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Radical Reform

Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina
Deborah Beckel

BUY Cloth · 312 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813930022 · $49.50 · Dec 2010
BUY Ebook · 312 pp. · ISBN 9780813930527 · $49.50 · Dec 2010

Radical Reform describes a remarkable chapter in the American pro-democracy movement. It portrays the largely unknown leaders of the interracial Republican Party who struggled for political, civil, and labor rights in North Carolina after the Civil War. In so doing, they paved the way for the victorious coalition that briefly toppled the white supremacist Democratic Party regime in the 1890s.

Beckel provides a nuanced assessment of the distinctive coalitions built by black and white Republicans, as they sought to outmaneuver the Democratic Party. She demonstrates how the dynamic political conditions in the state from 1850 to 1900 led reformers of both races to force their traditional society toward a more radical agenda. By examining the evolution of anti-elitist politics and organized labor in North Carolina, Beckel brings a new understanding to party factionalism of the 1870s and 1880s. As racial conditions deteriorated across America in the 1890s, North Carolina Republicans forged a fragile coalition with Populists. While this interracial pro-democracy movement proved triumphant by 1894, it carried the seeds of its ultimate destruction.


This fine study of North Carolina’s unique and misunderstood history of interracial politics is rich in lessons about race and reform. Beckel’s insights are fresh, her research is first rate, and her prose is sure-footed. Radical Reform is a significant accomplishment.

Charles Postel, San Francisco State University, author of The Populist Vision

The case of North Carolina, where the Republican Party survived as an important agency of African American political power after the Civil War, has often confounded social and political historians. In this elegant and thoughtful study, Deborah Beckel traces the often contradictory position of blacks from Reconstruction to Fusion. Her study of race and politics in North Carolina after the Civil War brings together new research, a fresh perspective, and steady and judicious interpretation. The result is the best book that we have on the impact of Emancipation on the political order in post-Civil War North Carolina.

William A. Link, University of Florida, author of The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930

Well written and engaging, Radical Reform provides a timely historical prism that we may use to understand better both our past and present, but it is not a popular history text; it is a solid academic monograph most appropriate for college and university libraries. With nearly a quarter of its length devoted to annotated endnotes and bibliography, future researchers will find it to be a fertile guide to their studies.

C. William Gee, East Carolina University · North Carolina Library Association

About the Author(s): 

Deborah Beckel is descended from the Curlee, Faulkner, Griffin, and Stegall families of Anson and Union Counties in North Carolina.

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