Sunday, June 30, 2013

Louisiana Life After Emancipation: The Colfax Massacre

Colfax Courthouse, Louisiana

From the Washington Post Book Review, "A Massacre and a Travesty," Reviewed by Eric Foner, on 23 March 2008 --  Unbeknownst to most Americans, our nation's history includes home-grown terrorism as well as attacks from abroad. Scholars estimate that during Reconstruction, the turbulent period that followed the Civil War, upwards of 3,000 persons were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and kindred groups. That's roughly the same number of Americans who have died at the hands of Osama bin Laden.

In the last generation, no part of the American past has undergone a more complete scholarly reinterpretation than Reconstruction. Once portrayed as a tragic era of rampant misgovernment presided over by unscrupulous carpetbaggers and ignorant former slaves, Reconstruction is today seen as a noble, if flawed, experiment in interracial democracy, an effort to provide free blacks with land, education and political rights. The tragedy is not that Reconstruction was attempted, but that it failed.

The work of historians, however, has largely failed to penetrate popular consciousness. Partly because of the persistence of old misconceptions, Reconstruction remains widely misunderstood. Popular views still owe more to such films as "Birth of a Nation" (which glorified the Klan as the savior of white civilization) and "Gone With the Wind" (which romanticized slavery and the Confederacy) than to modern scholarship.

Thus, the new books by LeeAnna Keith and Charles Lane are doubly welcome. Not only do they tell the story of the single most egregious act of terrorism during Reconstruction (a piece of "lost history," as Keith puts it), but they do so in vivid, compelling prose. Keith, who teaches at the Collegiate School in New York, and Lane, a journalist who covered the Supreme Court for The Washington Post, have immersed themselves in the relevant sources and current historical writing. Both accomplish a goal often aspired to but rarely achieved, producing works of serious scholarship accessible to a non-academic readership.

The Colfax massacre took place on Easter Sunday 1873, when a force of about 150 heavily armed whites assaulted an equal number of blacks, many of them militia members, holed up in the courthouse at Colfax, La. After chivalrously allowing women and children to leave, they overran the outgunned defenders. Some blacks were killed trying to escape; 40 or so were taken prisoner and then executed. The final death toll remains unknown -- Lane estimates between 62 and 81, Keith thinks it may have reached 150. Three whites also died.

Both authors offer a gripping account of the assault and subsequent atrocities. But overall, their books complement rather than repeat each other. While shorter, Keith's is more comprehensive, devoting more space to the history of slavery, emancipation and Reconstruction in west-central Louisiana. She explores the brutal nature of slavery on the sugar and cotton plantations of local magnate Meredith Calhoun, one of the richest men in the United States. Calhoun seems to have been the model for Simon Legree, the cruel master in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ironically, after the war, his son William became a leading proponent of blacks' rights. He lived openly with a black woman, rented land to black farmers, established a school for their children and aligned himself with the Republican party.

In his bestselling book, April 1865: The Month that Saved America (2001), the journalist Jay Winik commended defeated Confederates for returning to peaceful pursuits after Appomattox, thus "saving" the United States from the agony of a long guerrilla war. Would that this were so. Organized violence emerged around Colfax almost as soon as the Civil War ended, targeting black leaders, school teachers, freedmen who tried to acquire land, and, once blacks won the right to vote, local officeholders. Not all the victims were black -- Delos White, a Freedman's Bureau agent, was assassinated in 1871. What happened in Colfax was not atypical. "Murder," Keith writes laconically, "played a central role in Louisiana and throughout the region" during Reconstruction.

"The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction," By Charles Lane 

While Keith illuminates the massacre's historical context, Lane offers a far more detailed account of the ensuing court cases. If his story has a hero, it is J. R. Beckwith, the U.S. attorney in New Orleans, who became obsessed with bringing the perpetrators to justice. He received little assistance from his superior, Attorney General George H. Williams, who thought it would be better if the murderers simply fled the state. Beckwith persuaded a federal grand jury to indict nearly 100 men under the recently passed Enforcement Acts, which made it a federal crime to deprive citizens of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But because of local white resistance, only a handful of those charged could be arrested.

Eventually, nine men went on trial before a biracial jury. Dozens of witnesses, almost all of them black, related what had happened at Colfax. The initial trial resulted in a hung jury; a second produced the conviction of three defendants. But Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley, acting while on circuit court duties, voided the indictment because, he insisted, most of the rights that had allegedly been violated were matters of state, not federal, authority.

"The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, and the Death of Reconstruction," By LeeAnna Keith

Because the presiding judge courageously refused to go along with Bradley, his judicial superior, the case went to the Supreme Court. In 1876, in U.S. v. Cruikshank, the justices unanimously threw out the convictions. As Lane points out, nowhere in Chief Justice Morrison Waite's 5,000-word opinion did he mention the fact that dozens of black men had been murdered in cold blood at Colfax. Cruikshank hammered the final nail into the coffin of federal efforts to protect the basic rights of black citizens in the South. Reconstruction effectively ended a year later, and the Jim Crow era began.

