BOOKS AND SUCH
by Dr. Ralph J. Bryson
Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags: Black Officeholders During the Reconstruction of Alabama, 1867-1878, by Dr. Richard Bailey
A Profile and Review
When Richard Bailey became a national officer in Kappa Alpha Psi, little did he realize that 21 years later he would write a significant work in American history. At the 56th Grand Chapter meeting in Charlotte, NC, Dr. William T. Carter was elected 20th Grand Polemarch and LM Bailey Grand Strategus. Richard, then, was a junior at Alabama State University, a member of Beta Zeta Chapter, and President of the Panhellenic Council. LM Bailey went on to receive the BS and MEd from Alabama State, the MA from Atlanta University, and the Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He majored in 19th Century American history.
Since that time Dr. Bailey has enjoyed a joint fellowship from Cleveland State University and the University of Massachusetts to travel and study in Europe and Africa. Hard working and much in demand, he has written columns in a number of newspapers and has appeared on numerous state radio and television shows. He is a member of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Montgomery Alumni Chapter, the Alabama Historical Association, and Phi Delta Kappa. Dr. Bailey is married and the father of two daughters and one son, Richard Bailey, Jr. Currently he is a research and writing specialist at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Air University.
Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags is a study of the leadership role which black officeholders played in Alabama during the period of Reconstruction. Not looking for personal advantages (Northern carpetbaggers) nor seeking to ride the backs of the Republicans in power (Southern scalawags), black leaders, according to Bailey, were concerned with developing an educational, economic and social existence for their people. With the help of sympathetic whites–the biracial aspect of the book–blacks assumed positions of political, religious, and educational leadership. Between 1867 and 1884, 108 African Americans represented Alabama as lawmakers. In an interview, Bailey said that in this period blacks in Alabama were able to establish banks, schools, labor unions, and newspapers.
“When you look at the kind of poverty they must have experienced in slavery, you can understand the significance of these achievements,” he said. These changes not only benefited blacks, but they also helped poor whites, many of whom had no access to schools before the Civil War.
According to Bailey, “Reconstruction brought public education to Alabama. Both Alabama State and Alabama A&M universities were founded then.
In his book, Bailey profiles some 247 influential black men who held office during this period. Among them were Horace King, who built bridges that spanned the Chattahoochee River as far north as Lafayette and as far south as Eufaula. Later he represented Russell County in the Alabama legislature. James T. Rapier was appointed assessor of internal revenue in April 1871 and praised as “the leading colored man of our state. . . .” Benjamin F. Royal of Bullock County served three successive terms in the senate. Ovide Gregory, a free-born delegate who spoke fluent French and Spanish, represented Mobile County.
Bailey brings out quite well the decline of the Reconstruction Movement and the disappointments this brought to the black leaders. Ku Klux Klan violence became more widespread against blacks, and federal troops became less reliable in stopping the terrorist activities. Democrats began to gain the upper hand. With the compromise election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to the Presidency in 1876, federal troops were withdrawn altogether from the South. Bailey said that “in the absence of legal protection for blacks, a new kind of violence swept across Alabama, leaving fear in its tracks.” Lynchings became commonplace. In a sad way, the Reconstruction period came to an end. However, Bailey points out that the African American members of the Republican Party during this time–neither carpetbaggers nor scalawags–were men of vision, and they laid the foundation for future leadership.
Dr. Bailey is to be commended for this fine piece of historical research. It is not only factual but also well-written. Appendix A in the book lists the major black officeholders with such pertinent information as the county they represented, pre-war and post-war status, age, and other facts. Appendix B does the same thing for minor officeholders. Much can be made of this data alone.
If you wish to purchase a copy of this book, which the author financed himself, orders may be placed to:
P.0. Box 1264
Montgomery, AL 36102-1264
Work: (205) 953-6745
Or you can call any book outlet using the ISBN.
The cost is $XX.XX, and the book is well worth it.
Published: October 1991