Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

The Meaning of Freedom

The author below writes that in early postwar South Carolina, slave “desertion on . . . plantations became increasingly frequent . . . to enjoy the freedom the Yankey’s have promised the Negroes.” Rather than remain with the people and place they had known most if not all their lives, domestic Patience Johnson told her mistress that “I must go, if I stay here I’ll never know I am free.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Meaning of Freedom

“Christmas Day, 1865, saw many South Carolina plantations entirely deserted by their Negro populations. After visiting the plantation of a relative on February 9, 1866, the Reverend John Hamilton Cornish reported that, “Not one of their Negroes is with them, all have left.”

Like many domestics, most of those field hands who remained . . . were very old, very young or encumbered. The mistress of the Ball plantation in Laurens District recalled . . . at end of 1865 “many of the Negroes sought employment on other places, but the least desirable stayed with us, for they could not easily find new homes and we could not deny them shelter.”

Large numbers of agricultural laborers left their native plantations during the Christmas season to camp in a neighboring village while they searched for an employer. Employment, however, was not always easily found. David Golightly Harris, visiting Spartanburg on New Year’s Day, 1866, “saw many Negroes enjoying their freedom by walking about the streets & looking much out of sorts . . . Ask who you may “What are you going to do,” & their universal answer is “I don’t know.”

Augustine Smythe found much the same conditions prevailing in . . . the Orangeburg District. “There is considerable trouble & moving among the Negroes,” he reported. “They are just like a swarm of bees all buzzing about & not knowing where to settle.”

Apparently, many freedmen were driven to return to their old places by economic necessity. Isabella A. Soustan, a Negro woman who had somehow found freedom in a place called Liberty, North Carolina, in July 1865, expressed her thoughts on the dilemma that many ex-slaves faced in their first year of emancipation. “I have the honor to appeal to you one more for assistance, Master,” she petitioned her recent owner. “I am cramped [here] near to death and no one [cares] for me [here], and I want you if you [please] Sir, to send for me.”

Some few freedmen were willing to exchange freedmen for security. “I don’t care if I am free,” concluded Isabella, “I had rather live with you, as I was as free while with you as I wanted to be.”

(After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, excerpts pp. 39-41)

Friends of the Black Race, North and South

Former North Carolina Governor and then Senator Zebulon Vance spoke in Congress in late January 1890 regarding the proposed bill (S.1121) “for the emigration of persons of color from the Southern States.” He believed the plan to convey black people to other lands impractical, and suggested that Northern and Western States assist in receiving black emigrants to disperse the black population then concentrated in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Friends of the Black Race, North and South

“Until 1877 the unstable fabric erected by the architects of reconstruction was upheld by the military of the United States, and when this was withdrawn the incongruous edifice toppled headlong and vanished away as the baseless fabric of a vision. It disappeared in cruel and ferocious convulsions which form one of the most shameful and shocking of all the tragedies of history. The attempt to reorganize society upon the basis of numbers failed.”

But the taking and keeping possession of the power of the States seems to be the wrong inflicted upon the colored man. The gravamen of that wrong is that the Negro can no longer send [to Washington] Republican Senators and Representatives, from the South, and the votes of Republican electoral colleges to aid in the manufacture of Republican presidents.

There are many errors of assumption required to make up this supposed wrong. In the first place, it is assumed that . . . every colored man is a Republican. The discovery of a colored Democratic vote in the ballot box is accepted as prima facie evidence of fraud. If those [Republican] majorities are not forthcoming, they conclude that the vote of their friends has been suppressed.

Neither has it entered into the consideration of the people of the North to place any stress upon the fact that there did exist, and still exists, between the former owner and the present freedman many of those kindly and controlling relations which existed between master and slave. It must be remembered that . . . the colored man still leans upon and looks to his former master for direction and advice – universally so except politics . . .

But a great mistake is made by those who assume that the whites exercise no influence over the Negroes except by force or fraud. The black man is attached to the South and the great body of its people. I believe I can say with truth that . . . any riot or disturbance anywhere in the South [was] at the instigation of some white scoundrel; and in every case the blacks have got the worst of the fray, being deserted invariably by their cowardly white allies when the bullets began to fly.