This tragic story is more than ancient history. Into the 20th century, bones turned up in Colfax when the foundations for buildings were being laid. There still stands in the town a plaque, erected in 1951, commemorating the Colfax "riot" -- not massacre -- and "the end of carpetbag misrule in the South." As recently as eight years ago, Chief Justice William Rehnquist cited Cruikshank as a precedent in overturning a conviction under the Violence Against Women Act. The Constitution, he declared, gives the states, not the federal government, the power to punish rape. Whether we realize it or not, Reconstruction and its overthrow remain part of our lives today. *

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of "Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction." (source: The Washington Post)

The African Americans of Nebraska

The Negro Comes to Nebraska.

From The Nebraska Memorial Library, "THE NEGROES OF NEBRASKA" -- (7) The development of the West, coincident with the disturbing economic upheavals in the South, attracted the attention of many of the dissatisfied freedmen. A new country was being opened up for settlement and frontiers were being pushed back. New lands, new surroundings, an opportunity for social and economic advancement, beckoned to the Negroes. In constantly increasing numbers they turned toward the North. By 1870 the first Negro exodus from the South was well under way.

Nebraska, with new industries springing up in the larger communities, attracted its share of the northward-bound Negro emigrants. Omaha especially became the point where the majority of them settled and established homes. There were jobs here for them, a chance to make a living. Those who came in advance of their families sent for them and brought them north.

The Shores family, near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska, 1887. Jerry Shores was one of a number of former slaves to settle in Custer County. He took a claim adjacent to that of his brothers, Moses Speese and Henry Webb (each had taken the name of his former owner). (Nebraska Historical Society RG2608.PH-1231)

The news spread in the South. Friends and relatives, encouraged by reports of industrial opportunities and better educational advantages, joined the northward movement. The exodus was still further accelerated by a number of factors, both social and economic.

Under the system of share-cropping the Negro tenant farmer quickly found himself in difficulties. Unfavorable crop settlements, poor housing, and meager returns for his labor reduced his economic status to one approaching peonage. Floods and the ravages of the boll-weevil in the cotton fields added to his misery.

During the period of Reconstruction, under the northern "Carpet-Bag" rule, the whites of the South were forced to grant certain civil and political rights to the Negro. Bitterly resentful, the whites retaliated by the denial of voting privileges to Negroes, by rough treatment of them, and by heavy taxation. The Ku Klux Klan, the bush-whackers, and the "Padarohs" (dialect for "patrollers") spread terror among the ex-slaves. There was no recourse for them in unsympathetic courts.

In increasing numbers they became dissatisfied with conditions then existing in the South. By individuals and families and groups they swelled the flood of immigration until, by 1880, a constant tide of settlers was streaming into the northern states.

(8) It is not known just when Negroes first set foot on the land which now comprises the State of Nebraska. Legend has it that an exploring expedition headed by a monk, Fray Marcos, touched the south-eastern part of the State in 1539. A Negro servant is supposed to have been a member of the party. This same Negro is thought to have been with Coronado's expedition when he supposedly penetrated the southern part of Nebraska in 1541. The records of this expedition indicate that one or more Negroes were numbered among its members. Whether or not the Negro servant with Fray Marcos and a Negro with Coronado were the same individual is purely conjectural. In any event, if it be taken for granted that one or both of these expeditions crossed the present southern boundary of the State, then it is entirely possible that Negroes entered Nebraska as early as 1539 or 1541.

A Negro named York, a slave owned by Captain William Clark, was with the Lewis and Clark expedition on its journey through Nebraska in 1804. When Major Stephen H. Long's expedition entered Nebraska in 1819 Negroes, probably slaves, were found at a fur trading post in the vicinity of Fort Lisa. Several of the officers at Camp Missouri (1819) and later, at Fort Atkinson (1820-1827) owned Negro slaves, their personal servants, brought with them from some state south of Nebraska.

The oldest man in the State in 1894 was a full-blooded Negro, Baptiste, who lived on the Omaha reservation. He was then 112 years of age. He was captured many years before by the Indians near Bellevue, and was said to be the first Negro ever to cross the Missouri River into Nebraska.

In 1842 Tom Brown, the slave of a Missourian, accompanied his master to Nebraska on a buffalo hunt. He claimed to have visited the site of what is now Omaha, and stated that a few persons were dwelling there in Indian huts. Brown subsequently escaped from his master and fled into Canada. He returned to the United States after slavery was abolished and established a home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He came back to Omaha in 1907 and remained there until his death at the age of ninety-five.

Jim Shores

Among the very first of Omaha's settlers of either race was Sally Payne, who settled there in 1855. A blacksmith, Smith Coffey, came to Omaha about 1865. George Conway, Missouri-born ex-slave, came to Omaha in 1867. One of the few former slaves left in Nebraska, he lived in Omaha until his death in 1939. There were other Negroes occasionally settling there during the early years of Omaha's existence, but records with regard to them are fragmentary.

