Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Emancipation To the Great Migration: Jim Crow, Reconstruction And Sundown Towns (Planting The Wind; Harvesting the Whirlwind, Part 2)

 This is the second in a series on the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

In From 16019 To Emancipation, I started by noting the biblical basis for caring about the history and the legacy of racism in our country before giving an overview beginning in 1609 through the Civil War and Emancipation. Basically, we should care because Jesus cares. If you have not yet read the first post, I encourage you to do so. There is a lot of information that will add context to what you are reading. 

We pick up our narrative right after the Emancipation Proclamation.

* * * * *

“They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7)


·   Newspaper business boomed as slaves placed ads, trying to reunite with all the family members who had been sold.[1]

·    In the South, the federal government never followed through on Sherman's Civil War plan to divide up plantations and give each freed slave "40 acres and a mule." The only compensation for slavery was $300 per slave ($5,000 in today’s money) - not to the slaves, but to slaveholders. 

·    Laws kicked in right away in the South that led to indentured servitude through prison labor. In South Carolina, a law prohibited black people from holding any occupation other than farmer or servant unless they paid an annual tax of $10 to $100. When they couldn't find (or afford) work, they were arrested for vagrancy simply for not having a job. In Louisiana, it was illegal for a black man to preach to a black congregation with written permission from the police. In some areas, blacks could be arrested for “walking without a purpose” or “walking at night.”  In South Carolina, the children of ‘vagrant’ parents could be forcibly ‘apprenticed’ until they were 21 (men) or 18 (women), and could be captured if they ran away. It was hard to win a case in court, because the judges and police were often former Confederate soldiers.

·   Abraham Lincoln hated slavery, but he was wary of whites and blacks living together. He wanted to send freed slaves to live in Liberia or Haiti. In 1862 he said to a black audience: “You and we are different races—we have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us; while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side.[2]

·   The 1862 Homestead Act gave away 270 million acres.[3] It was available to any U.S. citizen who had never fought against the U.S. Government. Guess who couldn't legally be a citizen because they weren’t white and it was not yet 1868? (#The Fourteenth Amendment). The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 opened 46 million acres of federal land (to be clear, this was land taken from Native Americans) specifically for African Americans (at least at first). Many former slaves could not afford the fee, and Southern whites prevented many blacks from getting information. In addition, most of the land was forest and swamp. Fewer than 6,000 black families got land from a total of 1.6 million beneficiaries of these land grant programs.[4]

·    Congress also gave another 100 million acres of Native American land to the railroads for free. 

·   Irish immigrants initially established comradery with their black co-workers, but as it became clear to the Irish that this solidarity with black workers denied them entrance into white society – and that a black population moving North might deny them the jobs they had - the relationship changed. Irish violence against blacks became so common in New York City that bricks were known as “Irish confetti.” In 1865, a mob of 1,000 Irish immigrants attacked the black community, including children in an orphanage. They caused so much destruction and elicited such fear that the black population decreased by 20%.[5]

·   Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to free slaves that their Texan masters had refused to free. #juneteenth “In October 1865, months after the June orders, white Texans in some regions ‘still claim and control [slaves] as property, and in two or three instances recently bought and sold them…To sustain slavery, some planters systematically murdered rebellious African-Americans to try to frighten the rest into submission.” A report by the Texas constitutional convention stated that white Texans killed almost 400 Black people between 1865 and 1868.[6] 

     "On May 1, 1866, in Memphis, Tennessee, white police officers began firing into a crowd of African American men, women, and children that had gathered on South Street, and afterward white mobs rampaged through Black neighborhoods with the intent to “kill every Negro and drive the last one from the city.” Over three days of violence, forty-six African Americans were killed (two whites were killed by friendly fire); ninety-one houses, four churches, and twelve schools were burned to the ground; at least five women were raped; and many Black people fled the city permanently." (From Lynching In America)

·    1868: The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to black people. Federal troops moved through the South, registering 700,000 black voters. The government specifically interpreted the law so it didn’t apply to Native Americans, who would not win the right to citizenship until 1924.  

