Browsing "Race and the North"

Fruits of the Abolitionist Victory

The passage below is taken from a novel, though one based upon common sense and the historical realities of North and South. Though many like the author claim that “Jim Crow” laws occurred about 1900, they actually have their basis in the North as New York in the 1820s, for example, dealt with the threat of a black swing vote by raising property qualifications for black voters and free blacks had limited access to antebellum northern public transport. The author aptly describes a “lost cause” myth which would have developed in the postwar North to glorify its defeat, and locating a convenient scapegoat.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fruits of the Abolitionist Victory

“Southerners were appalled, as well as perplexed, at the growing problems of discrimination and segregation in the North. That the North would have fought for the freedom of the black man, then turn around and display animosity at him for moving into the North and expressing his newly-found freedoms, seemed hypocrisy at its worst to the average citizen of the Confederacy.

The turn of the century brought to the United States what became known as the “Jim Crow” laws, named after a traditional song and dance, ironically of the South. Contemporary Southern social analysts have blamed the animosities felt in the North against the former slaves and sons and daughters of formers slaves, on several things.

First, there was the idea in the north that the Civil War had, in essence been a “black man’s war” in which hundreds of thousands of northern boys had sacrificed life and limb for the emancipation of the black man. The immediate woes that beset the United States after the war ended in defeat for the North needed some focal point, and the poor, uneducated former slave – the stranger to Northerners – became the convenient scapegoat.

In addition, the freeing of slaves flooded the job market in the North with workers who were willing to work for “slave wages” – much less than the ex-Union soldiers, also looking for jobs at the end of the war in 1863. Many veterans were fired from jobs and replaced with ex-slaves. The results were riots all over the North over nearly a decade.

The Southerner’s more lenient attitudes toward black people stemmed from generations of living with blacks, growing up with them, working beside them in the fields, and later, in the factories. Most Southerners would have admitted, even during the War between the States that they had always felt an uneasiness – a guilt, even – in seeing blacks held in servitude as slaves.

The stories of mistreatment and whippings had always been regarded in the South as ludicrous, pre-war propaganda by Abolitionists who had never seen a black man or woman. Certainly there were instances of a cruel overseer who applied punishment a little too often, but slaves in the old South had been considered property – and expensive property, as well – and were to be treated like an item of value. As one Southern social historian put it, you wouldn’t take a sledge-hammer to your brand new, expensive horseless carriage the first time it didn’t run; you would find out why it wasn’t working and fix it.

Southerners saw black men and women grow up, fall in love, marry, give birth, laugh, cry, and mourn the deaths of family members. There was something wrong here, many felt. These black people were not really property, like a plow or a horseless carriage. Under the skin, though many a Southerner, we are a very much alike.

It had to be a terrible moral burden, a society-wide, sublimated guilt about slavery that, once the war was over and the name-calling by Abolitionists had ended, could finally be seen in its true light, and was dealt with swiftly by the hurried measures to free the blacks from bondage.

To the average Southerner, blacks were not only property, but people too. To the Northerners, blacks were first a symbol, then a threat.”

If the South Had Won Gettysburg, Mark Nesbitt, Thomas Publications, 1980, pp. 88-89)

Get Killed or Get Hung

The terror raids of enemy black troops on the South’s coastal areas were intended to disrupt agricultural production, and especially to seize African slaves to deny the South its workers. Rather than liberating the slaves, the enemy impressed the slaves as soldiers and threatened to hang them if they did not fight.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Get Killed or Get Hung

“[Brigadier General Joseph] Finegan’s estimate of the emergency was made clear in a proclamation he circulated throughout East Florida informing the people that:

“. . . Our unscrupulous [Northern] enemy has landed a large force of Negroes, under command of white officers, at Jacksonville, under cover of gunboats. He is attempting to fortify the place as to make it secure against attacks. The purpose of this movement is obvious and need not be mentioned in direct terms. I therefore call on such of the citizens as can possibly leave their homes to arm and organize themselves into companies without delay and to report to me. Ammunition, subsistence, and transportation will be furnished then while they remain in service.

With the blessing of the Almighty, the zealous support of the people and the government, I doubt not that the detestable foe will soon be driven from their cover.”

On March 16, after fighting an exhausting series of skirmishes with Yankee troops, [Winston] Stephens wrote to warn his wife of the black troops in Jacksonville, and of the grave danger that Yankee raiders might come upriver to Welaka. “Get the slaves ready to run to the woods on a moment’s notice,” he wrote his wife, adding that “the Negroes in arms will promise them fair prospects, but they will suffer the same fate those did in town that we killed, and the Yankees say they will hang them if they don’t fight.”

(Jacksonville’s Ordeal by Fire, Martin & Schafer, Florida Publishing Company, 1984, page 145)

Cincinnati's Anti-Black Past

In 1804 and 1807 Ohio had enacted “Jim Crow Laws” that required Negroes entering the State to post a $500 bond to guarantee good behavior, as well as a court document proving they were free. Though the bond requirement was not strictly enforced, by 1829 Cincinnatians were greatly alarmed by the large black population and ordered them to comply or leave the city within thirty days.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Cincinnati’s Anti-Black Past

“There was an abolition mob in Cincinnati a fortnight before my arrival, and the excitement had hardly subsided then. Let it be remembered, Ohio is a non-slave State. Two boys were playing near the canal, and bothering a Negro man, who got into a passion and stabbed one of them with a knife. The Negro was apprehended; but the citizens were so indignant at the outrage that they determined to hunt the Negroes out of the town altogether. For this purpose, they met at Fifth Street Market, some thousands strong, with rifles and two fieldpieces, and marched in regular order to the district of the city where the Negroes principally resided.

