Sunday, February 2, 2014

The "lily-white" movement within the Republican party after the Civil War.

Norris Wright Cuney, or simply Wright Cuney, was an American politician, businessman, union leader, and African-American activist in Texas in the United States
From the first days of Reconstruction, a fight developed not only in Texas but across the South between white and black factions for control of the newly formed party. As white GOP leaders sought "respectability" among Southern voters and a conviction grew that continued "black and tan" involvement thwarted expansion of the party, the lily-white Republicans began an organized effort to drive blacks from positions of party leadership. Though Texas blacks appealed to Northern party managers to halt the movement, lily-whiteism flourished because Republican presidents after 1865 wanted approval from the Southern white masses.

The term lily-white apparently originated at the 1888 Republican state convention in Fort Worth, when a group of whites attempted to expel a number of black and tan delegates. Norris Wright Cuney, the black Texas leader who controlled the state party from 1883 until his death in 1896, promptly labeled the insurgents "lily-whites," and the term was soon applied to similar groups throughout the South. Actually, an organized lily-white movement had begun in Texas during the 1870s, when the party was dominated by former governor Edmund J. Davis.

But once Cuney gained the national committeemanship in 1884 upon the death of Davis, the lily-whites started a concerted drive for mastery. Though Cuney was reappointed to the national committee at the 1892 Republican national convention, the black-white struggle in Texas resulted in a fractured party and the first GOP state convention without a black and tan delegation in attendance. The 1892 election proved a turning point for both GOP factions as Cuney aligned the black and tans behind George Clark, a conservative Democrat, in his fight with James S. Hogg, and the lily-whites nominated Andrew Jackson Houston for the governorship. Houston, son of Sam Houston and a future United States senator, received only 1,322 votes in the November election, while Cuney suffered a dual setback: not only did Clark go down in defeat, but the Democrat Grover Cleveland won the presidency, so that Cuney lost all federal patronage.

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