·   By 1868, the American Missionary Association (formed by the Congregational Church) had more than 500 teachers and missionaries working with the freed slaves. Among other things, they helped start two freedmen schools that became historically black colleges: Fisk University (1866) and Hampton Institute (1868).[7]

     Thousands of Chinese workers landed in Louisiana between 1866 and 1870, recruited from the Caribbean, China and California. Bound to multiyear contracts, they symbolized Louisiana planters’ racial hope for a new system of slavery. “We can drive the n*****s out and import coolies that will work better, at less expense,” journalist Whitelaw Reid reported hearing all across the South in 1866, “and relieve us from this cursed n****r impudence.”

      The Fifteenth Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified during the Reconstruction Era (1870). African American men were granted voting rights and even held political office. It was an excellent change that generated hope, but only lasted a short time.

·   The newly registered 700,000 blacks voters in the South outnumbered the white (male voting) population. Enter supremacist groups like the KKK to start a terrorist race war. KKK members lynched so many black voters in North Carolina 1870 that Governor Holden declared an insurrection and suspended habeus corpus. After Klansmen killed Republican state senator Stephens and Wyatt Outlaw, a black town commissioner, Holden hired a Union colonel and 300 troops to stop the violence (The Kirk-Holden War). But because black voters were successfully suppressed, the Democrats won the state legislature when they should have lost by thousands of votes. They impeached Holden and removed him from office. Not a one of the 100 terrorist leaders in the Kirk-Holden War were charged with a crime. In 1868, white supremacists opened fire on thousands of blacks at a political rally, so intimidating them that they swayed the election by thousands of votes so a Democratic governor would win.  In 1869, 33 recently elected black legislators were removed from office when the state Supreme Court overturned the right of blacks to hold office. ¼ of them would be killed by white supremacists; a dozen anti-expulsion protestors were killed in the Camilla Massacre. In 1870, in Laurens, South Carolina, around a dozen white and black voters were killed by supremacists who “waited upon” them after they voted. So, Congress passed The Enforcement Act of 1870, and then a Second one, and then a Third one bluntly called the Ku Klux Klan Act, all in an attempt to stop white supremacist terrorism of black voters. It didn’t work. In 1871, the Klan slaughtered 30 people in Meridian, Mississippi.[8]

·   In 1871, a white mob in Los Angeles attacks a Chinese community, killing 19 and destroying the community.[9]

·   No one is quite sure how many people a militia mob killed on Easter Sunday in 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana. There were at least 81 black men; 20 more bodies were pulled from the Red River, and at least another 18 secretly buried.[10]

·   In 1874, the White League killed a dozen black Freemen in the Couschatta Massacre in Louisiana. A month later, the Crescent City White League overthrew the state government to install a Democratic governor (federal troops stormed in and reversed it)[11]

·   1872–1874: The U.S. government permitted white traders to slaughter buffalo in order to rid the Plains of Indians. By 1874, Plain Indians — Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche — had not only lost a key source of livelihood but lost control of their territory.[12]

·   The Civil Rights Act of 1875 affirmed the “equality of all men before the law” and prohibited racial discrimination in public places and facilities such as restaurants and public transportation.[13] This would not stand for long.

·   Reconstruction collapsed with the withdrawal of Federal troops in 1877; among other setbacks, voting rights for black men in the former Confederate states were restricted or taken away by local laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and fraud.[14] The “grandfather clause” restricted voting rights to men who were allowed to vote, or whose male ancestors were allowed to vote, before 1867 – which was, or course, not black men.[15]

·   In 1878, California held a constitutional convention for the purpose of throwing the Chinese and Japanese out of the state; the following decades witnessed scores of race riots, in which Chinatowns and Japantowns were incinerated and Asians lynched.[16] 

·   Carlisle Indian School (1879) and other boarding schools started with the aim to "civilize" and "Americanize" the Indian.[17]  Richard Pratt wanted to “kill the Indian and save the man,” so that instead of “feeding our civilization to the Indians”, we were “feeding the Indians to our civilization.”[18] Survivors have described a culture of pervasive physical and sexual abuse. Medical attention was often scarce; in the early years, more died than graduated. Nearly 200 Native children are buried at the entrance of the Carlisle Barracks.