Sometime between 1865 and 1870 a Negro, Amos Harris, drifted into the Loup Valley region. He worked as a ranch-hand, finally as an independent rancher in Valley and Wheeler Counties, and became a respected citizen among his white neighbors. Another Negro ranch-hand was James Kelly, who came to Custer County in 1876, and lived there until his death in 1912.

The first Negro ever to settle in Lincoln came there in the summer of 1868. The first Negroes in Hastings were Mrs. Emma Stewart and her mother, who arrived there in 1877.

Robert Anderson, another ex-slave, homesteaded in Nebraska in 1870. He was one of the first, if not the first, Negro homesteaders in this State. His section of land in Box Butte County made him a wealthy man, one of the very few successful Negro farmers of Nebraska. The only other Negro homesteader of that time was L. B. Mattingly, who settled near David City shortly after the Civil War. David Patrick, the first Negro homesteader in Hamilton County, settled there, near Aurora, in 1873. For several years he carried mail by horseback to Fort Kearny. He and his (9) son, William, born in 1885, claim to be the only two Negroes ever to sit on a district court jury in Nebraska.

The names of several individuals appear, for one or another reason outstanding among the hundreds who migrated to Nebraska during the earlier years of the State's existence: John C. Elder, first Negro barber in Lincoln (1870); Josephine Mitchell, mother of the first colored child born in Lancaster County (1871); Mother Leeper, mother of William Leeper, the first Negro born in Omaha (1872); Josiah Waddle, first Negro barber in Nebraska City (1877); Graves, first Negro barber in Aurora (1878); Tom Cunningham, first Negro police officer in Lincoln (1880); Mason Todd, railroad porter in Lincoln (1879); Pete the Barber, who sold fruit at his barber shop in Niobrara (1879); Jenny Morgan, woman homesteader near Wellfleet (1883); Eliza Galloway, ex-slave, who came to Kearney in 1888, and lived there until her death in 1936, at the age of 100 years; July Miles, ex-slave, civil war veteran, who settled at Omaha in 1892; Jubilee Johnson, ex-slave, who died at Schuyler in 1894. [source:]

The Voting Rights Act changed South

As reported in the Jackson Clarion Ledger, "Voting Rights Act changed South: Avenue to fight entrenched segregation," by Jerry Mitchell, on 25 June 2013  --  The section of the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down Tuesday sparked a black voting strength in Mississippi that changed the state’s political landscape.

“The Voting Rights Act changed the tone and mood in the South,” said Leslie Burl McLemore, director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. “It made white politicians change their tune, and even today you don’t have the race baiting that you had for hundreds of years.”

He said he tends to believe the congressional act is the most important piece of social legislation over the past half century, leading to more elected African-American officials in Mississippi than any other state.

Armed with the Voting Rights Act, Frank Parker and other civil rights lawyers began challenging entrenched segregation.

Parker “single-handedly put the state of Mississippi in the 21st century,” said George Cochran, longtime professor for the University of Mississippi School of Law.

That work led to redistricting and to the 1986 election of Mike Espy, the state’s first African-American congressman since Reconstruction.

Espy said Tuesday he wouldn’t have won without the 1965 law, which helped increase voter registration. The symbolic value his campaign represented “prompted turnout at relative record levels,” he said. “Without the Voting Rights Act, it simply would not have been possible.”

Minus the law, Mississippi would have seen more racial conflicts, more polarization and far fewer African-American voters and elected officials, he said.

Passage of the Voting Rights Act meant African-American voters could no longer be ignored, Cochran said. Southern stalwarts of segregation, such as Alabama Gov. George Wallace, U.S. Sen. Jim Eastland and U.S. Strom Thurmond, began to change their ways.

“Strom Thurmond, who is the biggest racist in the world, all of a sudden is a leading liberal,” Cochran said.

“The black voting strength can do immense things to a politician.”

Tuesday’s 5-4 decision struck him as ships passing in the night, each wing of the court seeing different facts, he said.

He said Justice Samuel Alito found no record of voting barriers in his concurring opinion, while in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared there was an abundant record for “second-generation barriers to minority voting rights.”

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. concluded that Congress continued to use an outdated formula that requires Mississippi and eight other states to let the Justice Department review any voting law changes.

“Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines,” he wrote, “yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

Constance Slaughter-Harvey, who worked with Parker at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, said she’s disappointed in the decision.

“For those who have invested ourselves and our energies in making certain citizens are permitted to vote, it’s a setback,” she said.

In spring 1963, she decided to become a lawyer after hearing NAACP leader Medgar Evers speak at Tougaloo College. Days later, he was assassinated outside his Jackson home.

She talked of ending retirement to resume the fight. “We are playing partisan politics with precious rights that people have died for,” she said. “Not only is it painful, it’s insulting.”

She called Tuesday’s decision “a sad, sad day, but it doesn’t kill my spirit or destroy my dream. I’m very angry, but I’m not going to lose any sleep because I know I have to be set for what’s ahead.” (source: Jackson Clarion Ledger)

Gary May on the Ending of Southern Segregation

From CNN, "How segregation got busted, by Gary May, on 24 June 2013  -- While the nation waits to see whether the 1965 Voting Rights Act will be dismantled by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is worth reviewing how the act affected one group that had long opposed black suffrage: Southern white politicians

Before 1965, many white officeholders helped build their career by preventing blacks from voting. They could easily ignore black citizens. In the very first primary election after passage of the Voting Rights Act, that began to change.

