A Southern Family in White & Black: The Cuneys of Texas

By Douglas Hales | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
New Leader of the Party

IN HIS SEMINAL STUDY, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How, political scientist Harold D. Lasswell states: “the study of politics is the study of influence and the influential. The influential are those who get the most of what there is to get. Those who get the most are elite; the rest are mass.” Entering 1884, the Texas Republican Party seemed almost irrelevant to the political process. The possibility of a Republican winning statewide office appeared virtually impossible. African Americans formed 90 percent of the party membership but made up only 25 percent of the state population. Edmund Davis, the primary Republican leader since Reconstruction, had died. Internal dissension threatened to erode an already weak institution. Out of the chaos, Wright Cuney rose to leadership. He faced the challenge of making the Republican Party a viable institution. In so doing Cuney became an influential politician who the got the most there was to get for his party and for himself1

Cuney used his considerable political skills to maneuver Republicans into the best possible position. He pursued fusion when he deemed it necessary and compromise with conservative Republicans when no viable fusion effort seemed possible. Since Republican prospects of winning Texas for the national ticket appeared remote, Cuney strove to make his state’s delegations to national conventions influential in picking presidential nominees. In 1889 Cuney became collector of customs for the port of Galveston, the most important appointment any black would receive in the South. From this position he exerted enormous influence over Texas’ political patronage. His party did not win statewide office

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A Southern Family in White & Black: The Cuneys of Texas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Chapter 1 - Politician and Slaveholder 3
  • Chapter 2 - Labor and Civic Leader 15
  • Chapter 3 - Political Education, 1869–83 40
  • Chapter 4 - New Leader of the Party 60
  • Chapter 5 - Party and Patronage 77
  • Chapter 6 - Maud Cuney 94
  • Chapter 7 - Musician, Director, Writer 108
  • Chapter 8 - Conclusion 138
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 163
  • Index 169
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