·   Frederick Douglass (1817-1895): “For between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.”[19]  Once again, this is not every Christian, but it’s enough that it leaves an impression. 

·   By 1880, 25% of convicts leased out for work in Mississippi were children, some as young as six. Within a few years, Alabama would basically stop recording reasons for arresting black prisoners, literally writing “not given” in the column for recording reasons for imprisonment. The mortality rate for blacks leased out for hard labor was 17%, which was 15% more than the mortality rate for white convicts.[20]

·   When Congress debated excluding the Chinese from the United States in 1882, Rep. Horace F. Page of California argued that the United States could not allow the entry of “millions of cooly slaves and serfs.” 

     The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases (1883).[21]

·    Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877), who coordinated the butchering of black and white Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, went on to become the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Many Klan members actively participated in their local churches; more than a few preached on Sundays.

·    From George Washington (1789) to Ulysses Grant (1877), more Presidents owned slaves than did not (12-6).

·   The Dawes Act (1887) called for most designated tribal land to be divided up into individual allotments, on which Native Americans were encouraged to take up agriculture despite the fact that much of the land was unsuitable for farming and many could not afford the equipment, livestock, and other supplies necessary for a successful enterprise.[22] Those who accepted the parcels and agreed to live separately from the tribe were granted citizenship, effectively dismantling tribal governments and communally held land. Any “excess” land (2/3 of it) was confiscated by the federal government and sold on the open market.[23]

·   By the time the 1880s rolled around, “The legal system entrapped thousands of black men, often on trumped up charges and without any due process protections, and earned money for sheriffs and state treasuries by selling their labor. It was worse than slavery.”[24] Every southern state leased convicts; 90% of all leased convicts were black. Historian David Oshinsky says, “The South’s economic development can be traced by the blood if its prisoners.”[25]

·    General Ulysses S. Grant (late 1800s): “The settlers and emigrants must be protected, even if the extermination of every Indian tribe [is] necessary.” The following year, General Philip Sheridan reportedly proclaimed, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” 

·   After the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre (300 Lakotaa men, women and children killed), the U.S. Army awarded 18 medals of honor to soldiers who participated, 3 for flushing Indians out of a ravine in which they were hiding.[26] 

·    Author L. Frank Baum – you know him as the writer of The Wizard of Oz - wrote two editorials about Native Americans. After the killing of Sitting Bull, Baum wrote: " With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by the law of conquest, by a justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians… better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are." Following the Wounded Knee massacre, Baum wrote, "The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

·    In the late 1800s, missionary activity surged. However, an embedded message of white superiority often undermined the message of the gospel: the conversion to the tenants of western culture and a response to the gospel was a package deal. Methodist Senator Albert Beveridge said, “Of all our races, God has marked the American people as his chosen nation to finally lead to the regeneration of the world. This is a divine mission.”

·   In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not require the elimination of racial distinction but only the equal treatment of races. And with that, “separate but equal” became the standard in law for decades. It “struck a fatal blow to…black aspirations for equality and assimilation into America’s vaunted melting pot.”[27]

         By the early 1900s, nearly every southern state had barred black citizens from voting, serving in public office, sitting on juries or partipating in the administration of the justice system.[28] 

     "Alabama rewrote its constitution in 1901. John B. Knox, a Calhoun County lawyer and president of the constitutional convention, opened the proceedings with a statement of purpose: 'Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this state.'”

