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Teaching the Intersection of Abolitionism and Indian Rights

Teaching the Intersection of Abolitionism and Indian Rights

Though abolitionists advocated for both the slave’s cause and the Indian’s cause before the Civil War, their concern for Native American rights is not well understood. This is partly due to the fact that while scholars recognize abolitionist opposition to Indian removal, abolitionist support for Indian rights is seen as primarily a postwar phenomenon. In fact, as I argue in my article in the June 2018 special issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era, abolitionists were concerned about Indian rights throughout this period. It was their engagement with the Indian’s cause that led abolitionists to develop several important antislavery arguments.[1]

There are many ways to incorporate abolitionist concern for Indian rights into undergraduate classes. My article focuses on how Indian removal debates in the 1830s informed abolitionist arguments against black colonization and contributed to the emergence of the Slave Power idea in the late 1830s. One or both of these topics could easily be incorporated into a lesson on the antislavery movement. Below are a few ideas that use primary sources referenced in my article, all of which are easily located either in print or online.[2]

To explore abolitionist opposition to Indian removal, you might orient a classroom discussion around the second Liberator masthead, which appeared from April 23, 1831, until February 23, 1838. Students could consider what the artist is arguing by placing Indian treaties in the slave-market scene (see the left bottom of the image, after “the”). Is this image meant to specifically invoke the Indian Removal Act, which became law in May 1830? Or is it a more general critique of U.S. policy with respect to Native Americans? In announcing the new masthead, William Lloyd Garrison wrote, “Down in the dust, our Indian Treaties are seen,” making the latter reading a strong possibility.

The Liberator masthead, as it appeared after April 23, 1831. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Historian Mary Hershberger has posited that the masthead’s appearance in April 1831 was in direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.[4] But nothing in the image specifically references the Cherokee Nation; they are “Indian” treaties, not “Cherokee” treaties. Perhaps the masthead is meant to invoke both the immediate issue of Cherokee removal and the longer history of Indian dispossession. If so, then the Liberator’s black and white readers would have recognized the image’s dual purpose, for abolitionists were broadly concerned with Indian rights in 1831.

That year, black abolitionists used northern opposition to Indian removal to garner support for their fight against African colonization. Black abolitionists referenced Indian removal at anticolonization meetings held in Brooklyn, New York City, and Providence in 1831, summaries of which were reprinted in the Liberator. In his report on a black anticolonization meeting in Baltimore in 1831, Garrison also referenced Cherokee removal.[5] A major source of frustration for abolitionists was that colonization had significant public support, including among many antiremovalists. Students might use these documents to consider the following questions: How did black and white abolitionists use the debate over Indian removal to challenge support for African colonization? Why might abolitionists have hoped that such arguments would be persuasive? How did abolitionists respond to evidence that these arguments did not appear to be successful in changing antiremovalists’ ideas about colonization?

There is also the question of who or what is responsible for Indian removal. In my article I read the placement of the treaties in the Liberator masthead as evidence of an emergent critique of slavery’s role in Indian dispossession. This idea grew more prominent in antislavery rhetoric as the decade progressed. As black abolitionist Maria Stewart said in 1833, “The unfriendly whites first drove the native American from his much loved home. Then they stole our fathers from their peaceful and quiet dwellings, and brought them hither, and made bond-men and bond-women of them and their little ones.”[6]

Given abolitionists’ growing recognition of slavery’s relationship to Indian removal, it is worth considering why Garrison changed the masthead when he did, so it no longer referenced Native Americans after February 23, 1838. Removal was hardly a settled issue at this time. As my article demonstrates, antiremoval activism by the Cherokees and their supporters continued through the spring of 1838. Furthermore, although the Cherokees were unsuccessful in preventing forced removal in 1838 and 1839, they were not the only Native people fighting dispossession in this period, as John Bowes’ recent work on northern Indian removal reveals.[7] The ongoing Second Seminole War, which began in 1835, offered further evidence of Indian resistance to removal. Students may know something about Cherokee removal and the opposition campaign that the Cherokees and their allies waged against it, but this is an excellent opportunity to enlarge their understanding of antiremoval and its connection to antislavery. Garrison’s decision to change the Liberator’s masthead gives the incorrect impression that abolitionists had lost interest in the Indian’s cause by 1838.

In fact, when abolitionists convened in Philadelphia in mid-May 1838, to celebrate the opening of Pennsylvania Hall, both the Second Seminole War and Cherokee removal were very much on their minds. This is another moment worth exploring in the classroom because it is rich in primary sources from multiple perspectives. A number of relevant sources appear in the official record of the Hall’s opening, History of Pennsylvania Hall, Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, On the 17th of May, 1838, which was reprinted many years ago; more recently, it has been digitized by HathiTrust.[8] Among the documents it contains is John Ross’s letter to the Pennsylvania Hall Committee responding to their invitation to speak at the opening ceremonies. Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, declined to attend, but he hoped that the Cherokee cause might still be discussed. He even wrote a second letter expressly for that purpose and sent two Cherokee leaders to Philadelphia with it. For reasons that are not entirely clear, though worth considering with your students, this second letter was not read aloud at Pennsylvania Hall.