I think our Northern friends who so glibly undertake to settle the Negro question have yet to make the acquaintance of the Negro himself. You listen to the few who come here to make traffic of their wrongs, and in turn you endeavor to make profit for your [Republican] party by legislation directed toward those supposed wrongs.

Are you not aware of the difficulty . . . [and] vast amount of money you are compelled to employ to keep [the Negro] in subjection to a party whose active and respectable corporation is as far distant from them as its promises are from its performance; whilst the Democratic party, composed of the white men of the South, are their neighbors, landlords and employers?”

(Life of Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Publishing Company, 1897, excerpts pp. 245-251)

Segregation Plans in 1936

With the NAACP led by a man who preached socialism and later communism, it was not surprising that Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic Party would later attract black voters to his fold. In 1936, the Republican Party then was denouncing the New Deal’s “communist propensities”; FDR’s labor consultant Sidney Hillman created the first political action committee – CIO-PAC – with which to funnel labor union monies into the president’s campaign chest. Despite a black man, James W. Ford, being the vice-presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA in 1936, the left-leaning Democratic Party appealed to millions of black voters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Segregation Plans in 1936

“The year 1936 raised the issue of the Negro and national life in well-defined terms for the race’s spokesmen. First, it was the year of a presidential election . . . Negroes had traditionally decided in favor of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln and emancipation. Second, this particular election may be described fairly as a referendum for the administration of a Democratic president who had repeatedly espoused the cause of the “forgotten man.”

Third, this particular election year contained several racial issues which were extremely important to Negro leaders. [The] international situation was a burning issue for Negroes in 1936 because a non-colonial African nation was being attacked by a white European nation. Negroes wanted their white national decision makers to take some firm stand toward the Italian aggression against Ethiopia.

The election year was also significant because of the first National Negro Congress which convened in Chicago on February 14, 1936. Arising from the careful scrutiny of New Deal operations by an elite Negro group calling itself the Joint Committee on National Recovery, this congress brought together the whole spectrum of Negro leadership. In 1936 the leaders were taking a new deep breath in preparation for their next attempt “to shake off the bonds which have made possible economic slavery, political disenfranchisement and social inequalities.”

Among recognized Negro leaders in 1936 none adopted a position making segregation both the means and the goal of the race’s communal existence in America. Rather, a segregationist position was closer to the moderate stance of the great compromiser, Booker T. Washington. Negro segregation would be welcomed as a vehicle of achieving racial solidarity, which in turn would aid accumulation of wealth and a rise in social and cultural status, with a final goal of acceptance of Negroes as equals among the American citizenry.

The Republican editor of the Chicago Defender, Robert S. Abbott, stated the position of the Negro business community and its segregationist policies, though the major thrust of his editorial policy was one of protest rather than acquiescence toward white community. The editorial concluded that Negroes must accept, not attempt to change, the criteria of success employed by white Americans.

[W.E.B. Du Bois], the socialist and later in his life communist, was the most notable Negro conservative of 1936. [A] self-critical glance had convinced him that educated Negroes were only parasites on white philanthropy. [Du Bois] called for a concerted Negro effort to develop segregated education, religion and culture, segregated medicine and crime prevention, and, most important, segregated consumer power. The Negro could and should develop a socialism of professional services within its own racial community.

The task was not to build a segregated Negro capitalistic society parallel to white capitalism; rather, it was to create a segregated Negro economy in a form which would be functional in producing security and power to meet the circumstances of 1936, from which power base an attack on white structures for racial discrimination could be later launched.”

(Negro Leadership in the Election Year 1936, James A. Harrell; Journal of Southern History, Volume 34, No. 4, Nov. 1968, excerpts, pp. 546-554)

The Battle of Richmond

The author below rightfully points to the slave trade which flourished in Africa where chieftains raided neighboring tribes and sold captives – men, women and children – into slavery. In addition, Arab slave traders were well-established long before European traders found already-enslaved Africans available for purchase. As late as the 1950s, the Touareg tribe in Timbuktu was found to still hold slaves, as was its tradition for centuries. (See: The Slaves of Timbuktu, Robin Maugham, Harper & Brothers, 1961). Volkswagen named its medium-sized SUV in honor of this slave-holding tribe.