In Alabama in 1966, Lurleen Wallace was standing in for her husband, George Wallace, who was unable to run again because of term limits. She faced a challenge from Attorney General Richmond Flowers, the first Democrat to seek black votes. If elected, he promised to remove the Confederate flag that flew atop the State Capitol and delete the words "White Supremacy" from the party emblem.

Flowers campaigned mostly in black communities and joined in singing "We Shall Overcome." In return, he received the support of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Alabama's two largest black political groups, the Confederation of Alabama Political Organizations and the Alabama Democratic Conference, groups shunned by white candidates.

Other candidates, once intensely racist, surprisingly followed Flowers' lead.

Al Lingo -- head of Alabama's State Troopers and one of the architects of Bloody Sunday, the assault on Selma-to-Mongomery marchers on March 7, 1965, by state troopers and deputies -- sought black votes in his race for Jefferson County sheriff.

Alabama Governor George Wallace

"I want the support of everybody, white or colored," he said. As for Bloody Sunday, he claimed that he had wanted to let the marchers proceed, but the governor overruled him, making him the "scapegoat" for what occurred. If elected, he promised that the sheriff's office would include black deputies.

Even more startling was the behavior of Jim Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County, who was seeking re-election.

Just the year before, Clark had treated African-Americans seeking the right to vote in Selma with unparalleled savagery and led the Bloody Sunday assault. Now he attempted to woo black voters.

On April 24, he invited them to join him at a picnic where beer and barbecue were served. Turnout was disappointing. "A man can't beat us in 1964 and 1965 and expect us to vote for him in 1966," noted one black leader.
Governor George Wallace of Alabama

Because black votes now counted, reporters covering the campaign noted that the n-word, once a political staple, had disappeared. George Wallace, accustomed to saying "Nigra," now struggled to remember that it should be pronounced "Negro."

The Supreme Court's closing act Is it time to end the Voting Rights Act? How far has America come on race?

While Lurleen Wallace won an overwhelming victory on Election Day, Lingo received less than one-tenth of the number of votes cast for his opponent. Clark, facing defeat, attempted to steal his election, but he was blocked by Assistant Attorney General John Doar, who took him to court in the first lawsuit brought under the Voting Rights Act. Clark lost in court, ending his long reign of terror in Alabama.

The 1966 Alabama primary was a preview of what was to come. In the years that followed, George Wallace apologized for his earlier racist views and sought the support of black voters. But perhaps more important -- and more striking -- was the evolution of South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, who had opposed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and its renewal in 1970 and 1975.

In 1982, civil rights activists worried that Thurmond would use his power as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to kill the act's reauthorization. Thurmond's opposition to integration went back decades. In 1948, Harry Truman's civil rights programs had led Thurmond to bolt the Democratic National Convention and run for president as a "Dixiecrat."

As a senator, Thurmond launched a historic filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act and denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "vicious." That same year Thurmond became a Republican and supported Barry Goldwater for president, beginning the political transformation of the South from staunchly Democratic to reliably Republican.

By 1982, 30% of the voters in Thurmond's state were black, leaving the senator little choice but to vote for the act. In doing so, he said that he did not want to fall victim to "the common perception that a vote against the bill indicates opposition to the right to vote and, indeed, opposition to the group of citizens who are protected under the Voting Rights Act." Or, as he earlier told a racist colleague who lost a campaign for governor of South Carolina, "we can't win elections any more by cussin' Nigras."

The Voting Rights Act had succeeded in doing what it was created to do: create millions of new black voters, and -- less understood -- free white Southern politicians from always opposing black gains. There is no better example of democracy in action. In 2006, not a single senator from a state covered by the Voting Rights Act voted against its renewal.

Should the Supreme Court now significantly weaken the protection of minority voting that the act provides, we may well return to a time when "cussin' Nigras" is again a politically acceptable strategy (source: CNN Opinion)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Colfax Massacre 
The Colfax Massacre

From PBS --  On April 13, 1873, violence erupted in Colfax, Louisiana. The White League, a paramilitary group intent on securing white rule in Louisiana, clashed with Louisiana's almost all-black state militia. The resulting death toll was staggering. Only three members of the White League died. But some 100 black men were killed in the encounter. Of those, nearly half were murdered in cold blood after they had already surrendered. The incident once again showed President Ulysses S. Grant how hard it would be to guarantee the rights and the safety of blacks in the South.

Since the end of the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations had been growing in strength in the South. Prior to the war, white Southern Democrats had enjoyed a great deal of governmental power. But when the war ended, Democrats were no longer powerful. Northern Republicans controlled the nation's government. They placed federal troops in Southern cities to keep that control. Southerners deeply resented this imposition.