Students might compare Ross’s first letter with the second, given that he intended the latter one as his public statement on Cherokee affairs. Students might consider what Ross wanted attendees at Pennsylvania Hall to know about Cherokee removal, compared to what they actually heard.[9] Before Ross’s first letter was read aloud, white abolitionist Charles Burleigh spoke on “Indian wrongs.” This speech raises a number of interesting questions that intersect with those raised by the Liberator masthead. For Burleigh, Indians had been wronged in the past and in the present; he condemned the contemporary policy of Indian removal and the long history of white violence against Native people. Why did Burleigh believe that abolitionists should support Indian rights? What did he imagine they should do to prevent future wrongs and rectify past injustices? How do ideas about Indians inform his appeal? It is worth calling students’ attention to the fact that Burleigh’s speech was given extemporaneously; the transcript in the History of Pennsylvania Hall was reportedly assembled from “scanty notes.”[10]

The day after Burleigh’s speech, with near unanimity, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 attendees approved a short statement and two resolutions condemning Cherokee removal. What did they hope to accomplish by sending these resolutions? How might John Ross, who was sent a copy, have reacted to them? You might also ask students to consider Garrison’s response to Burleigh’s speech, especially in light of his decision to change the masthead just a few months earlier. It was Garrison, not Burleigh, who explicitly linked Cherokee removal to the expansion of black chattel slavery. In fact, Garrison chastised Burleigh for not identifying slavery’s insatiable need for land as the cause of Indian removal.[11] Burleigh’s speech notwithstanding, by 1838 abolitionists regularly insisted that the forcible relocation of Native people served slaveholding interests. Their engagement with the antiremoval cause led abolitionists to a recognition of what they would soon begin to call the Slave Power.

Finally, there is the question of why Pennsylvania abolitionists invited John Ross, a wealthy slaveholder, to speak at their event. As I show in my article, abolitionists knew that some Cherokees participated in the institution of slavery, including through their ownership of enslaved people. According to the Pennsylvania Hall Committee’s invitation, it was important for Ross and other Cherokees to attend so that they could counter popular ideas about Indians’ supposed inability to become “civilized.” How might abolitionists have reconciled the fact that some “civilized” Cherokees, including Ross, owned slaves?

The significance of Indian rights to the development of abolitionism is lost if we teach Indian removal separately from the antislavery movement. Important arguments about black colonization and the Slave Power emerged from abolitionists’ opposition to Indian removal. Equally important was the role that Native people like John Ross played in maintaining abolitionist interest in the antiremoval cause. That relationship was complicated by the fact of Indian slaveholding, but it was nonetheless crucial to abolitionist support for the Indian’s cause.

 

[1] Natalie Joy, “The Indian’s Cause: Abolitionists and Native American Rights,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 8, no. 2 (June 2018): 215-242. This is available to subscribers of the journal or on Project Muse.

[2] If you need more context to set up this discussion, the debates surrounding Indian removal are readily available, including antiremoval arguments made by the Cherokees and their white allies. For example, see Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, ed., The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents, 2d ed. (Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2005); Jeremiah Evarts, Cherokee Removal: The “William Penn” Essays and Other Writings, ed. Francis Paul Prucha (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981).

[3] Liberator, April 23, 1831.

[4] Mary Hershberger, “Mobilizing Women, Anticipating Abolition: The Struggle Against Indian Removal in the 1830s,” Journal of American History 86, no. 1 (June 1999): 37.

[5] “Anti-Colonization Meeting,” Liberator, July 2, 1831; “A Voice from New-York!” Liberator, February 12, 1831; “A Voice from Providence!” Liberator, November 5, 1831; “A Voice from Baltimore!” Liberator, April 2, 1831.

[6] Maria W. Stewart, “An Address Delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, February 27, 1833,” reprinted in Maria W. Stewart: America’s First Black Woman Political Writer, Essays and Speeches, ed. Marilyn Richardson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 63.

[7] John Bowes, Land Too Good For Indians: Northern Indian Removal (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).

[8] History of Pennsylvania Hall, Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, On the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, 1838; repr., New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969). Available on HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003875260.

[9] For Ross’s first letter, see Ibid., 69. Both letters were reprinted in The Papers of Chief John Ross, 2 vols., ed. Gary E. Moulton (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), I: 635, 636-638.

[10] History of Pennsylvania Hall, 67-69.

[11] For the resolutions, see Ibid., 114. For Garrison’s response, see Ibid., 71.

Natalie Joy

Natalie Joy is an Assistant Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. Her current book project considers the relationship between Native Americans and the antislavery movement from the late 1820s to the early 1860s.

