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A Black Gambler’s World of Liquor, Vice, and Presidential Politics
William Thomas Scott of Illinois, 1839–1917
Bruce L. Mouser
Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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“As Mouser shows, Scott spent his life figuring out—and satisfying—men’s interests with liquor, gambling, and women, and . . . [he] refused to be complicit in backing politicians who took him and the broader base of first-generation black voters for dupes. . . . Scott saw the political game for what it was: a game of power.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

William Thomas Scott (1839–1917) was an entrepreneur and political activist from East Saint Louis and Cairo, Illinois, who in 1904 briefly became the first African American nominated by a national party for president of the United States before his scandalous past forced him to step aside. A free man before the Civil War, Scott was a charismatic hustler who built his fortune through both vice trades and legal businesses including hotels, saloons, and real estate. Publisher and editor of the Cairo Gazette and an outspoken advocate for equal rights, he believed in political patronage and frequently rebelled against political bosses who failed to deliver, whether they were white, black, Republican, or Democrat.

Scott helped build the National Negro Liberty Party to forward economic, political, and legal rights for his race. But the hustling that had brought him business success proved his undoing as a national political figure. He was the NNLP’s initial presidential nominee, only to be replaced by a better-educated and more socially acceptable candidate, George Edwin Taylor.



Author. Photo credit, Name

Bruce L. Mouser is the author of For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics. He is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse.





“This is a fascinating and informative look into the life of a forgotten but important African American leader. . . . Scott emerges as a powerful, interesting, and even enigmatic leader working on both sides of the law to further his own interests and those of the larger African American community.”
—Roger Bridges, Illinois State University

“The work of a master historian and storyteller. Mouser’s rich and nuanced scholarship adds clarity and depth to our understanding of African Americans and third-party politics, bringing us into the wider, complex, and contradictory world which Scott was both a product of and helped to produce.”
—Omar H. Ali, author of In the Lion’s Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886–1900



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October 2014
LC: 2014007451 E
210 pp.   6 x 9
1 b/w illus.  

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-30184-2
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