Radical Reform: Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina Deborah Beckel

Article excerpt

Abstract: As Edwin Alderson, a prominent North Carolina educator stated biracial organizations attracted "plain people ...demanding their share in the government, and their right to be trained for its responsibilities"1 and created more self-reliant and resourceful people who were wiser when it came to local government.

I found Beckel's book reads like an interesting historical story about how North Carolina was affected by civil equality. Beckel starts out her book with an Introduction about biracial relationships. This led to interracial cooperation, and eventually influenced North Carolina organizations. The State's organizations were massive, and the North Carolina Knights and the Alliancemen had plans to pass some labor laws and get involved politically. At this time, around 1890, the Knights of Labor has 250 locals in 50 counties with the members half and half, Black and White. The Alliance had 55,000 Blacks and 90,000 Whites. In the last chapter "Race and Home Rule," (p. 178) Beckel shares with us that the voting rights were expanded for both the Blacks and the Whites. In conclusion, Beckel tells us: "Many of the state's most energetic citizens simply leftfor what they hoped would be greater rights and opportunities outside North Carolina."(p.211).

In 2010, North Carolina statistics showed 21.6% of the registered voters are Black, where there are 73.2% registered voters who are White.2

Key-words: social exclusion; improving the situation of minorities; racial, creed, and class equality; disenfranchisement; racial discrimination

On November 6, 2012, the United States will have their 2012 presidential election (between an African American seeking a second term and a Mormon), a process regulated by a combination of federal and state laws to decide by ballot the question, "Who will be the next U.S. President?"

The United States apparently has made great social strides, especially in the area of discrimination based on race, creed, or position in society. Many would agree, the United States has accomplished much toward preventing social exclusion and has improved the social situation for those considered "undesirables" in U.S. society's recent past. What would be considered the best practices or guidelines used to implement this in other countries?

During its pro-democracy period, the U.S. Constitution declared all men equal in 1776. Although, the first step was to declare equality for all men, Blacks and Whites still did not have equal rights-this was further confounded, during the postrevolutionary war era, when the U.S. convention delegates voted (66 to 61) that suffrage rights were the privilege of White men only adding a constitutional provision defining the qualifications of "freemen." This table which is posted on Wikipedia, under Disfranchisement After Reconstruction Era shows many states still had disenfranchisement based on race in 1900.1

To complicate things more, "Southern [B]lacks and [W]hites forged a variety of associations: personal, economic, and political."(Beckel, 2011, p. 2) Creating these affiliations opened up doors of opportunity in the New South's social order allowing racial diversity. Along with this diversity also came conflict ("violence, brutality, and exploitation" (2011, p. 2)), however, these biracial organizations were committed to freedom, civil equality, and worker's rights regardless of race, creed, or position in society which attracted many of the working-class, agricultural workers, and small farmers. As Edwin Alderson, a prominent North Carolina educator stated these biracial organizations attracted "plain people ...demanding their share in the government, and their right to be trained for its responsibilities" (Alderson,1898) and created more self-reliant and resourceful people who were wiser when it came to local government. But the combination of diversity and the old and new ideas made the organizations fragile. What exactly can an organization (mostly consisting of poor Black workers and 30% or less of Whites) achieve when it has a lack of trust within its membership because of racial issues? …