A challenge to the long-held view that the only important and influential politicians in post-Reconstruction Deep South states were Democrats.
In this insightful and exhaustively researched volume, Samuel L. Webb presents new evidence that, contrary to popular belief, voters in at least one Deep South state did not flee en masse from the Republican party after Reconstruction. As Webb demonstrates conclusively, the party gained strength among white voters in Upcountry areas of northern Alabama between 1896 and 1920. Not only did GOP presidential candidates win more than a dozen area counties but Republican congressional candidates made progress in Democratic strongholds, and local GOP officials gained control of several county courthouses.
Nor were these new Republicans simply the descendants of anti-Confederate families, as some historians have claimed. Rather, they were former independents, Greenbackers, and Populists, who, in keeping with the 1890s Populist movement, were reacting against what they perceived as the control of the Democratic party by "moneyed elites" and planter landlords. Webb also breaks with previous historical opinion by showing that ex-Populists in the Hill Country, who had been radical reformers during the 1890s, remained reform minded after 1900.
Webb's ground-breaking reassessment of Alabama state politics from Reconstruction to the 1920s describes a people whose political culture had strong roots in the democratic and egalitarian Jacksonian ideology that dominated north Alabama in the antebellum period. These people carried forward elements of Jacksonianism into the late 19th century, with its tenets continuing to influence them well into the early 20th century.