Long Haired Sixties Radicals

Long Haired Sixties Radicals

Louisa was fifteen when the revolution began, and her enthusiasm was undimmed when she wrote her memoirs sixty years later. She recalled the spectacle: houses illuminated with candles, bells ringing, tar barrels burning, flags waving. Most of all, she remembered the people. “I can never forget how those men used to look standing on some impromptu platform,” she wrote, “with the wild light of the bonfires on their faces, and their hair which men wore longer in those days, blown back from their faces by the wind, or the energy of their own movements.” Their vitality still thrilled her: “such light in their eyes! So much hope and so much courage.”[1]

These stirring scenes might evoke a campus protest in 1968, but they came from South Carolina in December 1860. Louisa McCord Smythe was the daughter of writer and lawyer David J. McCord and Louisa McCord, an accomplished author, fierce proslavery theorist, and ardent secessionist. Smythe’s recollection reminds us that secession was especially popular among younger southern whites.[2] It demonstrates that although secession was a defensive, reactionary move, it also inspired hope among those who saw the Confederacy as what historian Michael T. Bernath has termed a “moment of possibility” – an opportunity for change of all sorts, from improving women’s education to stemming the tide of democracy.[3]

“Edmund Rubbin [i.e., Edmund Ruffin].” Born in 1794, Edmund Ruffin was an early and vocal proponent of secession and fired one of the war’s first shots in April 1861. Although much older than many other long-haired secessionists, Ruffin’s hairstyle marked his identification with their cause. As the Confederacy collapsed around him in 1865, the luxuriantly-maned fire-eater committed suicide. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

It also illuminates a largely neglected visual signature of secessionist politics, a hirsutal affirmation of everything Smythe’s neighbors were celebrating: long hair.

Trimmed, wavy hair was fashionable for white men in late antebellum America, so those with longer locks stood out.[4] Not all were fire-eating disunionists, of course, but during and after the 1860-1861 secession crisis, particularly in cities along the troubled Union-Confederate border, long hair marked the class, section, and ideology associated with secession. From Virginia to Arkansas, secessionists, many in their twenties and thirties, sent a political message just as powerful as that of a century later. In the 1960s, long hair signaled a provocative, bodily challenge to behavioral norms and political elites.[5] In the 1860s, secessionists’ long hair made a comparably defiant statement, albeit on behalf of preserving, not subverting, the South’s peculiar social and political hierarchies. Unionists and secessionists alike identified long-haired men as members of the “chivalry”: the notoriously radical and vehemently proslavery southern elite. The image became a stereotype familiar to reporters, law enforcement officers, and anyone seeking to clarify regional difference.

Northerners regularly associated long hair with southerners, especially those of elevated rank and extreme politics. In his autobiography, Bostonian Charles Francis Adams, Jr., recalled that Lucius Q.C. Lamar, a fierce secessionist congressman from Mississippi, “looked the Southern college professor – lank, tall, bearded, long-haired, and large-featured.”[6] A newspaper correspondent covering Abraham Lincoln’s March 1861 inauguration described the audience as a massive crowd of “old and young, of male and female,” with “but few Southerners, judging from the lack of long haired men in the crowd.”[7] A wartime passenger on an Ohio River steamboat looked askance at a “very Southern looking young man with long hair, and an extensive display of very suspicious looking jewelry,” who was denouncing Lincoln as a racial egalitarian.[8] To a Union prisoner of war, Confederates in Charleston were “long haired secession devils.”[9] Perhaps no one epitomized the secessionist image better than Roger A. Pryor, a Virginia politician and newspaper editor who traveled to South Carolina to press for an immediate attack on Fort Sumter in hopes that this would propel his own state out of the Union. Contemporaries regarded the long-haired and heavily armed Virginian as “the very embodiment of Southern chivalry.”[10]

Roger Atkinson Pryor, 1828-1919. A generation younger than Ruffin, Roger A. Pryor was an equally ardent secessionist who worked as a newspaper editor and diplomat before serving in Congress and later in the Confederate Army. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Authors used the long-haired secessionist image to spice their narratives or vent their anger, but for Unionists who risked imprisonment or execution to ferret out information along the dangerous border, identifying friends and foes was deadly serious. Albert D. Richardson, a New York Tribune correspondent who was later captured and then escaped from a Confederate prison camp, read Kentuckians’ loyalties in their appearance – including their hair. The “sinewy, long-limbed mountaineers” passing through Louisville were likely on their way from eastern Kentucky to Indiana to enlist in the Union army, while the “pale, long-haired young men” heading the other direction were obviously Confederate recruits.[11]

Hairstyles even offered vital clues to Allan Pinkerton, the famous detective who uncovered a plot to assassinate president-elect Lincoln when he passed through Baltimore en route to Washington in early 1861. Pinkerton recalled that Barnum’s Hotel was the “favorite resort” of Baltimore’s southern sympathizers, and he identified them by their hair. During the evenings, “the corridors and parlors would be thronged by the tall, lank forms of the long-haired gentlemen who represented the aristocracy of the slaveholding interests.”[12]

“The rebel chivalry as the fancy of ‘My Maryland’ painted them; as ‘My Maryland’ found them.” This cartoon was printed in the pro-Union magazine Harper’s Weekly in 1862. It mocks the ostensibly exaggerated pretensions of the secessionist “chivalry” and depicts two stereotyped images: the secessionist as flowing-haired cavalier and the secessionist as mangy ruffian. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Pinkerton believed that the plot’s mastermind was Cypriano Ferrandini, a Corsican barber who worked in the hotel basement. Allegedly, Ferrandini had proclaimed that the “hireling Lincoln shall never, never be President,” and declared his readiness to die “for the rights of the South and to crush out the abolitionist.” Pinkerton depicted Ferrandini as “a fitting representative of so desperate a cause,” complete with “black eyes flashing with excitement, his sallow face pale and colorless and his long hair brushed fiercely back from his low forehead.”[13] Ferrandini was never charged with a crime, but Lincoln passed through Baltimore under cover of night to evade his long-haired would-be assassins.

