"Between the Devil and the Deep Sea":

The Campaign of 1897

The era of roughly 1890 - 1920 was the Age of "the Race" in much of Black America. The spirit of this era played itself out in many ways. Black Americans adopted monikers such as "Race Man" and "Race Woman" "Afro-American," and "New Negro." They embraced concepts of race pride, and pledged themselves to meet the rising challenge of social, economic, political marginalization head-on. Urbanizing at an ever-increasing pace, turn-of-the-century blacks created veritable cities-within-cities, and motivated individuals from all walks of black life stepped up to assume various leadership roles. While the political arena represented the best example of the least progress registered by blacks during this time, the willingness which some blacks displayed to challange, and even sever, traditional political alliances reinforced the notion that a broader-based metamorphosis was under-way. Image Source
While they were prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship, perhaps more so than any other group of their size in the nation, unlike their kinfolk in much of the South, blacks in Baltimore would have to deal with the wrath of the Democratic Party very early on. Weakened on a national level by the sanctions of the Radical Republican Reconstruction, the Democratic organization in Maryland would control politics on the state level and in Baltimore city for most of the post-Civil War nineteenth century. Betraying popular sympathies and shaping black expectations was the fact that the much celebrated the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitutions became law in 1870 without Marylanders ever ratifying it (at least not until 1973). One of few visible benefits of black Republicanism in Democrat-controlled Maryland were the few minor patronage positions garnered via the Republican-controlled federal government. In spite of this, black Republicans towed the party line with the understanding that black and white Republicans would work together, succeed together, and, perhaps eventually, enjoy the spoils together. The first opportunity to enjoy those spoils came in 1895 when Republicans dominated elections. A solid quarter-century of Democratic rule ended, and the Republicans finally controlled the state and the City of Baltimore. This victory and local-level Republican organizing over those twenty-five years, was in no small part the result of black partymen's loyalty. Recognition of this fact in terms of patronage or even acknowledgement, however, was slow in coming. Many black Republicans lost their patience with the party and began to weigh alternatives.

Copyright: Maryland State Archives, 1997