Two laws that Southern Democrats hated were the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to blacks and declared that no state was to deprive them of "life, liberty, or property." The Fifteenth Amendment prevented a state from denying the vote to any person because of their race. Together, these laws guaranteed blacks equal citizenship. Southern Democrats, however, feared that blacks would not only vote Republican, but would be considered equal to their white former masters.

Conflicts between Republicans and Democrats in Louisiana were particularly frequent in 1872. That year, the state election produced two governors, both claiming to be the legitimate one. When the federal government supported the Republican governor by sending federal troops to Louisiana, the white residents of the state refused to cooperate.

Louisiana whites formed their own "shadow" government and their own army, the White League. The White League, similar to the Ku Klux Klan, intimidated and attacked Republicans and blacks all over the state. While the worst violence occurred in Colfax, other incidents were sparked in Coushatta, when the White League murdered six Republicans, and in New Orleans, when 30 were killed and 100 more wounded. (source: PBS)

Have we become a post-racial society? No

The Mitchell Lecture - 2009

From The SUNY Buffalo Law School's Mitchell Lecture, 2009 -- "Race, Law and Politics in America: Have we become a post-racial society?" -- 2009 Mitchell Lecture -- Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, delivered the Law School's signature Mitchell Lecture, speaking to a near-capacity crowd of students, faculty, staff and the public.

Despite the election of the nation's first African-American president, the path to a post-racial society still stretches out ahead, and only vigilance and hard work will get us there, prominent civil rights attorney John A. Payton said in a SUNY Buffalo Law School address. 
John Payton (1946-2012)

Payton, president and director counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, delivered the Law School's signature Mitchell Lecture on Oct.22 in O'Brian Hall, speaking to a near-capacity crowd of students, faculty, staff and the public. He appeared at the invitation of Dean Makau W. Mutua, a personal friend and colleague in human rights advocacy work. Payton acknowledged the historic nature of the presidential election, saying, "There never has been a year even close to this in America. My father did not dream of this last year. For all his dreams, this wasn't one of them. These are remarkable changes, and it says something about our society."

But, he said, "'Are we a post-racial society' is a different question than 'have we made progress?'" The answer, he said, comes by looking at racial fault lines in a handful of quality-of-life measures, including educational attainment, housing quality, employment, the criminal justice system and political participation.

In all of those measures save one, he said, African-American and Hispanic persons still lag behind their white peers – in high dropout rates in inner-city schools; in de facto segregated housing patterns as a result of white flight from the cities; in a foreclosure crisis that has disproportionately affected persons of color; in a prison population that is half minority; in the dearth of hospitals and other health care providers in minority neighborhoods. The only exception, he said, is political participation, as African-Americans voted in record numbers in the 2008 elections, despite a challenge to the landmark Voting Rights Act that Payton's Legal Defense Fund defended in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Are we a post-racial society? The answer is, not yet," he said. "It's a sobering assessment, but it's an unavoidable assessment."

Describing one recent situation that he said reflected institutionalized racial disparity, Payton spoke of the federal government's $11 billion Road Home program intended to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Displaced residents of that city were offered financial help: either the actual cost of repairing their home, or the pre-Katrina value of the home, whichever was lower. White families mostly received the cost of repairs. But because homes in minority neighborhoods were assessed at a low figure, that was what was offered to African-American families. "Either you get enough money to rebuild your home or you don't," Payton said. "Generally speaking, the white homeowners get enough money to rebuild their home, and generally speaking, the black homeowners don't." The Legal Defense Fund sued, and just recently the government announced it is changing this formula.

Payton also pointed with dismay to the "very dark atmosphere" that surrounds the debate over health care reform. "This is hatred out there," he said. "This is not disagreement. We've always had extremists. But the fact that Barack Obama is an African-American has pushed paranoia to another level, so people who have real disputes have now gone completely mad. And they've never had such access to the media that they do today.

"It's really crucial that we figure out ways to marginalize those voices of hatred. The hatred we've seen is hatred that's directed at strangers. It's very hard to have that kind of emotion with someone who is literally your neighbor and who you actually know."

And that, he said, is his major point: "If a racially diverse democracy is to take place, we need to be able to talk to each other as peers. Race is so easily used as a wedge issue. The sense of community doesn't happen by itself. You have to work on it.

"Democracy at its real core requires that all the people be included in 'we the people.' For that inclusive democracy to function, we all have to be able to see each other as peers, as people we can respect. It depends on this sense of being in a shared enterprise together.

"I believe we must become the inclusive democracy described by the Preamble to the Constitution. We must know our past in order to transcend our past. I believe that we must see our diversity as one of our most important strengths, and that we must see each other as peers. So let's get to work." (source: SUNY Buffalo Law School )

Friday, June 28, 2013

Virginia Flyer, 1901--"No White Man to Lose His Vote"

1901 Flyer--"No White Man to Lose His Vote"

Written by Democrats State Chairman Ellyson, John Goode (President of the 1901 Constitutional Convention), and A.J. Montague (the party's nominee for governor) in an attempt to assure the white electorate that their right to vote would remain undisturbed as they sought to extinguish African-American suffrage.  [Broadside 1901.N68, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia.]

