Black History Month & ‘Civil War Memory’ – The 32 Part Series
Reconstruction – That Warm and Fuzzy Story of Social Progress!?(Part 24) by Bill Vallante
“The South Carolina government is the worst in the world”, said the NY Journal of Commerce in commenting on the taxpayers’ gatherings. Not only were land owners and businessmen bearing the burden of bad government, but the “humblest blacks and whites suffer from the wolves of Columbia, and should be glad to join forces with the taxpayer to exterminate them politically”
– Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Walter Brian Cisco, P. 211
I was born, raised and educated in the north, but when I went to school, one word always found in association with any narrative about the Reconstruction period was – CORRUPTION! How odd that the word seems to have DISAPPEARED from the modern day academic’s vocabulary?!
According to neo-abolitionist historians, “Reconstruction” is now a warm and fuzzy story of social progress, snuffed out by the evils of white supremacy. Blacks held office in record numbers, according to one such historian, and were active in politics, voting and giving “stump speeches”.
The question begs, for those with enough courage to ask it aloud:
How do a people who were slaves not more than two years ago, acquire the knowledge necessary to be able to do such things and do them COMPETENTLY – and on such a grand scale?? Moreover, “freedom” also entails the responsibility for supporting oneself, something I would think would be a major undertaking for the inexperienced Freedman. So where did the Freedman find the free time to participate so heavily in politics? Finally, who the hell put him up to it? (See the story about “Limosine Liberals” for the answer to that one.)
One Freedman’s Bureau official declared that blacks “must be allowed their civil rights to sue and be sued and to testify in court, but 19 in 20 are no more fit for the political responsibilities and duties of a citizen than my horse”.
With 200 black trial justices, South Carolina had more than her share of funny happenings, as of tragic. A gentlemen who had to appear before some tribunal wrote us, “Whom do you suppose I found in the seat of law? Pete, my erstwhile stable-boy! He does not know A from Z, had not the faintest idea of what was to be done”. – “Mars Charles, you jes fix ‘tup, please suh. You jes write down whut you think orter be wroted an’ I’ll put my mark anywhar you tell me” [Dixie After the War, Myrta Lockett Avary, Page 192]
Into a store in Wilmington sauntered a sable alderman whom the merchant had known from boyhood as “Sam”.
Merchant: What’s the matter Sam? (as Sam walked out of the store)
Sam: (stalking back into the store) Suh, you didn’ treat me wid proper respecks.
Merchant: How Sam?
Sam: You called me Sam, which my name is Mr. Gary.
Merchant: You’re a damned fool! There’s the door!
Gary had the merchant up in the mayor’s court.
Mayor: What’s the trouble?
Sam: Dis man consulted me.
Mayor: You ought to feel flattered. What did he do to you?
Sam: He called me Sam, suh.
Mayor: Ain’t that your name?
Sam: My name’s Mr. Gary.
Mayor: Ain’t it Sam too?
Sam: yessuh, but –
Mayor: Well, there ain’t any law to compel a man to call another “Mister”. Case dismissed.
Sam: (muttering) Dar gwi be a law ‘bout dat.[Dixie After the War, Myrta Lockett Avary, Page 193]
A Regimental Chaplain of the 128th US colored troops, stationed in Beaufort SC, stated that “the more intelligent of his men believed there should be a literacy qualification for voting, as “you ought never to undertake a job unless you know how to do it.”[Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Brian Cisco]
Among extraneous resolutions adopted by delegates, one recommended that laws eventually be passed banning terms like “negro”, “nigger” or “yankee”. The exercise went on for 53 days and cost the taxpayer $110,000. (The Charleston Convention, January 14, 1868), [Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Brian Cisco, pp. 178, 191-192]
General Sherman said, “We all felt sympathy for the negroes, but of a different kind from that of Mr. Stanton, which was not of pure humanity, but of politics….I did not dream that the former slaves, without preparation, would be manufactured into voters….I doubted the wisdom of at once clothing them with the elective franchise….and realized the national loss in the death of Mr. Lincoln, who had long pondered over the difficult questions involved.” [Dixie After the War, Myrta Lockett Avary, Page 281-282]
Hamp, Simmons, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)
"The Yankees promised niggers a gray mule and forty acres when they were freed, but the niggers ought to have known that wasn’t so, because there wern’t that many gray mules in the United States."
Henri Necaise, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)
It was dem Carpetbaggers dat ‘stroyed de country. Dey went an’ turned us loose, jas’ lak a passel o’ cattle, an’ didn’ show us nothin’ or giv’ us nothin’. Dey was acres an’ acres o’ lan’ not in use, an’ lots o’ timber in die country.
Henry, Garry, Alabama Henri, (The Slave Narratives)
Seems lak dar warn’t no trouble ‘mongst de whites an’ blacks ”til atter de wah. Some white mens come down from de Norf’ an’ mess up wid de nigger……….."Git rid of de carpetbaggers? Oh, Yassah, dey vote ’em out.
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