From flappers’ bobbed hair to the forced haircuts inflicted at Indian boarding schools, hairstyles are closely tied to our identities and our ideals. After the Civil War, secessionists’ hairstyles were largely forgotten, though they are echoed in the southern outlaw image which, like other recent long-haired figures, emerged in the 1960s.[14] Ironically, the style of the chivalry was reborn among the rural working class.

[1] “Louisa McCord Smyth Recollection,” South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

[2] Peter S. Carmichael, The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); William L. Barney, The Secessionist Impulse: Alabama and Mississippi in 1860 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Henry James Walker, “Henry Clayton and the Secession Movement in Alabama,” Southern Studies 4, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 341-360.

[3] Michael T. Bernath, “The Confederacy as a Moment of Possibility,” Journal of Southern History 79, no. 2 (May 2013): 299-338; John F. Kvach, De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013).

[4] Amy D. Scarborough, “Hairstyles and Head Wear, 1820-1859,” in José Blanco F., ed., Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe, 4 vols. (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016), II, 151-152.

[5] David Farber, The Sixties: From Memory to History, new ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 274-276, 281-282; Gael Graham, “Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v. Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965-1975,” Journal of American History 91, no. 2 (September 2004): 522-543.

[6] Charles Francis Adams, Charles Francis Adams, 1835-1915: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916), 47.

[7] “Inauguration Ceremonies of the President Elect,” Cadiz (OH) Democratic Sentinel, March 13, 1861.

[8] Silas, “From ‘Down the River,’” Evansville (IN) Journal, December 24, 1862.

[9] Charles D. Duncan to Dear Father and Mother, March 31, 1865, in John E. Duncan, “The Correspondence of a Yankee Prisoner in Charleston,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 75, no. 4 (October 1974), 220.

[10] “Glorious Defense of Sumter!!” New York Tribune, April 19, 1861.

[11] Albert Deane Richardson, The Secret Service: The Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1865), 164.

[12] Allan Pinkerton, The Spy of the Rebellion (New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1884), 59.

[13] Ibid., 63-64.

[14] Kirk Hutson, “Hot ‘N’ Nasty: Black Oak Arkansas and Its Effect on Rural Southern Culture,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 54, no. 2 (June 1995), 185-211.

Michael E. Woods

Michael E. Woods is Associate Professor of History at Marshall University. He is the author of Bleeding Kansas: Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border (Routledge, 2016) and Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which received the 2015 James A. Rawley Award from the Southern Historical Association. He is currently at work on a book entitled Arguing until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy.

Introducing New Associate Editor and New Editorial Board Members

Introducing New Associate Editor and New Editorial Board Members

The Journal of the Civil War Era is pleased to announce five new scholars who are joining our editorial board, as well as a new associate editor. We would like to thank all of the editorial board members who are cycling off this year: Lorien Foote, Fay Yarbrough, Brian DeLay, Matt Gallman, and Manisha Sinha. And special thanks to Greg Downs, who is leaving his position as associate editor. We are deeply appreciative of the commitment each of you has demonstrated in advancing Civil War studies.

Welcome to Luke Harlow, who is joining us as associate editor. Luke is Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the author of Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830–1880 (Cambridge, 2014), which received a Kentucky History Award from the Kentucky Historical Society. Luke will be working with Stacey Smith, Associate Editor, to recruit historiographic review essays for the journal.

The first of our new editorial board members is Rabia Belt. Rabia is a legal historian whose scholarship focuses on disability and citizenship. She teaches at Stanford Law School. Her scholarship ranges from cultural analysis of disability in media, to contemporary issues facing voters with disability, to the historical treatment of disabled Americans. She is currently writing a book titled, Disabling Democracy in America: Disability, Citizenship, Suffrage, and the Law, 1819-1920. In 2015, the American Society of Legal History named her a Kathryn T. Preyer Scholar for her paper, “Ballots for Bullets? The Disenfranchisement of Civil War Veterans.”

Angela Pulley Hudson is Professor of History at Texas A&M University. She is the author of Real Native Genius: How an Ex-slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians (2015)—winner of the 2016 Evans Biography Prize from the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies—and Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South (2010). She co-edits, with Andrew Frank and Kristofer Ray, the “Indians and Southern History” series from the University of Alabama Press and is a senior editor of Native American history for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia in American History.

Stephen Kantrowitz is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Afro-American Studies and the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on race, politics, and citizenship in the long nineteenth century. He is the author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 (Penguin, 2012), which was a finalist for both the Lincoln Prize and the Frederick Douglass Prize, and Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (UNC Press, 2000), which won several scholarly awards and was a New York Times Notable Book. He is currently at work on a book on Native Americans and citizenship in the Civil War era.

David Silkenat is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina (2011), Driven from Home: North Carolina’s Civil War Refugee Crisis (2016), and Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War (2019). He is the Chair of the Scottish Association for the Study of America.

The last addition to the editorial board is Brenda E. Stevenson. She is UCLA’s Nickoll Family Endowed Chair and Professor of History and African American Studies. Her research areas are: gender and family; American South and slavery; African Americans; race and film; and racial/ethnic conflict. Her book publications include: Life in Black and White, Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins, and What is Slavery? She is editor of the Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke, co-author of Underground Railroad, and contributing editor to the Encyclopedia of Black Women’s History. Professional accolades include: a Guggenheim Fellowship, SHA’s John Blassingame Award, a Berlin Prize, a NHC Fellowship, the OAH’s Rawley Prize, the Ida B. Wells Award, and a Gustavus Meyer Book Prize.