No White Man to Lose His Vote in Virginia: This Assurance Given by Men who are Most Competent to Speak with Authority. : A Meeting was Held in Richmond on October 17, 1901, at which Chairman Ellyson Presided and Hon. John Goode and Mr. Montague Made Speeches-- All Three Declared the Policy of the Convention in Language that Cannot be Mistaken. : Great Enthusiasm Aroused. : State Chairman Ellyson. "The Best Men in this Commonwealth Have Been Selected as the Representatives of Their People in the Convention."

Members and Officers of The Constitutional Convention of Virginia, Richmond—1901–1902

... : Hon. John Goode. "The Democratic Party is Pledged in Its Platform to Eliminate the Ignorant and Worthless Negro as a Factor from the Politics of this State Without Taking the Right of Suffrage from a Single White Man." ... : Hon. A.J. Montague. "The Democratic Party, Through Its Representatives in the Convention is Slowly, But Surely, Framing a Law that Will So Effectually Exclude the Idle, Shiftless and Illiterate of the Negro Race from the Suffrage that the Gates of Republican Wrath Cannot Prevail Against It."

Legacy of the 1902 Constitution

From  The Encyclopedia of Virginia  --  Once implemented, the 1902 Constitution achieved its intended purpose of drastically reducing the number of eligible voters. Voting rates dropped correspondingly, with 88,000 fewer ballots cast in the 1905 gubernatorial election than in the previous election in 1901. The number of voters in presidential elections similarly dropped between 1888 and 1928. Although as many as 15,000 African Americans managed to vote after 1902, they were significantly disempowered politically. Efforts by some African Americans to pursue lawsuits against the constitution were dismissed by the courts, the last in 1908. At the same time, the disenfranchisement provisions failed to address the issue of corruption genuinely, as the reduction in voters led to officeholders beholden to the political organizations that had brought them into power. Other legal changes brought about by the convention included the abolition of the county court system in favor of granting the Democratic-dominated General Assembly the authority to choose judges and other local officials.

The 1902 Constitution created a new legal enforcement of Jim Crow and further solidified its social enforcement. Despite that dark legacy, the convention did enact some genuine reforms, including a commission to regulate the railroads, provisions regarding workmen's compensation, and a State Corporation Commission that addressed issues of industrialization and helped create a certain degree of economic stability within Virginia. The 1902 Constitution remained in effect throughout most of the twentieth century until a new state constitutional commission sought to revise it, resulting in the significant legal advances of the Virginia Constitution of 1971.

Time Line
  • 1869 - John C. Underwood, a Republican judge who dominated the year's constitutional convention in the absence of boycotting Democrats, helps to draft a constitution for Virginia that includes full suffrage for all males twenty-one years or older, including African Americans.
  • March 6, 1894 - The Virginia General Assembly narrowly passes the controversial Walton Act, which mandates what is known as the "Australian ballot," or a uniform ballot issued by the state and not by a political party. The law institutes secret voting and appoints a special constable who is the ballot reader for the physically disqualified and the illiterate.
  • May 24, 1900 - Virginia voters approve a proposed constitutional convention by state referendum.
  • June 12, 1901–April 4, 1902 - An elected body of one hundred delegates convene in Richmond for a constitutional convention, and debate for almost a year.
  • July 10, 1902 - Virginia's Constitution of 1902 becomes law, disenfranchising thousands of poor whites and nearly eliminating the state's African American electorate. It replaces Virginia's 1869 Reconstruction-era constitution, which had a universal male suffrage clause. The new constitution also creates the State Corporation Commission to regulate the railroads.
  • November 7, 1905 - Largely because of the voting restrictions implemented by the Constitution of 1902, 88,000 fewer ballots are cast in the gubernatorial election than in the previous election in 1901.
  • July 1, 1971 - The Constitution of 1971 becomes law and ends the rules and regulations instituted by the Constitution of 1902. (source: The Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Conservatives’ ‘Mission Accomplished’ on voting rights decision

From MSNBC, "Conservatives’ ‘Mission Accomplished’ on voting rights decision," Martin Bashir, on 25| June 2013  --  NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams explains today’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; then The Grio’s Joy Reid and Georgetown University Prof. Michael Eric Dyson debate the potential fallout – and possible pushback – on a ruling that has some conservatives hanging out the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Contested Spaces: Uncle Jack The Good Darky of Louisiana Statue

The Good Darky of Louisiana. Erected by the City of Natchitoches in Grateful Recognition of the Arduous and Faithful Service of the Good Darkies of Louisiana

From the Digital Journal, "'Darky' Statue Rekindles Racial Tensions in Louisiana," by Carol Forsloff, on 14 November 2009  --  "What is it that they want now?" is the question white people ask when African Americans complain. An episode now in Natchitoches, Louisiana gives lessons about what happens when problems remain unresolved for years.