The blacks were numerous, and rumor said they were to show fight. Many of them had arms. Some said they fired on the citizens, and others not. There was some firing; but I could not ascertain if any of the blacks were killed, the accounts were so various. The end of the matter was, that they hounded them out of the town, and not a Negro durst show his black face in the town for a week. Many of them fled to the authorities of the town for protection; and the jail-yard was crowded with the poor creatures who had fled for their lives.

An arrangement was immediately come to, between the authorities and the citizens; to the effect that no Negro should be allowed to live in the city who could not find a white man to become his security, and be answerable for his conduct. There were two days of mobbing. The second day they gutted an abolition establishment, and sunk the press in the middle of the Ohio River, where it now lies . . .”

(Lynch Law — North and South, William Thomson, The Leaven of Democracy, Clement Eaton, editor, Braziller Press, 1963, page 424)

Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

To quell the fears of Northerners who envisioned emancipated slaves flooding their way in search of employment and wages, Northern leaders began advancing theories. Giving the freedmen political control of the defeated South would “drain the northern Negroes back to the South” as they fled northern race prejudice. Lincoln and other Republicans advanced ideas of colonization; Grant as president gave serious thought to deporting freedmen to Haiti.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

“As the war for the union began to take on the character of a war for freedom, northern attitudes toward the Negro paradoxically began to harden rather than soften. This hardening process was especially prominent in the northwestern or middle western States where the old fear of Negro invasion was intensified by apprehensions that once the millions of slaves below the Ohio River were freed they would push northward – this time by the thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps in mass exodus, instead of in driblets of one or two who came furtively as fugitive slaves.

The prospect of Negro immigration, Negro neighbors, and Negro competition filled the whites with alarm, and their spokesmen voiced their fears with great candor. “There is,” [Illinois Senator] Lyman Trumbull told the Senate, in April, 1862, “a very great aversion in the West – I know it to be so in my State – against having free negroes come among us.”

And about the same time [Senator] John Sherman, who was to give his name to the Radical Reconstruction Act five years later, told Congress that in Ohio “we do not like negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana [Congressman Joseph A. Wright] said yesterday, the whole people of the northwestern States are, for reasons correct or not, opposed to having many negroes among them and the principle or prejudice has been engrafted in the legislation of nearly all the northwestern States.”

So powerful was this anti-Negro feeling that it almost overwhelmed antislavery feeling and seriously imperiled the passage of various confiscation and emancipation laws designed to free the slave. To combat the opposition Republican leaders such as George W. Julian of Indiana, Albert G. Riddle of Ohio, and Salmon P. Chase advanced the theory that emancipation would actually solve northern race problems.

Instead of starting a mass migration of freedmen northward, they argued, the abolition of slavery would not only put a stop to the entry of fugitive slaves but would drain the northern Negroes back to the South. Once slavery [was] ended, the Negro would flee northern race prejudice and return to his natural environment and the congenial climate of the South.

One tentative answer of the Republican party to the northern fear of Negro invasion, however, was deportation of the freedmen and colonization abroad . . . the powerful backing of President Lincoln and the support of western Republicans, Congress overcame [any] opposition. Lincoln was committed to colonization not only as a solution to the race problem but as a means of allaying northern opposition to emancipation and fears of Negro exodus.

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 126-129)

Free Soil Iowa Without Black People

The free soil and anti-slavery mantras of the prewar Republican party meant confining the black man to the South and reserving the western territories to European immigrants who did not want to compete with cheap labor. Lincoln and his fellow Republicans felt that the best use of the territories was “for homes of free white people”; Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois admitted the white supremacy basis of his party, stating that “We, the Republican party, are the white man’s party.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Free Soil Iowa Without Black People

“It is surprising that so many forceful anti-Negro views could be aired on the frontier and yet escape the scrutiny of so many historians. At the constitutional conventions of almost every western State, the single most pressing question was the admission or status of the black population. “Shall the territories be Africanized?” was the way Senator James Harlan of Iowa phrased it.

Both proslavery and antislavery delegates vied with each other in verbalizing their resentment of black people, and their insistence that equality was entirely unacceptable to white residents of the States. Some even jeopardized their State’s admission to the Union by offering anti-Negro laws that were in clear violation of the wishes of Congress. And, as the slavery controversy grew and civil war appeared more imminent, colorphobia increased in the western States.

The 1850 Indiana Constitutional Convention illustrated the fury of this colorphobia. One delegate argued:

“. . . that we can never live together upon an equality is as certain as that no two antagonistic principles can exist together at the same time.”

Comments at the 1844 Iowa Constitutional Convention [were]:

“We could never consent to open the doors of our beautiful State and invite [the black] to settle our lands.”

“The ballot box would fall into his hands and a train of evils would follow that would be incalculable.”

“The Negro not being a party to the government, has no right to partake of its privileges.”

“There are strong reasons to induce the belief that the two races could not exist in the same government upon an equality without discord and violence.”

[The Iowa Journal of History, Vol. I]

(The Black West, William Loren Katz, Open Hand Publishing, 1987, pp. 49-50)

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