Further, New England’s transatlantic slave trade had Providence, Rhode Island as its center by 1750, surpassing Liverpool, and New England’s industrial base is said to have been built upon slave-trade profits. The State and city of New York is named after the Duke of York, founding member of the Royal African Company which existed for the purpose of importing Africans into the colonies; Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney single-handedly perpetuated slavery with his invention in 1793. These are symbols of slavery, which the South would not have had within its boundaries had it not been for their actions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Battle of Richmond

“Every record book has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

George Orwell, 1984.

The history police from Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” are at it again. Robert E. Lee’s picture, among 30 planned for an historical display along Richmond’s waterfront, was briefly removed because of protests by Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin. He claims the Confederate general is an offensive symbol of slavery.

James E. Rogers, president of the Richmond Historic Riverfront Foundation, was one of the cowed officials who made the decision to take down the portrait of Lee.

This and other attacks on the display of Confederate symbols show that the spirit of intolerance in Big Brother’s 1984 lives on today in campaigns to purify American history and obliterate any symbols of its past that do not pass the test of political correctness. The history police goose-stepping through our culture are quite willing to throw out the baby with the bath water.

What is the baby? For African-Americans, it is the fantastic accomplishments of blacks during the days of slavery in the South. Those accomplishments during that difficult time should engender nothing but pride in American blacks today. Yet that satisfaction is systematically and deliberately denied to black Americans by their so-called leaders.

Why? Because those leaders have more to gain by fomenting racial discord than by harmonizing the many common bonds between white and black Virginians.

[The] special target of black racists is the Confederate nation and any symbol of reverence of it. Thus we see campaigns all over the South to remove the Confederate battle flag from public view.

In a vivid testimonial to America’s declining educational standards, critics like City Councilman El-Amin take the erroneous and self-serving view that the Confederates fought for slavery and the North fought against it. That would have been news to both Bluecoats and Greybacks. Most Southerners fought because their homeland was invaded by those who refused to let them depart the Union in peace, just as both North and South had departed from Great Britain under George III.

Black radicals pick on General Lee, but they turn a blind eye to their own history. How does Mr. El-Amin reconcile the debasement of Lee and Washington with the fact that African tribal leaders enslaved and sold millions of blacks to the slave traders?

According to political correctness, white leaders who owned slaves moral lepers, but black historical figures who did so are to be honored. Why should we not be offended by displays of African dress and the celebration of African holidays? Might they not be a “painful reminder” of the horrible enslavement of blacks?”

(Letter from Virginia, Lynn Hopewell, Chronicles, February 2000, excerpts pp. 37-38)

 

Oct 1, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

The Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 petitioned the King to curtail his importation of slaves to the colony, arguing that slavery “greatly retards the Settlement of the Colonies.” With no other means of dependable labor for their plantations, Virginia slaveholders like Robert Carter rewarded those who worked on Sunday when needed, provided them measured independence, and allowed them to build their own quarters and supervise his plantation enterprises. The reward for faithful service was often emancipation by deed and will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

“On September 5, 1791, Robert Carter III of Nomony Hall, one of Virginia’s wealthiest slaveholders, delivered to the Northumberland District Court a document he called a “Deed of Gift.” It was a dry document . . . [which] signaled Carter’s intent to free his slaves, more than four hundred fifty in number, more American slaves than any American slaveholder had ever freed, more American slaves than any American slaveholder would ever free.

Carter lived next to the Washington’s and the Lee’s on the Northern Neck of Virginia, he was friend and peer to Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and other members of the Revolutionary elite.

No monuments honor him, nor the Deed of Gift. No published map exists that can direct you to the patchwork ruins of his house and plantation; no stone wall tells exactly where his body lies. Sweep through the great bestselling histories of the Revolution and the founders, and you will rarely find even a footnote mentioning Robert Carter.

Eugene D. Genovese, in his classic “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” refers to Carter three times, once as an example of a slaveholder who consulted his slaves on the performance of their overseers, once as an example of a slaveholder who allowed his slaves to practice medicine, and once as a slaveholder who believed that slavery was unprofitable.

In the summer of 1791 . . . as Robert Carter composed the Deed of Gift, the private emancipation of slaves in the State of Virginia had been lawful for almost a decade. Such emancipations were difficult financial propositions, but certainly feasible: before Robert Carter freed his slaves, small slaveholders across Virginia had liberated almost ten thousand of their black servants, and entire States with significant slave populations, such as New Jersey, were learning how to finance emancipations on a public scale.

