History Book Reading Discussion

History Book Reading

Discussion10 Chapter 1 Historians and Textbooks: The “Story” of Reconstruction Xiot necessarily the same. Also, be careful to note the most important facts orReconstruction that each presents and the meaning each assigns to them. To she more clearly how these textbook selections differ from one another, it would be helpful to write down brief answers to the following questions as you read each account: 1. What is thXauthor’s view of the integrity and effectiveness of those in­ volved in the Republican governments in the Southern states? Is the view of the “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” positive, negative, or neutral? 2. What is the author’s view of blacks? Is the author’s analysis of Reconstruc­ tion based on racial assumptions about the character of the freedmen? Are blacks passive or active partibinants in shaping Reconstruction and their own lives? / 3. What is the author’s viewer the overturning of Reconstruction? Is the sei­ zure of power by wNte’boutherners a welcome or regrettable development? What is the authoj^view of such terrorist organizations as the Ku Klux Klan? Before you begin, read your own textbook’s discussion of Reconstruction. When yojj’âre finished, you should be able to explain how thèse^selections differ>ẁhich one is closest to the interpretation in your own text, and which oríe iis most plausible. SOURCES 1 Reconstruction (1906) THOMAS W. WILSON Adventurers swarmed out of the North to cozen, beguile, and use … them [negroes]. These men, mere “carpet baggers” for the most part, who brought nothing with them, and had nothing to bring, but a change of clothing and their wits, became the new masters of the blacks. They gained the confidence of the negroes, obtained for themselves the more lucrative offices, and lived upon the public treasury, public contracts, and their easy control of affairs. For the negroes there was nothing but occasional allotments of abandoned or forfeited land, the pay of petty offices, a per diem allowance as members of the conventions and the state legislatures which their new masters made business for, or the wages of servants in the various offices of administra­ tion. Their ignorance and credulity made them easy dupes…. Source: Woodrow Wilson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper and Bros., 1906), V: pp. 46, 47, 49, 58, 59, 60, 62, 98, 99. Sources 11 … In Mississippi, before the work of the carpet baggers was done, six hun­ dred and forty thousand acres of land had been forfeited for taxes, twenty per cent, of the total acreage of the State. The state tax levy for 1871 was fou^ times as great as the levy for 1869 had been; that for 1873 eight times as great; that for 1874 fourteen times. The impoverished planters could not carry the intolerable burden of taxes, and gave their lands up to be sold by the sheriff. There were few who could buy. The lands lay waste and neglected or were parcelled out at nominal rates among the negroes.. . . Taxes, of course, did not suffice. Enormous debts were piled up to satisfy the adventurers…. Treasuries were swept clean… . . . . The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and con­ ducted in the interest of adventurers: governments whose incredible debts were incurred that thieves might be enriched, whose increasing loans and taxes went to no public use but into the pockets of party managers and cor­ rupt contractors…. They took the law into their own hands, and began to attempt by intimi­ dation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered course of public action. They began to do by secret concert and association what they could not do in avowed parties. Almost by accident a way was found to succeed which led insensibly farther and farther afield into the ways of violence and outlawry. In May, 1866, a little group of young men in the Tennessee village of Pulaski, finding time hang heavy on their hands after the excitements of the field, so lately abandoned, formed a secret club for the mere pleasure of association, for private amusement—for anything that might promise to break the monotony of the too quiet place…. . . . Year by year the organization spread, from county to county, from State to State. Every country-side wished to have its own Ku Klux, founded in secrecy and mystery like the mother “Den” at Pulaski, until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, an “Invisible Empire of the South,” bound together in loose organization to protect the southern coun­ try from some of the ugliest hazards of a time of revolution…. It was impossible to keep such a power in hand. Sober men governed the counsels and moderated the plans of those roving knights errant; but it was lawless work at best. They had set themselves, after the first year or two of mere mischievous frolic had passed, to right a disordered society through the power of fear. Men of hot passions who could not always