Explaining Variation in Political Leadership by Marginalized Groups: Black Officeholding and "Contraband Camps''
73 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2021 Last revised: 2 Mar 2022
Date Written: August 9, 2021
What explains variation in marginalized groups' political officeholding? We argue that a certain social infrastructure facilitates officeholding, but dominant social groups tend to monopolize this infrastructure, and in turn officeholding. In places exposed to a limitation (even temporary) on dominant groups' monopolization of this social infrastructure, marginalized groups can access it, and hold office at higher rates than marginalized groups who were not exposed to this limitation. We test our argument using the creation of “contraband camps” during the U.S. Civil War. These camps limited White men's monopolization of the social infrastructure of political participation. We therefore expect higher rates of Black officeholding in counties exposed to contraband camps, relative to counties in the same state without contraband camps. Quantitative results relying on existing and original data indicate that counties with contraband camps produced almost twice as many Black political leaders as similar counties in the same state without a contraband camp. Qualitative data from archival, primary, and secondary sources support our mechanisms. Our results shed light on an understudied phenomenon in the U.S. Civil War while also contributing to research on social change.
Keywords: [comma separated]social change, U.S. Civil War, political leadership, political change
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