The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 712
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
his educational experiences and early political endeavors in Edgecombe County
between 1872 and 1880, but the author's primary focus is on Rayner's political ca-
reer in Texas.
After moving in 188o with his family to the small Texas town of Calvert in
Robertson County, Rayner became an established member of the community by
teaching school and occasionally preaching to local Baptist congregations. Con-
cluding that Populism provided the best opportunity for African American par-
ticipation in electoral politics, Rayner became an orator, organizer, and political
strategist in the Texas People's Party during the 18gos. In this period of his life,
Rayner believed that the People's Party could bridle the political power of Texas
Democrats, a group of politicians who predominantly adhered to the ideology of
white supremacy. As support for Populism began to wane following the Populist
Party's defeat in the presidential election of 1896, Rayner was left with few ac-
ceptable political alternatives.
Between 1 900 and his death in 1918, Rayner claimed to be an Independent in
politics and at election time he would cast his vote for the candidate that he con-
sidered to be the best man. On those occasions when Rayner deemed all the can-
didates in an election unfit for office, he simply abstained from voting. As African
Americans rapidly became disfranchised after the turn of the century, Rayner
found his own political career wrecked upon the rocks of racial politics. Out of
step with the rapidly changing political environment of the early twentieth centu-
ry, Rayner spent most of his time between 900oo and 1918 as a paid political ora-
tor and organizer for the Texas beer oligopoly which opposed the prohibition in
the state. He also served as a financial agent for two African-American schools-
the Conroe Normal and Industrial College at Conroe, Texas, and the Farmers'
Improvement Agricultural School at Ladonia in northeast Texas.
Scholars will recognize that the arguments in Feeding the Wolfare closely related
to those that first appeared in Cantrell's Kenneth and John B. Rayner and the Limits
of Southern Dissent (University of Illinois Press, 1993); thus, readers who are famil-
iar with the author's earlier publication will likely be disappointed that this study
offers few new insights into Rayner's life and political career. Also, given that
Cantrell's earlier account of Rayner is thoroughly researched and well document-
ed, it is surprising that the author chose not to include a bibliographic essay in
this work. Nevertheless, such criticism should not outweigh the real merit of the
study: it is a fine introductory text covering race relations and politics in Texas
during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
College Station, Texas Kenneth Wayne Howell
Lessons in Progress: State Universities and Progressivism in the New South, i88o-z92o.
By Michael Dennis (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2001. Pp.
ix+274. Acknowledgments, epilogue, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-252-
02617-9. $39.95, cloth.)
A professor of history at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Michael Dennis offers
a study of how institutions of higher education affected the New South, circa the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/768/: accessed May 1, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.