The Story Continues: Women and the American Civil War

The Story Continues: Women and the American Civil War

Today we share the first Field Dispatch from our latest addition to the correspondent team, Angela Esco Elder. Angela is an Assistant Professor of History at Converse College in South Carolina. She is currently revising her dissertation on Confederate widowhood for publication; her dissertation won the SHA C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize and St. George Tucker Society’s Melvin E. Bradford Dissertation Prize. Elder recently published a co-edited collection, Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence of Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. On Muster, she will be writing on women’s history and gender history topics.


Todd Heisler, “Final Salute” series, 2008. Courtesy of the New York Times.

On July 7, 2018, numerous headlines informed the public of a “US service member killed in ‘insider attack’ in Afghanistan.”[1] The statement came just days after our Facebook feeds filled with Fourth of July red, white, and blue, with videos of fireworks, coordinated family outfits, and patriotic inspiration posted in abundance. Not long before that, Memorial Day brought its share of American flag memes and quotes about soldiers’ sacrifices. Summer holidays offer a powerful reminder that American freedom is intertwined with American death. Yet, even as we offer our condolences and prayers to the families of fallen heroes, the national narrative often remains on the one who gave “the ultimate sacrifice.” We focus on the deceased soldiers. We print their stories. What about those loved ones, who are sentenced to life?

When I started graduate school, I found myself drawn to stories of loss in the Civil War, sifting through letters tucked away in archives across the South. This was not a topic I expected to fall into. I blame Stephen Berry and John Inscoe, who sent me into the University of Georgia archives to find a seminar topic. The Special Collections in Athens weren’t as fancy as they are now. Back then, the archives existed in a room tucked away in a dated corner of the library, walls overburdened with artifacts, sunlight catching the dust as it floated lazily through the air. Or perhaps that’s the nostalgia of a first archival experience speaking. Either way, in I walked, wanting to read something about women and the Civil War. I have since come up with theory-laden scholarly justifications to support this pursuit, but at the time, the honest truth was that I was just interested in it. I loved stories. I loved writing. I was curious what the war was like for women and had no idea there was already a vast amount of scholarship behind it. So, I began reading through boxes of correspondence.

At some point in that first week, I stumbled across the story of William and Rosa Delony. I had just walked past the location of their Athens home that morning, now a downtown parking lot. They had a summer wedding in 1854. When Will left to fight for the Confederacy, they had three children under the age of four. I fell into their letters, a quiet conversation of paper and ink. They bore the separation as well as they could, focusing on the future, but the couple had their challenges. On his ninth wedding anniversary, Will found himself in Gordonsville, Virginia, miles from Georgia with a “longing for home makes my army life almost insupportable.”[2] What Rosa didn’t realize, and what I didn’t realize, was that I was holding one of his last letters.

Telegraph to Mrs. P. Stovall, October 6, 1863. Courtesy of the University of Georgia Archives.

I flipped the page and the next thing in the folder was a smaller slip of paper, a telegram to a neighbor with the instructions, “on account of her condition, break the news to Mrs. Deloney as best you can.” Will had received a mortal wound in his left thigh. He died in a Union hospital. Rosa was eight months pregnant with their fourth child. And then there was me, 150 years later, sitting in this uncomfortable metal chair, holding a smudged wisp of paper that changed a family’s life.

But the story didn’t end with this telegram, or with Will’s death. There was more in the box. Rosa had her baby, a girl, in November 1863, and turned her attention to bringing her husband’s body home. She wanted his remains in Georgia with her, to have a place to visit and mourn. Then, in July 1866, that final daughter, now a toddler, died of whooping cough.

Delony family plot in the Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens, Georgia. Courtesy of the author.

Two months later, Rosa buried Will’s body beside this tiny grave. In 1863, Will had not been able to contain his excitement as he planned a trip home to Georgia for Christmas and the birth of his child. Now, he lay beside her in the Oconee Hill Cemetery. If Rosa could have chosen, she would not have planned for this chain of events. But at least now, in the midst of her uncertain future, one thing was certain. Will was finally home with his child. This was the first time I really thought about what it meant for women to live through and beyond the Civil War.

Certainly, she wasn’t the only one to live through a loss. At the Georgia Historical Society, I read a January 30, 1865, letter from a wife to her husband, who served in Company H, 2nd U.S. Colored Troops:

I have waited and longed and longed and waited for a letter from you but seems all in vain why dont you write to me and let me hear some thing from you. Not since October last have I heard one word from you…relieve my anxious mind the children are all anxious to see you and hear from you…[3]

This letter was found close to a body at the site of the Battle of Natural Bridge, in Florida.

At the Kentucky Historical Society, I spent time with a letter between Lucinda Helm and her daughter-in-law, Emilie Todd Helm, dated October 21, 1863:

My son, my son, my first born, my first born, my pride, my hope – Oh this wicked war of oppression—I know he died gloriously fighting for the freedom of his country but I can not feel that…the loss of my child, my darling son, how can I out live him?[4]

Lucinda’s son died during the Battle of Chickamauga. She would live another twenty-three years without him.

