HIST 2020, September 6

Main Concepts


  • the movement by white southern Democrats to wrest political control of the South from the Republican Party, especially in the mid-1870s
  • led by paramilitary groups like the Ku-Klux Klan, the White Leagues, and the Red Shirts
  • marked by violence and intimidation towards African Americans and white Republicans
  • nearly overthrew the Louisiana state government in the Battle of Liberty Place (1874)
  • finally succeeded thanks to the Compromise of 1877

Disfranchisement laws

  • Laws passed by state legislatures in the South, largely in the 1890s and 1900s, with the intent of keeping African Americans from voting
  • Included literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses

Ways of Remembering the Civil War

  • Lost Cause: mainly espoused by white southerners; argued that the Confederacy had fought for states’ rights, not to preserve slavery; and that Reconstruction was a horrible idea
  • Reconciliationist: ignored what the war was fought over; focused instead on how both sides of the war had fought bravely and nobly, and had lost many young men
  • Emancipationist: argued that the United States was on the right side of the war and the Confederacy was on the wrong side


Thomas Nast cartoon, Harper’s Weekly, October 24, 1874

Martin W. Gary’s Edgefield Plan” (1876)

. . . Every Democrat must feel honor bound to control the vote of at least one negro, by intimidation, purchase, keeping him away or as each individual may determine, how he may best accomplish it.

We must attend every Radical meeting that we hear of whether they meet at night or in the day time. Democrats must go in as large numbers as they can get together, and well armed, behave at first with great courtesy and assure the ignorant Negroes that you mean them no harm and so soon as their leaders or speakers begin to speak and make false statements of facts, tell them then and there to their faces, that they are liars, thieves and rascals, and are only trying to mislead the ignorant Negroes and if you get a chance get upon the platform and address the Negroes.

In speeches to negroes you must remember that argument has no effect upon them. They can only be influenced by their fears, superstition and cupidity. . . . Prove to them that . . . if they cooperate with us, it will benefit them more than it will us. Treat them so as to show them, you are the superior race, and that their natural position is that of subordination to the whiteman. . . .

Never threaten a man individually. If he deserves to be threatened, the necessities of the times require that he should die. A dead Radical is very harmless—a threatened Radical or one driven off by threats from the scene of his operations if often very troublesome, sometimes dangerous, even vindictive.

Francis Miles Finch, “The Blue and the Gray” (1867)

Decoration Day postcards

Southern Poverty Law Center timeline of Confederate monuments

Battle of Liberty Place monument inscription (1932):

McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election [of] November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.