Similarly, like many slaveholders before him, Carter provided financial support and sponsorship that eased the transition to freedom, provided for disabled and indigent freed slaves, and laid the groundwork for an interracial republic, challenging in numerous small instances the notion that young America would fall apart if blacks and whites were free at the same time.”

(The First Emancipator: Slavery, Religion and the Quiet Revolution of Robert Carter, Andrew Levy, Random House, 2005. Excerpts pp. xi-xviii)

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

Like many if not most Northern general officers who had not gone over to the Radicals, who saw future Republican votes and political hegemony in the freedmen, Sherman held black field hands in low esteem and predicted their demise if freed. Connecticut native Frederick Law Olmstead, who travelled through much of the South in the early 1850s found the slaves “a very poor and a very bad creature, much worse than I had supposed before. The people thus burthened [with black servants] would have need to provide systematically for the physical wants of these poor creatures, else that the latter would be liable to prey with great waste upon their substance.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

“General William T. Sherman, who conducted one of the most disgraceful dragonnades of modern history through the Carolinas and Georgia (January 1864-April 1865) “freeing” every Negro in sight, nevertheless had written his brother, Senator John Sherman, in July 1860: “All the Congresses on Earth cannot make the Negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man, or he must amalgamate or be destroyed . . . Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave.”

Six months earlier, in December 1859, when the Abolitionists were roaring in high fettle, stamping on the floors and pounding on the desks in both houses of Congress, he had said: “I would not if I could abolish or modify slavery.”

Having stated opposite views on the matter in previous weeks, Lincoln in a different milieu, looking South with apparent sympathy, could say: “I cannot blame the Southerners for not doing what I should not know how to do myself . . . Were all earthly powers given me I would not know what to do as to the existing institution.”

Yet some years later, as if indeed all earthly powers had been given him, he took it upon himself – and wholly outside the Constitution – to declare forever “free” nearly four million uneducated, childlike blacks, not one in a thousand of whom had the least notion of what it was all about. They were suddenly propelled into a highly organized white civilization that moved and existed by the means of money, hired labor, production, consumption, and where sentiment was incongruous if not grotesque.

This was all done by a juvenile moral stature, accomplished by an outrageous ukase that no Czar of . . . [Russia] would have dared to utter.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 85-86)

A Northern General’s View of Negro Suffrage

As the Republican party completed its thorough bludgeoning of the South in early 1865, the realization of postwar politics and establishing Republican hegemony over the country for a long period became a primary consideration. With the South eventually returning to national politics, the question of Negro suffrage and ensuring they would always vote Republican became paramount. But there were also those in the Republican party who favored separation of the races, like Major-General Jacob D. Cox, who led a division under Sherman at Atlanta, and under Schofield at Fort Fisher – the latter where he observed Northern white and black troops interacting.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Northern General’s View of Negro Suffrage

“Jacob D. Cox entered the Reconstruction debate in his role as the Republican candidate for the governor of Ohio. On the surface, the question of federal policy toward the freedmen was of little relevance to the Ohio gubernatorial campaign, since that office had no jurisdiction over the question.

However, in 1865 no politician, at whatever level he operated, could ignore Reconstruction. Federal officeholders would use the State campaigns of 1865 to gauge public opinion on this issue. Moreover, the Ohio Unionist party reflected the divisions of the national party over the question of Negro suffrage; antislavery men from the Western Reserve advocated it, southern Ohio Unionists opposed it, and the majority of the party’s 1865 convention delegates wished to take no immediate position.

Although the party platform ignored the question, many members, especially the anti-slavery Republicans, insisted that Cox define his position concerning the status of the freedmen.

Cox announced his plan reluctantly . . . [and] Disagreeing with the call for immediate Negro suffrage coming from Western Reserve Republicans, the candidate claimed that declarations by State parties and nominees would be premature and would make more difficult President [Andrew] Johnson’s task.