be restrained carried their plans into effect…. The reconstruction of the southern States had been the undoing of the Republican party. The course of carpet bag rule did not run smooth. Every election fixed the attention of the country upon some serious question of fraud or violence in the States where northern adventurers and negro major­ ities were in control. . . . Before [Ulysses S. Grant’s] term was out the white 12 Chapter 1 Historians and Textbooks: The “Story” of Reconstruction voters of the South had rallied strong enough in every State except South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana to take their governments out of the hands of the men who were preying upon them. The Negro in Reconstruction (1922) CARTER WOODSON feeconstrhction began in the schoolhouses not in the State houses, as unin­ formed persons often say. … As the Union armies gradually invaded that area the soldihrs opened schools for Negroes. Regular teachers came from relief societies and the Freedmen’s Bureau. These enlightened a fair percent­ age of the Negroe^by 1870. The illiteracy of the Negroes was reduced to 79.9 by that time. Whbn about the same time these freedmen had a chance to participate in the rehabilitation of State governments in the South, they gave that section of the first fretrpublic school system, the first democratic educa­ tion it ever had…. \ The [majority of] other Sta^ęs in the South, from 1868 to about 1872, became subjected to what is commonly known as “Negro carpet-bag rule.” To call this Negro rule, however^ very much of a mistake. As a mat­ ter of fact, most of the local offices in thes# commonwealths were held by the white men, and those Negroes who did attain some of the higher offices were usually about as competent as the/average whites thereto elected. Only twenty-three Negroes served in Congress from 1868 to 1895. The Negroes had political equality in the Southern States onlyVfew years, and with some exceptions their tenure in Congress was very shortX .. The charge that all Negro officers were illiterate, ignorant of the science of government, cannot be sustained. In the first place/the education of the Negro by Union soldiers in the South began in spots as early as 1861. Many of the Negro leaders who had been educated in the North or abroad returned to the South after the war. Negro illiteracy had been reduced to 79.9 by 1870, just about the time the freedmen were actually participating in the reconstruction./The masses of Negroes did not take a part in the govern­ ment in the beginning of the reconstruction. \ It is true that many of them were not prepared to vote, and decidedly dis­ qualified fop’ihe positions which they held. In some of the legislatures/as in Louisiana’and South Carolina, more than half of the Negro members could scarcelyread or write. They, therefore, had to vote according to emotions or the dictates of the demagogues. This, of course, has been true of legislatures composed entirely of whites. In the local and State administrative offices, Source: From Carter G. Woodson and Charles H. Wesley, The Negro in Our History, 1962, pp. 382, 388, 401-410, 431-414. h< ra N N re er th th th isi Ol he fir an se th< pr pS’ dh tio Eu by thi ma gal tha in of t ho1 ing esp Thi the pul the deg The ana Kia 16 Chapter 1 Historians and Textbooks: The “Story” of Reconstruction Such tomfoolery and terror proved partially effective. Many Negroes and carpetbaggers, quick^cutake a hint, were scared away from the polls. But those stubborn souls who persisted jn their forwardways were flogged, mu­ tilated, or even murdered. In one Louisiaha-parish in 1868, the whites in two days killed or wounded two hundred victims; a pile of Twenty-five bodies was found half^iiriedm the woods. By such atrocious practices was the Negrodflcept fn his place.” Reconstruction: An Unfinished Revolution (2001) MARY BETH NORTON et al. Reconstruction Politics in the South From the start, Reconstruction encountered the resistance of white south­ erners. In the black codes and in private attitudes, many whites stubbornly opposed emancipation, and the former planter class proved especially unbending. In 1866 a Georgia newspaper frankly observed that “most of the white citizens believe that the institution of slavery was right, and . .. they will believe that the condition, which comes nearest to slavery, that can now be established will be the best.” White Resistance Fearing loss of control over their slaves, some planters attempted to postpone freedom by denying or misrepresenting events. For­ mer slaves reported that their owners “didn’t tell them it was freedom” or “wouldn’t let [them] go.” Agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau reported that “the old system of slavery [is] working with even more rigor than formerly at a few miles distant from any point where U.S. troops are stationed.” To hold onto their workers, some landowners claimed control over black children and used