In this prize-winning book Thomas Holt is concerned not only with the identities of the black politicians who gained power in South Carolina during Reconstruction, but also with the question of how they functioned within the political system. Thus, as one reviewer has commented, "he penetrates the superficial preoccupations over whether black politicians were venal or gullible to see whether they wielded power and influence and, if they did, how and to what ends and against what obstacles."
"Well crafted and well written, it not only broadens our knowledge of the period, but also deepens it, something that recent books on Reconstruction have too often failed to do." -- Michael Perman, American Historical Review.
" . . . a valuable study of post-Civil War black leaders in a state where Negro control came closest to realization during Reconstruction. . . . Effectively merging the techniques of quantitative analysis with those of narrative history, Holt shatters a number of myths and misconceptions. . . . It should be on the reading list of all students of Reconstruction and nineteenth-century black history." -- William C. Harris, Journal of Southern History
"Holt presents his work modestly as a state study of reconstruction politics. But this should not obscure a significant intellectual achievement and a contribution of fundamental importance, demonstrating the value of social-class analysis in understanding the politics of the black community." -- Jonathan M. Wiener, Journal of American History.