Years ago a family erected a statue in memory of a beloved friend. That friend was a servant they called Uncle Jack. His death had left such sadness with the family, they wanted to remember old Jack's contributions to their lives and to the community. The statue was built and put in the town square of Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Uncle Jack was African American. The statue showed him dressed finely, bowing slightly from the waist while doffing his hat as if to bid welcome or to show deep consideration. For years it stood in the town square, until the 1960's when civil rights groups raised concerns about its representation of "the old darky" as a subordinate, which they believed created a negative image of African Americans. The statue was soon taken down, then eventually put in Baton Rouge where it has remained since.

Over the years, according to Carolyn Harrington, recently retired from the town's historical museum, African Americans would inquire about the statue, wondering if it might not be returned and placed in an African American museum in Natchitoches so all people could understand the reference to a time when people of color were treated as subordinates and acted accordingly. White people, for the most part, had wondered why the statue had been taken down in the first place.

In the past few weeks, to the present time, the statue has again become part of new discussions about race, the statue, and the concerns of the African American community. The City Council approved a gesture to return the statue to Natchitoches as the Smithsonian considered it so valuable an artifact it had requested it for display in the Washington DC area. In response to that an overture was sought for the statue's return. One of the two African Americans on the city council voted with the majority in favor of the statue's becoming part of the Natchitoches area again.

All seemed well at first until the message went out that the statue was being returned to again occupy an area in the town square. 75 protestors descended on city hall just days ago to state their case against the return of the statue. The African American who had voted in favor of its return, Sylvia Morrow, in the meantime asked to rescind her original vote.

The Council's decision, however, was explained as an effort to bring back the statue because of its historical significance and not as an emblem of a time when deference was the requirement for people of color in the economic and social life of the town. Nevertheless, hard feelings were expressed on both sides over the matter, as the background brings back memories both good and bad for the people of the town.

Carolyn Harrington saw the move as purely an interest in historical preservation as both blacks and whites had been interested in the statue's return. But Ophelia Sumars, who had not been part of the visible protest against the statue, said that the fracas certainly represents a number of festering issues reflecting the matter of race to continue to plague discussions in the town.

Ophelia Dumars is a slow-talking woman, known for her patience and good nature. She raised her family in Natchitoches so that all finished college. Her son, Joe Dumars, played with the Detroit Pistons and is in upper management with the team. She has been heavily involved in community affairs, her family and her church for her entire life in Natchitoches. She is not, by most accounts of members of white and black communities, a rabble-rouser nor a woman who looks for people to blame. In other words, her friends know her as someone who takes responsbilty for herself and for others. This is what she thinks this type of incident points out concerning the black-white issues in Natchitoches and other areas of the country where there is a clash of opinion and misunderstanding on matters like these.

Dumars states one should look at patterns, history and other behaviors to understand the core issues. She said, "I think it would be good to have the statue in Natchitoches but in a museum where both black and white people could recognize its place in the history of the area and its meanings for different people. The problem is the African American community has been promised an African American museum for 20 years, and nothing has come of it. Perhaps the march was a way to allow people to be heard. It might be able to wake people up." Dumars went on to say that a "darky" doffing his hat brings back bad memories to seniors in the town because in their lifetime they were told to get off the street when a white woman passed by. They were to bow in defference to their superiors at every call, just as Uncle Jack had done, Dumars went on to explain. "My deceased husband always remembered how he was told to get off the street when a white woman passed by. Those are the kinds of things that hurt."
Dumars continued by talking about how the white community builds structures, roads and special places in the white community while promising the black community to do similarly, which never happens. She said, "People would like to see (them) finish what they start in the black community. She also stressed that the negative building seems to occur principally in the black community. "Whyt is it," she asked, "that the train runs through the black community, requiring people to wait for long periods to cross over the streets and to have the noise and pollution next to their homes.?" Dumars related at some length the issue of a subdivision built principally in the black community where there is only one way in and one way out. She mentioned further that the waste management company was put behind a black church and trailers allowed right across from houses in the black community while they are disallowed within most areas of the city otherwise.

The Good Darkey Statue in Natchitoches Louisiana

Problems related to the city taking responsibility for providing equal services in the black community have continued for many years, according to Dumars. She continues to ask, "Why do they do that?"

The answer to the question, "what do they want" in Natchitoches, Louisiana is, according to Dumars, equitable treatment, fairness and keeping promises. Other communities have answers of their own, but Natchitoches, Louisiana has the questions posed again over the matter of a historical artifact and what happens to it will provide information about how the answers to some of the questions might be addressed. At least that's what Dumars believes, while both she and Harrington hope for the best resolution possible.  (source:

Confederate Paramilitary Group: The White League of Louisiana

As reported in The Times-Picayune, "1874: Reconstruction in New Orleans hits a turning point," by The Times-Picayune, on 8 September 2011 --  Reconstruction in New Orleans hit a turning point in 1874. Passage of the 14th Amendment and civil rights laws had given black people new freedoms, but resentment was building among white Southerners who considered the Radical Republicans who had seized power usurpers.

Paramilitary White Leagues intent on ousting the "carpetbaggers" sprang up. The hostility led to outbreaks of violence, political schisms and, in 1875, the cancellation of Mardi Gras.