At the Tennessee State Library and Archives, I picked up the letter of farmer Asa V. Ladd, dated October 29, 1864:

My dear wife and children, I take my pen with trembling hand to inform you that I have to be shot between 2 and 4 o’clock this evening. I have but a few hours to remain in this unfriendly world. There is 6 of us sentenced to die in room of 6 union soldiers that was shot by Reeves men. My dear wife dont grieve after me. I want you to meet me in heaven. I want you to teach the children piety…I must bring my letter to a close leaving you in the hands of God. I send you my best love and respect in the hour of death…good-by Amy.[5]

Surrounded by several hundred spectators, Asa was tied to a post, blindfolded, and shot at 3:00 p.m. This letter serves as yet another reminder of a woman who lived through and beyond the Civil War.

Many scholars have moments like this, stories that grab them, shake them, and demand attention. We spend months and years of our lives with these characters and stories. And they change us. When I read a news bulletin about warfare or refugees or disease or famine, I now think of the women within and behind these stories. Instinctively, many historians search for the absent voices, the underrepresented voices, the voices not invited to the table. For those of us who teach, we often ask our students after lectures or readings, “Why does this matter? What is the significance of this event? What is the big picture?” I’ve heard it said that the death of a single Civil War soldier is like a stone dropped in a pond, sending out ripples. But I don’t just want to study the stone, I want the story of the pond. Throw in a handful of stones, perhaps 750,000 or so, and well, welcome to the world of Civil War studies.

 

[1] “US service member killed in ‘insider attack’ in Afghanistan,” BBC News, July 7, 2018, accessed July 9, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44751902.

[2] William Delony to Rosa Delony, May 14, 1863, Delony Family Papers, Hargrett Special Collections, University of Georgia Archives, Athens, Georgia.

[3] C. Ann Butler to William Butler, January 30, 1865, C. Ann Butler Letter, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia.

[4] Lucinda Helm to Emilie Todd Helm, October 21, 1863, Helm Family Papers, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky.

[5] Asa V. Ladd (Gratiot St. Prison in St. Louis), to wife, October 29, 1864, Asa V. Ladd Papers, 1864, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

Angela Esco Elder

Angela Esco Elder is an assistant professor of history at Converse College. She earned her doctorate at the University of Georgia, and the following year she was the 2016-2017 Virginia Center for Civil War Studies postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Tech. Her research explores gender, emotion, family, and trauma in the Civil War Era South. She is the co-editor of Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence of Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.

SCWH Sexual Harassment Policy Announced Last Week

SCWH Sexual Harassment Policy Announced Last Week

Last week, the Society of Civil War Historians announced a new policy on sexual harassment that brings the organization in line with the new standards endorsed by the American Historical Association and others.  As the official journal of the society, the JCWE is committed to supporting this policy in our work for the journal and in our participation in the society.


The Society of Civil War Historians strongly opposes sexual harassment in all aspects of academia. In adapting the Sexual Harassment Policy of the Southern Historical Association (with which we are an affiliated society), the Society offers the following Code of Ethics for its members and for the consideration of the larger society.

I. A. Sexual harassment within academe is unethical, unprofessional, and threatening to academic freedom. In the academic context, the term “sexual harassment” may be used to describe a wide range of behaviors. It includes, but is not limited to, the following: sexist remarks or behavior, whether in or out of the classroom; requests for sexual favors; sexual advances, whether sanction free, linked to reward, or accompanied by threat of retaliation; the use of authority to emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student in a manner that prevents or impairs that student’s full enjoyment of educational benefits, climate, or opportunities; and sexual assault. Such behaviors are unacceptable because they are forms of unprofessional conduct that seriously undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic environment.

B. The potential of sexual harassment is not limited to incidents involving members of the profession and students. Sexual harassment of colleagues and staff also is unethical, as is student harassment of other students.

C. It is unprofessional behavior to condone sexual harassment or to disregard complaints of sexual harassment from students, staff, or colleagues. Such actions or inactions allow a sexually hostile environment to exist and are inconsistent with the maintenance of academic freedom.

II. In addition to sexual harassment, amorous relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances are inappropriate and should be avoided when they occur between members of the profession and any student for whom he or she has a professional responsibility. Implicit in the idea of professionalism is the recognition by those in positions of authority that in their relationships with their students there is always an element of power. It is incumbent upon members of the profession not to abuse, nor seem to abuse the power with which they are entrusted, since relationships between members of the profession and their students are quite imbalanced. Such relationships may have the effect of undermining the atmosphere of trust among students and faculty on which the educational process depends.

III. The Society of Civil War Historians encourages chairs of departments of history to pass these guidelines on to the members of their departments. It suggests, moreover, that department chairs and historians urge their respective universities and workplaces to enforce existing federal regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and to publicize grievance procedures available to students, faculty, or staff who have been subjected to sexual harassment.

If SCWH members encounter problems of sexual harassment, they should refer those problems to the American Historical Association’s Professional Division, located at 400 A Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003-3889. Telephone: 202-544-2422. As the umbrella organization for the history profession, the AHA’s Professional Division has experience in handling sexual harassment complaints. The Division also has legal counsel to guide its work.