guardianship and apprentice laws to bind black families to the plantation. Whites also blocked blacks from acquiring land. A few planters divided up plots among their slaves, but most condemned the idea of making blacks landowners. A Georgia woman whose family was known for its support of religious education for slaves was outraged that two property owners planned to “rent their lands to the Negroes!” Such action was, she declared, “injurious to the best interest of the community.” Adamant resistance by propertied whites soon manifested itself in other ways, including violence. In one North Carolina town a local magistrate clubbed a black man on a public street, and bands of “Regulators” terrorized blacks in parts of that state and in Kentucky. Such incidents were predictable in a defeated society in which many planters believed, as a South Carolinian put it, that blacks “can’t be governed except with the whip.” Source: From Norton, A People and a Nation, 8E © 2010 Wadsworth, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission, www.cengage.com/permissions Sources 17 After President Johnson encouraged the South to resist congressional Reconstruction, white conservatives worked hard to capture the new state governments. Many whites also boycotted the polls in an attempt to defeat Congress’s plans; by sitting out the elections, whites might block the new constitutions, which had to be approved by a majority of registered voters. This tactic was tried in North Carolina and succeeded in Alabama, forc­ ing Congress to base ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and of new state constitutions on a majority of “votes cast” (the provision of the Fourth Reconstruction Act). : > I I 5 t 3 ‘ r I n c Black Voters and Emergence of a Southern Republican Party Very few black men stayed away from the polls. Enthusiastically and hopefully, they voted Republican. Most agreed with one man who felt he should “stick to the end with the party that freed me.” Illiteracy did not prohibit blacks (or unedu­ cated whites) from making intelligent choices. Although Mississippi’s William Henry could read only “a little,” he testified that he and his friends had no difficulty selecting the Republican ballot. “We stood around and watched,” he explained. “We saw D. Sledge vote; he owned half the county. We knowed he voted Democratic so we voted the other ticket so it would be Republi­ can.” Women, who could not vote, encouraged their husbands and sons, and preachers exhorted their congregations to use the franchise. With such group spirit, zeal for voting spread through the entire black community. Thanks to a large black turnout and the restrictions on prominent Con­ federates, a new southern Republican Party came to power in the constitu­ tional conventions of 1868-1870. Republican delegates consisted of a sizable contingent of blacks (265 out of the total of just over 1,000 delegates through­ out the South), some northerners who had moved to the South, and native southern whites who favored change. Together these Republicans brought the South into line with progressive reforms adopted earlier in the rest of the nation. The new constitutions were more democratic. They eliminated property qualifications for voting and holding office, and they turned many appointed offices into elective posts. They provided for public schools and institutions to care for the mentally ill, the blind, the deaf, the destitute, and the orphaned…. The Myth of “Negro Rule” Within a few years, as centrists in both parties met with failure, white hostility to congressional Reconstruction began to dominate. Some conservatives had always desired to fight Reconstruction through pressure and racist propaganda. They put economic and social pressure on blacks: one black Republican reported that “my neighbors will not employ me, nor sell me a farthing’s worth of anything.” Charging that the South had been turned over to ignorant blacks, conservatives deplored “black domina­ tion,” which became a rallying cry for a return to white supremacy Such attacks were inflammatory propaganda, and part of the growing myth of “Negro rule,” which would serve as a central theme in battles over 18 Chapter 1 Historians and Textbooks: The “Story” of Reconstruction the memory of Reconstruction. African Americans participated in politics but hardly dominated or controlled events. They were a majority in only two out of ten state constitutional writing conventions (transplanted northerners were a majority in one). In the state legislatures, only in the lower house in South Carolina did blacks ever constitute a majority; among officeholders, their numbers generally were far fewer than their proportion in the popula­ tion. Sixteen blacks won seats in Congress before Reconstruction was over, but none was ever elected governor. Only eighteen served in a high state office such as lieutenant governor, treasurer, superintendent of education, or secretary of state. In