Boston’s political culture is most known within the frame of antebellum political struggles over the institution of slavery. What about Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era Black Bostonian politics though? That story is made clear by the Dr. Millington W. Bergeson-Lockwood
’s newly published book Race Over Party: Black Politics and Partisanship in Late Nineteenth-Century Boston
(University of North Carolina Press, 2018). Centering Edwin Garrison Walker, political leader and son of antebellum era abolitionist and pamphleteer David Walker, Bergeson-Lockwood tells the story of how independent Black Bostonian politics was used as a mechanism to shield Black Bostonians from party loyalty. Party loyalty, especially to the Republican Party, could be used to promote a connection to the “Party of Lincoln,” or to retain Black voters despite not always being on the side of their best interest. Ultimately, Black citizenship and the protection of the Black rights were at the forefront of Black Bostonians' political project, and Bergeson-Lockwood’s history of Black politics in the late nineteenth century dramatically highlights the successes and shortcomings of this era.
Adam McNeil is a PhD student in History, African American Public Humanities Initiative and Colored Conventions Project Scholar at the University of Delaware. He can be reached on Twitter @CulturedModesty.