While the story of John B. Rayner is not widely known, this African American educator and Populist leader, the son of a politically powerful white slaveholder from North Carolina, was a political maverick who dared to challenge the Democratic Party and the Post-Civil War South’s racial orthodoxy.
Indeed, John B. Rayner’s story sometimes triumphant, occasionally shameful, mostly tragic has much to tell us about the tumultuous era in which he lived. His early experiences as a local Republican officeholder in the 1870s illustrate many of the contradictory features of Reconstruction. Likewise, his rise to prominence as an orator, organizer, and political strategist for the Texas People’s Party in the 1890s illuminates both the promise and disappointment of the agrarian movement and the limits of political inclusion. Finally, Rayner’s zigzag course after 1900 depicts the nearly impossible position that a talented, politically active African American found himself in during the age of Jim Crow.
Ideal for use as supplementary reading for courses in Southern, Texas, and African American history, Professor Cantrell’s compelling study is certain to be enjoyed by history students of all levels.
About the Author:
Gregg Cantrell is the Erma and Ralph Lowe Chair in Texas History at Texas Christian University. He is the author or editor of numerous works on Texas history, including Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas, and Feeding the Wolf: John B. Rayner and the Politics of Race. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association, where he served as President from 2013-2014.