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.

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