Decisive pressure came, however, from the seat of Ohio antislavery sentiment and Cox’s alma mater, Oberlin College. [Cox’s reply was the eight-page] Oberlin Letter — an antislavery call for the separation of blacks and whites. Knowing that his more radical friends would accuse him of racism, Cox began by asserting his commitment to certain principles held by antislavery men.

“The public faith is pledged to every person of color in the rebel states, to secure to them and to their posterity forever, a complete and veritable freedom. The system of slavery must be abolished and prohibited by paramount and irreversible law. Throughout the rebel states there must be, in the words of Webster “impressed upon the soil itself an inability to bear up any but free men.” The systems of the states must be truly republican.”

To Cox, however, “the effect of the war has not been simply to “embitter” their [the two races] relations, but to develop a rooted antagonism which makes their permanent fusion into one political community an absolute impossibility.” The granting of equal political rights to freedmen would only hasten the onset of a race war.

This would occur, Cox argued, because the unique historical position of black Americans, coupled with their distinct physical appearance, made amalgamation impossible. Southern whites, unwilling to operate on a basis of equality with blacks, would combine to keep them powerless, either by law . . . or through violence. Recognizing the incongruity between the democratic promise of America and his restricted position, the black man would resist. In the ensuing contest, he could not win.

Cox’s contact with white Northern soldiers convinced him that white troops would side with white Southerners and the Northern population would acquiesce in the eventual extinction of the colored minority. America’s republican institutions had met in Southern racial antagonism an insurmountable obstacle.

Claiming a commitment to the freedom and prosperity of the freedmen, but believing racial divisions incurable, Cox advocated separation.”

(The Cox Plan of Reconstruction: A Case Study in Ideology and Race Relations. Wilbert H. Ahern, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, John T. Hubbell, editor, Kent State University Press, Vol. XVI, No. IV, December 1970, excerpts pp. 294-296)

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

Long unhappy with Lincoln’s lack of severity in punishing the South, Radical Republicans knew that freedmen could not be left in friendly relations with their former owners and jeopardize triumphant Republican war gains. The Union League was the terror-arm of the party which taught the freedmen that their white neighbors would re-enslave them at the first opportunity, and unwavering Republican voting would protect them. As the Radicals no doubt were responsible for Lincoln’s demise, they also found his successor lacking in sufficient hatred for the South and disposed of him as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

“While a stunned people paid final tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis fled southward from Richmond. His capture symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian aristocracy in America. Lincoln’s passing removed the last effective check on vindictive Radicals and symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian democracy.

Out of the confusion created from the scars of war and from the demise of hoary agrarian restraints, business-industrial America was to swagger in under the cloak of the [Republican] platform of 1860 and Radical Reconstruction.

Ephemerally, hate and revenge would run rampant, tarnishing reputations, sweeping away moderate men, and pushing to the top many who had not even expected political leadership only a few years before.

For a few fleeting days following Lincoln’s assassination, Radicals had purred contentedly around Andrew Johnson. The new President was one of them: he talked of harsh treatment for rebels. But by . . . late May, Johnson . . . was following Lincoln’s moderate reconstruction policies.

In the [mid-June 1865 Iowa] State convention . . . A rising temper of Radicalism had been revealed . . . Radicals on the floor had pushed through a proposal committing the party to an amendment to the State constitution allowing Negro suffrage.

To grant universal suffrage to the Negro would enable “base politicians” to pander to “ignorance and incapacity”; the race as a whole would be unfit to exercise the voting privilege for a generation.

Thad Stevens, cool, grim and confident, sat ready to “spring the drop” on [new] Southern Congressmen, on President Johnson, and on any moderate Republicans who stood in his way. With malice toward the defeated, and charity toward Negroes, railroad entrepreneurs and industrialists, this cynical old man had some carefully laid plans for the perpetual ascendancy of the Republican party.