all, some four hundred blacks served in political office during the Reconstruction era. Although they never dominated the process, they established a rich tradition of government service and civic activism. Elected officials, such as Robert Smalls in South Carolina, labored tirelessly for cheaper land prices, better healthcare, access to schools, and the enforce­ ment of civil rights for their people. The black politicians of Reconstruction are lost in the mists, the forgotten heroes of this seedtime of America’s long civil rights movement. Carpetbaggers and Scalawags Conservatives also assailed the allies of black Republicans. Their propaganda denounced whites from the North as “carpet­ baggers,” greedy crooks planning to pour stolen tax revenues into their sturdy luggage made of carpet material. Immigrants from the North, who held the largest share of Republican offices, were all tarred with this brush. In fact, most northerners who settled in the South had come seeking busi­ ness opportunities or a warmer climate and never entered politics. Those who did enter politics generally wanted to democratize the South and to introduce northern ways, such as industry, public education, and the spirit of enterprise. Carpetbaggers’ ideals were tested by hard times and ostracism by white southerners. In addition to tagging northern interlopers as carpetbaggers, Conserva­ tives invented the term “scalawag” to discredit any native white south­ erner who cooperated with the Republicans. A substantial number of southerners did so, including some wealthy and prominent men. Most scalawags, however, were yeoman farmers, men from mountain areas and nonslaveholding districts who had been restive under the Confederacy. They saw that they could benefit from the education and opportunities promoted by Republicans. Banding together with freedmen, they pursued common class interests and hoped to make headway against the power of long-dominant planters. Cooperation even convinced a few scalawags that “there is but little if any difference in the talents of the two races,” as one observed, and that all should have “an equal start.” Yet this black­ white coalition was vulnerable to the race issue, and most scalawags did not support racial equality. Republican tax policies also cut into upcountry yeoman support because reliance on the property tax hit many small landholders hard. Ta: 1er pre im mt dis the Thi anc cief ( Un en^ ing in ć Dei car] Ku allo in n Kia the Afri far Rec whi som k tent stitt Nor seve Ash deac men Yorl whi] poss Fail. Repi can : a fe^ not ] Sources 19 Tax Policy and Corruption as Political Wedges Taxation was a major prob­ lem for the Reconstruction governments. Republicans wanted to maintain prewar services, repair the war’s destruction, stimulate industry, and support important new ventures such as public schools. But the Civil War had destroyed much of the South’s tax base. One category of valuable property—slaves—had disappeared entirely. And hundreds of thousands of citizens had lost much of the rest of their property—money, livestock, fences, and buildings—to the war. Thus an increase in taxes was necessary even to maintain traditional services, and new ventures required still higher taxes. Inevitably, Republican tax poli­ cies aroused strong opposition, especially among the yeomen. Corruption was another serious charge levied against the Republicans. Unfortunately, it often was true. Many carpetbaggers and black politicians engaged in fraudulent schemes, sold their votes, or padded expenses, tak­ ing part in what scholars recognize was a nationwide surge of corruption in an age ruled by “spoilsmen.” Corruption carried no party label, but the Democrats successfully pinned the blame on unqualified blacks and greedy carpetbaggers among southern Republicans. ) t i .f d Y ;s d 21 5S IS le­ id ri­ di Ku Klux Klan All these problems hurt the Republicans, whose leaders also allowed factionalism along racial and class lines to undermine party unity. But in many southern states the deathblow came through violence. The Ku Klux Klan, a secret veterans’ club that began in Tennessee in 1866, spread through the South and rapidly evolved into a terrorist organization. Violence against African Americans occurred from the first days of Reconstruction but became far more organized and purposeful after 1867. Klansmen rode to frustrate Reconstruction and keep the freedmen in subjection. Nighttime harassment, whippings, beatings, and murder became common, and terrorism dominated some counties and regions…. Klan violence injured Republicans across the South. No fewer than onetenth of the black leaders who had been delegates to the 1867-1868 state con­ stitutional conventions were attacked, seven fatally. In one judicial district of North Carolina the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for twelve murders, over seven hundred beatings, and ot …

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