The Contested Meanings of the Fourteenth Amendment

The Contested Meanings of the Fourteenth Amendment

This weekend, we share the guest editor’s conclusion to our roundtable on the Fourteenth Amendment. Earlier contributions can be found in order here, here, here, here, and here. Thank you for following along with us as we reevaluated and commemorated the amendment’s 150th anniversary.


Last Sunday, I gave a public talk in a local Washington, D.C., bookstore about citizenship. I did what many historians are guilty of when speaking about our research—I assumed that my audience had a basic knowledge of the Reconstruction era amendments and their general meaning.

This was of course a naïve assumption, given how infrequently Reconstruction expressly enters public consciousness in today’s world. During the Q&A, a gentleman in the audience very nicely asked me if I might go back and review the basic premise of the Fourteenth Amendment, and while I was at it, if I could explain the meaning and implications of the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well. Such a request made sense, given that many laypeople have not often examined the admittedly complicated Constitutional language.

This general lack of clarity about the Fourteenth Amendment and its companions is perhaps reason enough for us to have convened four scholars to participate in a roundtable discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment. For some Americans, to invoke the amendment is to provoke a question about what precisely it was. What was it intended to accomplish, but even more so, what might be its implications for us today? This roundtable is one forum for exploring the Fourteenth Amendment in its entirety, as Aaron Astor has urged us to consider all five of its clauses.

As you might guess, I could not, during that bookstore Q&A, leave my remarks as a simple recitation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s clauses. Historians know that meaning frequently lies not in the text of a given law, even one as highly situated as this amendment. Instead, the history of law is best found in the contestations around its meaning and interpretation. It is in those debates, some of which happened in legislatures and in courts, and in news commentary and on the streets, where the text of a law is given its full meaning. It is there that we look for the deeper history of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chris Bonner and Andrew Diemer have explained a long and essential episode in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment: the decades of black activism that preceded its ratification. Their careful reading of the antebellum colored conventions makes plain that long before members of Congress or state legislatures had the opportunity to contemplate the terms of the amendment in 1867 and 1868, African American activists were generating a debate over their significance. These activists engaged in a struggle over these ideas, including birthright citizenship and equal protection, which would be at the heart of the amendment’s first section. The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is the history of these decades of struggle by black Americans to imagine and insist upon a constitutional amendment that would embody their claims as Americans.

Contestation also very quickly came to characterize thinking about the Fourteenth Amendment after its ratification. Hilary Green has illustrated in her essay how quickly the nation’s high courts began to impose their own interpretations upon those who sought relief by way of the amendment’s terms. This was a grand and highly visible confrontation between high court jurists and everyday Americans who were attempting to use the amendment’s promises to further their claim to rights. This too is the history of law–not simply a history of judicial thinking, but the story of how individuals disputed the contradictory interpretations of judges that arose in the weeks and years that followed ratification.

There are also examples of how, in the very drafting of the amendment, contestation was silently embedded within its structure. Aaron Astor directs our attention, for example, to how the amendment spoke explicitly about the claims of African American men to voting rights. Still, it elided and erased the claims that American women were making on the body politic and on the Constitution at the same moment. Insight into this dimension of the Fourteenth Amendment requires historians to deliberately look behind, underneath, and inside the language of the text, burrowing down to the social and political context in which it was adopted. When we do this we discover the disputes and disagreements brewing just below the surface.

Each of these essays has also reminded us that arguments about the Fourteenth Amendment were not simply a function of the political climate of Reconstruction, or of the early judicial interpretations in the years that followed. To the contrary, the amendment has always been—and will continue to be—a site for confrontation between individuals and the state, and between disparate visions of citizenship and equal protection of the law. In this sense we might be tempted to say that little has changed since 1868. In 2018, as we remember its sesquicentennial anniversary, the amendment remains (as it always has been) a founding document that never defined the nation, though it did set the terms for the central debates over its character.

Martha S. Jones

Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. Among other publications, she is the author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America, recently published by Cambridge University Press. You can follow her on Twitter at @marthasjones_.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s “Other” Sections

The Fourteenth Amendment’s “Other” Sections

Here we provide the penultimate contribution to our Fourteenth Amendment roundtable. Previous selections from this roundtable can be found here, here, here, and here. Our guest editor Martha S. Jones’s conclusion is available here.


For a Constitutional Amendment that undergirds so much of modern American jurisprudence, there may be yet more value to be drawn from the Fourteenth Amendment in its “other” sections, as we consider the amendment’s long reach over 150 years.

The Fourteenth Amendment is best known for its first section, which defines citizenship, extends Constitutional authority more directly over the states than ever before, protects the privileges and immunities of citizens, and establishes the principle of equal protection of the law. But the Fourteenth Amendment contains five sections, and only the first and the fifth (granting Congress the power to enforce the provisions of the amendment) address the better-known matters of civil rights, citizenship, and equal protection of the laws. It is the middle sections that have been more often ignored.

What do these “other” sections mean today, and what do they tell us about Congressional debates over Reconstruction in the 1860s?   On the surface, the multi-section amendment is a grab bag of provisions only vaguely related to one another. However, the amendment’s various sections cohere quite well as a mechanism to reconstruct the federal union by enhancing the jurisdictional reach of the federal government, solidifying (including financially) the states’ adherence to the Union, and reconstructing the southern states (including the border states) on the basis of a racially egalitarian republicanism. This necessitated a restructuring of the body politic as well as of the financial and legal architecture of the federal union. As historian Eric Foner notes, “The Fourteenth Amendment can only be understood as a whole.”[1] The “other” sections–those beyond Section 1–fleshed out how the Amendment’s framers aimed to do this.