·    President Theodore Roosevelt  (early 1900s) said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are. And I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

·   The revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1900s was largely the effort of Thomas Dixon Jr., an ordained Baptist preacher who wrote an admiring book on of the KKK called The Clansman (1905). D.W. Griffith adapted this into the first blockbuster movie, The Birth of a Nation (1915), which was screened in the White House.”[29]

·   There were 4,084 racially motivated lynchings in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the 1950’s.[30] African-American leaders contended that white churches shared the blame for this. Walter White of the NAACP wrote, “Evangelical Christian denominations have done much towards creation of the particular fanaticism which finds an outlet in lynching.” This was surely not entirely fair, as many white evangelicals expressed deep concern. However, they typically lamented the lawlessness of the acts more than the racial hatred behind the response. 

·   A Southern Baptist resolution in1906 shows this equivocation about lynching: “Lynching blunts the public conscience, undermines the foundations on which societies stands, and if unchecked will bring on anarchy. But our condemnation is due with equal emphasis and many cases with much greater emphasis against the horrible crimes which caused the lynchings.” Crimes, I might add, which was often made up and did not need to be proven to a lynch mob.[31]

·   Booker T. Washington wrote in the Birmingham Age-Herald in 1904: “Within the last fortnight three members of my race have been burned at the stake; one of these was a woman… All three of these burnings took place in broad daylight, and two of the occurred on Sunday afternoon in sight of a Christian church.” Washington notes all three were accused of murder. Accused, not convicted, and likely not guilty.[32]

·   Not long after 1906, when San Francisco was leveled by earthquake and fire, the Chinese were evicted and Chinatown looted. The federal government tried to prevent rebuilding, but the intercession of China’s empress ensured that it was restored.  Soon afterward, the federal government turned Angel Island in San Francisco Bay into basically a prison where 175,000 Asian immigrants were detained, sometimes for years, before being considered for admission to the United States.[33] 

·   In 1908, a mob of around 5,000 white people attacked the black community in Springfield, Illinois, destroying businesses, driving families away, and lynching two black men.[34]

·   By 1910, the war against black voting had shown itself to be effective. 30,334 black voters had registered in Louisiana in 1896; by 1910, there were 730. In Alabama, numbers dropped from 180,000 to 3,000; in Virginia and North Carolina, black voters were statistically 0%.[35]

     In 1917, mobs in East St. Louis forced black workers from factories and gave them the option of being shot or burned alive.       


     1914-1919 was the Great Migration, when 6 million blacks moved away from South to find “political asylum within their own country.” (The California Gold rush involved 100,000 people; the Dust Bowl displaced 300,000). This was spurred on by incidents some may have witnessed in Waco, Texas in 1916, where 18-year-old Jesse Washington was lowered by rope into flames to be burned alive while a crowd of 15,000 yelled, “Burn, burn burn!” In 1917, mobs in East St. Louis forced black workers from factories and gave them the option of being shot or burned alive.[36]

·   The 1919 Elaine Massacre refers to the time when white soldiers collaborated with local vigilantes to kill at least 200 black men, women and children who dared to criticize their low wages.[37] The local newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, lied about a list of 21 white farmers the Progressive Farmers and Household Union had compiled. The list identified white farmers with whom to discuss farming practices. The newspaper claimed it was a hit list.[38]

·   In Phillips County, Arkansas, where black sharecroppers were attempting to form unions, “emergency posses” killed at least 200 people.[39]

·    Ida Wells, one of the founders of the NAACP, called out D.L. Moody for downplaying the issue of lynching: “American Christians are too busy saving the souls of white Christians from burning in Hell Fire to save the lives of black ones from present burning and fires kindled by white Christians.”

