Reconstruction Legacy of Social Equality
To establish and maintain Republican Party hegemony over the conquered American South, Northerners drove a wedge between two races that managed to get along peacefully in antebellum times, albeit framed by a slave labor system. Taught by their new friends to hate their white neighbors and herded to the polls on election day, the black man received the worst political education possible as he acquired the ballot in a formerly free republic. He was given the franchise by his new master, for the purpose of serving his new master.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Reconstruction Legacy of Social Equality:
“In one of your recent issues, commenting on the Atlanta riot of September 22 – an unfortunate incident which no good Southerner defends – you used this language: “How does it happen that the blacks who took care of the helpless women and children during the war cannot now be trusted to live in the same town?”
I have not seen this question answered directly by any Southern journal. And yet it goes to the very foundation of all our race troubles. It might be answered that the negro has changed since 1865, and that in many important particulars he has changed decidedly for the worse.
I cheerfully admit that during the war there was scarcely a plantation in the South where the mistress and her children were not left alone at the mercy of the slaves a great part of the time, and that the record shows unswerving loyalty on their part. No thought of social equality, and the vile thought inevitably incident thereto, ever entered the heads of the negroes.
The end of the war came in the spring of 1865. Immediately a lot of adventurers, most of them unscrupulous, came into the South from the north, not for legitimate enterprises or honest investments, but for plunder. They immediately began by precept and example to instill into the minds of the negroes the doctrine that they in every way the equals of the whites, that they were entitled to every privilege, social or otherwise, which their former masters had enjoyed, and that the United States government had spent millions to guarantee this to them.
From the very first of this infamous propaganda there was created between the races a strong propulsive force to drive them apart, placing on the defensive the white, with all his pride of race and every instinct of self-preservation, and
[The] intemperate utterance of the Republican politicians of the [Reconstruction] period in Congress and out of it, made it appear to the negro that the proud aloofness of the white people of the South was the stubborn unreasonableness of race prejudice, and therefore unjust to him; and all our race troubles date from the baleful dissemination of this idea.
It is but a step from the nursing of a supposed wrong to thoughts of righting it, and there gradually grew into the negro’s mind a suggestion, if not a well-defined determination, to take by force this coveted privilege. [In] the young men and with the youth as they grew into manhood their new-found counselors from the North had receptive listeners until in the early seventies the question of social equality was frequently averted to in public speeches by the negro politicians and preachers and by the white scoundrels and adventurers associated with them.
At that time the negroes were more than the political equal of the whites. Backed by Federal bayonets, they had voted themselves into practically every office in the State, and had elected as Governor an adventurer from Massachusetts, a miscreant whose offensive misrule is a malodorous memory in the State to this day. It is safe to say that there was scarcely a self-respecting white man in the State holding office.
In 1875 this turbulence culminated in a number of riots in different parts of the State. These riots all occurred about the same time, suggesting the possibility of some concert of action, and all were traceable to the same causes. [A negro politician] named Davenport…openly preached the doctrine of social equality….[and would] regale his followers with the most inflammatory speeches. In these harangues he did not complain that his hearers were deprived of any of their political privileges. He did not allege that their civil rights were abridged in any particular; but still he had a grievance against Southern whites, and it was that they remained obdurate in the matter of social equality.
“They refuse to recognize us as their equals,” said he; “but we will show them that we have the power to force them. We are being deprived of our rights, and we are going to have them if we have to wade up to our bridle bits in blood.”
The Negro and the South, E.H. Hinton, Atlanta, Georgia, Confederate Veteran, August 1907, pp. 367-368)