). Perman cites the intention to reduce the growing, threatening black Republican vote in west Tennessee as the origins of the movement and suggests the leadership was surprised by its effect upon white voters. Arkansas followed for similar reasons by removing the black voter through the poll tax. Constitutional amendments began to offset the earlier statutory tools used to limit the electorate. In Mississippi approval of a call for a constitutional convention and its results that would reduce universal suffrage marked a "watershed in the history of southern suffrage and race relations" (p. 70). This was not the first southern state convention since Reconstruction, but it was the first to use constitutional means, including an understanding clause, in what proved to be complicated and diffuse suffrage constraints for the 1892 election.

South Carolina experienced "its greatest political turbulence since Reconstruction" (p. 91). The electorate accepted a call for a constitutional convention from dominant farmers, led by Benjamin Tillman, rather than conservative Democratic landowners. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.