Nell Irvin Painter on Freedpeople’s Leadership

In actual fact, when educated Blacks needed to take public community action, they invariably reached commonsense conclusions hammered out in mass meetings. Ideally, everyone had license to speak, and once participants had expressed and discussed all their options, the meeting would reach a consensus and decide upon a course of action,  designating an able speaker or organizer to execute policy on its behalf. “Representative colored men” and whites sometimes called the spokesman, organizer, or executor “the leader of the colored people,” but the role of executor did not at all imply dictation of policies to the people without their prior consent. Executorship was tenuous, and it was strictly conditional upon the people’s agreeing beforehand on the actions in question. Because the executor’s mandate was exceedingly limited, he necessarily had to remain in close contact with his constituency.

  • P.22, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3



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