In New Orleans, that hostility led to the Battle of Liberty Place. On Sept. 14, 1874, metropolitan police loyal to Gov. William Kellogg opened fire on the White League but soon retreated. The White League held the State House (the old St. Louis Hotel), the Cabildo and Jackson Square for three days before Kellogg was restored to office by federal troops.

The Liberty Monument, a statue dedicated to White League members, was erected on the battle site in 1891. In the 20th century it became a focal point of hostilities between civil rights activists and white supremacists. The statue was later moved to the foot of Iberville Street.

The Unification Movement was a push by both white and black leaders of New Orleans to form a massive political organization with the intention of ending Reconstruction. A key component of the movement's platform was to grant equal rights to black people. The movement ultimately failed.

Under orders from President Rutherford B. Hayes, federal troops left New Orleans on April 24, 1877. In the years that followed, white lawmakers throughout the South passed laws that limited the civil rights of black residents, an era that became known as Jim Crow. (source: NOLA The Times-Picayune)

The Battle of Liberty Place Obelisk

New Orlean's Unwanted Monument: The Battle of Liberty Place Obelisk

As reported in the New York Times,  "OBELISK: New Orleans Journal; A Monument That Can't Find a Home," by Frances Frank Marcus, 29 November 1992  --  The bloody Battle of Liberty Place began at 4 P.M. on Sept. 14, 1874, and people here are hoping it will soon end.

The uprising of white Democrats against the biracial Republican administration that ruled Louisiana after the Civil War raged through the downtown streets and ended with 32 dead on both sides. Within few years the whites here, and throughout most of the South, regained power and held it for almost a century.

Now a debate has emerged over a monument built in 1891 to commemorate the original battle. Three years ago, street repairs required the obelisk's removal from its spot at the foot of Canal Street near the French Quarter along the city's main shopping area. The issue is whether to take it out of storage, and where to put it now that a huge gambling casino is being planned near where the monument once stood.

Over the years, the gray granite obelisk has meant different things to different people. To some it recalls a glorious fight that drove out the carpetbaggers, as the politicians of the Reconstruction years were often called. Others acknowledge that it is a hateful symbol of white supremacy, but say it is also history, which should be preserved no matter how mean.

From time to time, the obelisk has been a rallying point for the Ku Klux Klan and for one of its Grand Wizards, David Duke. Civil rights advocates have rallied against the obelisk. The city's first black mayor, Ernest N. Dutch Morial, tried to remove it.

The monument cannot be junked, as many people here say they would like, because Federal funds were used in its removal as part of the road project. Federal guidelines require the monument's reconstruction in an appropriate spot.

The city missed two 1991 deadlines set by the state for resurrecting the obelisk. Many people suspect city officials did not want to put it back because it was an embarrassment, especially in the racially tense days of Mr. Duke's 1991 campaign for Governor. And racial tensions have continued this year during attempts to integrate Mardi Gras.

The current phase of the battle is occurring in Federal District Court here, which has set a Dec. 9 deadline for the city to pick a new site.

A New Orleans pharmacist, Francis J. Shubert, decided to sue the city, the state and the Federal Government to force the monument's resurrection. Mr. Shubert is a strong supporter of Mr. Duke.

According to the court file, Mr. Shubert has an ancestor who fought in the Liberty Place battle. In a court agreement, Federal Judge A. J. McNamara ruled that there would be a trial in February on the issue unless the city decides where to put the obelisk by the deadline and has it in place by Jan. 20.

The battle in 1874 and the days that followed "signaled the beginning of the end of Reconstruction in Louisiana," Judith K. Schafer, a historian at Tulane, told members of the Louisiana Historical Society at a meeting last month.

Dr. Schafer, a consultant to Mayor Sidney Barthelemy in efforts to find a new site, said, "To destroy the monument would be an act of intellectual and historical dishonesty." But she added, "To restore it in its historically correct place, at the foot of Canal Street," would be seen as as an insult to the black majority of New Orleans.

In a recent column, Keith Woods, city editor of The Times-Picayune wrote: "Put the Liberty Monument back. Do it to preserve the truth. Do it for white children."

Mr. Woods, who is black, wrote: "Black parents will always have to explain prejudice, with or without monuments. We can go on hiding each new shameful monument to failed race relations. But one day we'll run out of warehouse space. And then what?"

"I'd rather throw it in the river," said Betty Wisdom, a white Democrat, "than put it back up." She believes "the monument represents an ugly myth and an uglier attitude."


Ms. Wisdom, who descends from a veteran of the battle, explained her views toward the "loathsome" monument in a recent letter to Gambit, a weekly newspaper. Her father, she wrote, told her the monument was a fraud and that "the battle which drove out the carpetbaggers' had done nothing of the sort." Her father said the same thing to a group of descendants of Liberty Battle veterans and, she said, "One of them tried to hit him with a walking stick."

Alfred Stokes, executive assistant to the Mayor, said the monument represents a dark moment in city history and the dispute over it has drained city energies, but officials never considered discarding it. "If we throw it in the river, we run the risk of forgetting and reliving it," he said.(source: The New York Times, Copyright 2013 The New York Times)


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