     "Another public spectacle lynching took place in 1917 in Memphis, Tennessee, when a mob of twenty-five men seized Ell Persons from a train that was transporting him to stand trial for rape and murder. The mob had announced the lynching time and location in advance, and thousands of people attended, backing up traffic for miles. Food and gum vendors sold their wares to the many spectators as Mr. Persons was doused with gasoline and set on fire. A ten-year-old Black child was forced to sit next to the fire and watch him die. When members of the crowd complained that Mr. Persons would die too quickly if burned, the fire was extinguished, and attendees fought over Mr. Person’s clothes and remnants of the rope to keep as mementos. Two men cut off his ears for souvenirs, after which the head of Mr. Person’s corpse was removed and thrown into a crowd in Memphis’s Black commercial district. Later that year, just a few hours away in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Lation Scott was subjected to a brutal and prolonged lynching after being accused of “criminal assault.” Thousands gathered near a vacant lot across the street from the downtown courthouse and children sat atop their parents’ shoulders to get a better view as Mr. Scott’s clothes and skin were ripped off with knives. A mob tortured Lation Scott with a hot poker iron, gouging out his eyes, shoving the hot poker down his throat and pressing it all over his body before castrating him and burning him alive over a slow fire. Mr. Scott’s torturous killing lasted more than three hours."(From Lynching In America)

·   1914-1919 was the Great Migration, during which 6 million blacks moved away from South to find “political asylum within their own country.” (The California Gold rush involved 100,000 people; the Dust Bowl displaced 300,000). This was spurred on by incidents some may have witnessed such as the one in Waco, Texas in 1916, where 18-year-old Jesse Washington was lowered by rope into flames to be burned alive while a crowd of 15,000 yelled, “Burn, burn burn!”[40]


Part 3: From The Red Summer To Today: The Lived Experience Of This Generation 

[1] The Sum Of Us, Heather McGhee

[2] Lincoln said shortly before he died, “I can hardly believe that the South and North can live in peace, unless we can get rid of the negroes … I believe that it would be better to export them all to some fertile country…”

[3] “In the Great Plains, they found success. A significant colony (as it was called) of about 150 people thrived at Blackdom, near Roswell, N.M., during the opening decades of the 20th century. Dearfield was home to more than 200 homesteaders.”

[4] The Sum Of Us, by Heather McGhee. An estimated 46 million people are the propertied descendants of those land grant beneficiaries.

[5] The Sum Of Us, by Heather McGhee

[7] “The Slavery Controversy And Civil War,” America’s Religious History, Thomas Kidd.

[8] “Reconstruction,” Michael Harriot, Four Hundred Souls

[10] “Reconstruction,” Michael Harriot, Four Hundred Souls

[11] Ibid.

[14] It’s worth noting that poll taxes alone also disenfranchised thousands of poor white voters. Voter turnout in poll tax states was 18% vs. a national average o 69%, according to Heather McGee in The Sum Of Us.

[16] “The 1619 Project: An Autopsy,” CATO Institute. 

[18] Unsettling Truths, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

[19] African American Readings Of Paul

[20] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth of Equality, Ken Wystma

[25] “Stolen Labor, The Myth of Equality, Ken Wystma

[26] Unsettling Truths, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

[27] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth Of Equality, Ken Wytsma

[29] Jemar Tisby, The Color Of Compromise

[30] There were other lynchings that were not racially motivated.

[31] After the 1906 Race Riots, a confederate soldier and governor of Georgia named William Northern, a Southern Baptist leader, helped organize Christian anti-lynching activists, though he assured people that stopping lynching would not undermine white supremacy or lead to racial integration.

[32] “Booker T. Washington,” by Derrick Alridge 

[33] “The 1619 Project: An Autopsy,” CATO Institute

[34] American On Fire, Elizabeth Hinton

[35] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth Of Equality

[36] America On Fire, Elizabeth Hinton

[38] From Jemar Tisby’s intro to the re-release of The Coming Race Wars, by William Pannell

[39] America On Fire, Elizabeth Hinton

[40] “The Great Migration,” Isabel Wilkerson, Four Hundred Souls

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