[Johnson’s reconstruction plan] would bring Western and Southern men (with certain Eastern allies] into a combination to rule the republic. Such a rule, agrarian in nature, might mean loss of power for Republicans; and it would almost certainly dilute or reverse wartime tariff, railroad and monetary policies so lucrative to the expansive business, financial and industrial interests. [Financiers], ironmasters, and railroad entrepreneurs had as much to lose from an unfavorable economic policy as did Radical politicians from a Reconstruction policy which might bring loss of power and patronage.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 178-179; 181-184; 189-190)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

During the 1876 gubernatorial campaign to rescue his State from the Radical rule of the corrupt Massachusetts-born governor, Daniel Chamberlain, Democratic candidate Wade Hampton challenged the many blacks in his audiences to advance to a new level of freedom. “You have, ever since emancipation been slaves to your political masters [of the Republican Party]. As members of the Loyal [Union] League you have been fettered slaves to a party.” Since the war’s end, Radical Republicans used the Union League to elect its candidates, suppress political opposition, and terrorize black men who sided with Democrats.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

“City of Dreadful Night.” Always the words recall two nights in Charleston almost exactly ten years apart – September 1, 1886, the night after the earthquake, September 6, 1876, [the] night of the King Street riot. The riot was the worse, by far, to live through.

The riot night there was tumult and confusion of hate and fear and pistol shots, howls of wild rage, savage threats and curses, appeals of pursued and bloody men for rescue, mercy and life. The riot could have been prevented. All know that now.

It was one of the tragic incidents of the 1876 campaign and . . . it gave Charleston perhaps the most fearful night of her eventful history. The white people were overconfident. They knew unrest and anger were seething and increasing among the Negroes and were prepared to resist and suppress an outbreak; but the outbreak came before it was expected . . .

Looking back it is easy to see that the storm signals were plain. The Radical Republican leaders had noted with growing dismay and fury the slow but steady additions to the number of Negroes enrolling in Democratic [party] clubs, for one reason or another. A riotous attack had been made on the Negro club in Mount Pleasant.

The meeting of the Democratic club of Ward 8, August 31, in the old carriage factory, Spring Street near Rutledge Avenue, was invaded by a number of boisterous [Republican] Negroes who interrupted . . . [as they sought an] opportunity to injure Isaac Rivers, a huge black man and an effective speaker, working for the Democrats, and J.W. Sawyer, another colored speaker. Rivers and Sawyer were hustled, threatened and cursed, but escaped uninjured.

On the night of September 5 . . . On motion of Colonel J.D. Aiken a committee of seven was appointed charged especially with protection of colored Democrats.

[A] mob of Negroes packed the street around the entrance to the meeting place of Ward 5. The white men formed a square, with Rivers and other Negro Democrats in the middle, and marched into King Street through a roar of jeers and hisses. They were aided by police and the disturbance ended.

A meeting of the colored Democratic club of Ward 4 was held the night of the sixth at Archer’s Hall, King Street, J.B. Jenkins, vice-president, presiding. The Hunkidories and Live Oaks, Negro Radical Republican secret organizations had gathered their forces and were massed, waiting, in King Street, armed with pistols, clubs and sling shots, the last made with a pound of lead attached to a twelve-inch leather strap and providing a deadly weapon at close range.

Mr. Barnwell led the white men gallantly. They checked to mob by firing pistols just over the heads of those in the front rank . . . the police arrived at the nick of time, charged, used their clubs and were resisted fiercely. At Citadel Green the fighting became desperate . . . and several police were insensible or disabled.

A new mob of Negroes poured out of John Street, shrieking “Blood!” A black policeman named Green and J.M. Buckner, white, were shot, fell, and were drawn out of the fighting crowd with difficulty. The fifteen white men who remained on their feet struggled into the Citadel grounds and delivered the Negro Democrats, none of whom was injured.

Then the whites fled as they could and the Negro mob took the street [and] divided into gangs of fifty to one-hundred and paraded, firing pistols, defying the police, chasing and mercilessly beating every white man they could see and catch, smashing store windows, shouting threats to exterminate the white population.

The main guard house was filled with wounded white men, some of them picked up insensible and probably left for dead. Mr. Buckner was seen to be dying. Several policemen were fearfully wounded. Two reporters for the News and Courier sent to the scene of the riot were beaten, struck with stones and rescued by police only with much effort.

Panic spread fast and everywhere as people understood that war had begun on race lines and that Negroes appeared to have possession of the city. White men were compelled to stay in their homes with shivering and terror-stricken families because any white man venturing on the street alone invited death uselessly.”

(Hampton and His Red Shirts: South Carolina’s Deliverance in 1876, Alfred B. Williams, Crown Rights Books, 2001 (original 1935), excerpts pp. 119-121)