The Elko Republican Club was an African American “literary and political” organization established by members of Elko’s African American population in 1870s. As such, it reflects a sense of unity and optimism among members of this community.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americans in cities frequently established clubs of various sorts that served a number of purposes. In some cases, they were political organizations dedicated to discussion of current issues and civil rights advocacy. Virginia City’s Lincoln Union Club is an example of this type of club. Other groups gathered resources to assist needy members of the community, while others organized intellectual discussions of both topical and scholarly topics. Frequently, clubs would engage in more than one of these activities.
The Elko Republican Club served two of these functions. The name of the organization indicates its political role, and, like the Lincoln Union Club, it was formed in 1870 at a high point in the optimism of the post-Civil War era–just after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment that extended the right to vote to freeborn African Americans and former slaves.
In addition to political function, the use of the word “literary” indicates an interest in intellectual discussions. These types of clubs were common in nineteenth century cities. Usually, they were created and run by women of the African American professional class, although it is not known if that was the case with the Elko club. We know of two discussion topics of the club: a debate on the benefits of the vote for women, and a discussion of the merits of the annexation of San Domingo (now known as Haiti) by the United States.