Confederate war bond. Courtesy of the Museum of Financial History.

Section 4 is a case in point. President Andrew Johnson issued his lenient Reconstruction plan in 1865, and insisted upon two conditions before state civil governments could be restored: states must renounce secession and must abolish slavery. By October 1865, Johnson made clear that as the Confederate states renounced secession, they acceded to the cancellation of all Confederate bonds, a logical but necessary act to declare the Confederacy illegitimate for all time.[2] Republicans incorporated this language into Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment: “Neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States.” This clause provided for the inviolability of the federal public debt.[3] The affirmation of the federal debt and invalidation of the Confederate debt served a political purpose more than a strictly financial one. A sizable portion of the Union population had purchased war bonds during the Civil War, and the promise to repay them served as a Constitutional validation of this collective act of financial patriotism.

Section 4 did more than this, however. It also prohibited compensation for “any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave.”[4] This clause affected more than the former Confederate states and their suddenly lost slave property. It also affected the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, where some owners had hoped to receive compensation for their slaves freed under the provisions of recently passed state laws or the Thirteenth Amendment. Kentuckians, in particular, opposed the Thirteenth Amendment, agitated for compensation for the loss of their property in persons and even sued the federal government for illegal seizure of slave property in late 1865.[5] Thus, this clause helped zero out the financial basis of the slave system, regardless of its connection to rebellion. The future reconstructed United States would never again validate chattel slavery as a form of property.

In 2013, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invoked Section 4 in unexpected circumstances. She argued that the recent Congressional debate over raising the national debt ceiling was unnecessary because “the 14th Amendment covers it.”[6] Her comment struck many observers as odd and perhaps esoteric, as few Americans think of the Fourteenth Amendment when they consider the national debt. And yet, the Fourteenth Amendment explicitly states that the “validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.”[7] Refusal to raise the debt ceiling meant the United States Treasury would not be able to make interest payments on bonds issued by the U.S. government, effectively rendering the federal government insolvent and its public debt no longer “valid.” The Fourteenth Amendment was not ultimately invoked during this debate. But the episodic commentary on the amendment’s connection to the public debt raised many questions in the minds of the general public.

This image from Harper’s Weekly depicts freedmen registering to vote, c. September 1867. Courtesy of Georgia Encyclopedia.

The second section of the Fourteenth Amendment also resonates to this day. It offered the first Constitutional attempt to guarantee the right of African American men to vote; the Congressional Reconstruction Acts passed in March 1867 advanced black suffrage before the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. Section 2’s immediate effect was to nullify the infamous three-fifths clause granting slave states representation in Congress far beyond what their free population would normally authorize. Ironically, emancipation now meant that southern states could take advantage of their African American populations as full persons for purposes of legislative apportionment without granting them the right to vote. In many ways, Section 2 applied the logic of the three-fifths compromise in reverse by limiting representation in Congress for states that refused to accord full voting rights to all men, regardless of race. This indirect approach was firmed up with the later Fifteenth Amendment explicitly denying states the rights to use race, color, or previous condition of servitude as a basis of disfranchisement.[8]

However, the most immediate political effect of this clause was the establishment of MALE suffrage as a Constitutional right, denying the suffrage claims of women. Indeed, Section 2 was the first time the word “male” was entered into the Constitution; state discrimination on the basis of sex would not threaten a state’s representation under the section’s provisions. This clause drove a wedge between African American activists and some women’s rights advocates even before passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. A vigorous debate unfolded between activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who commented after the Fourteenth Amendment deliberations that “it is impossible for the best of men to understand women’s feelings or the humiliation of their position” in seeking the right to vote, and gradualists like Lucy Stone, who viewed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as partial victories on the road to women’s suffrage.[9] The heated debate and ensuing rift would take a generation to heal and would underscore the often zero-sum nature of rights in American history–rights gained for some often come at the expense of rights for others.

But the second section of the Fourteenth Amendment may also have a modern application. The current debate over voter suppression, whether through restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, lifelong punishment for felons who completed their sentences, or other restrictions that often suppress the votes of minorities and the poor may be resolved by Section 2, especially as the 1965 Voting Rights Act has been weakened. If a state is shown to have illegally and intentionally suppressed the votes of tens of thousands of legal citizens, Congress could turn to Section 2 to limit that state’s representation in Congress. Imagine, for example, Wisconsin or North Carolina losing one or two Congressional seats as punishment for such aggressive forms of voter suppression. Such a claim might strike observers today as unusual or desperate, but it is no more outrageous than turning to Section 4 to “cover” the semi-annual debt ceiling debates. In fact, deploying Section 2 to this effect would be exactly in keeping with the original intent of the Fourteenth Amendment’s framers who understood that a “republican form of government” required an expansive electorate.

By considering the Fourteenth Amendment as a whole, we gain deeper insight into what shape America’s reconstructed Union would take. Section 1 outlines the ideological foundation of post-Civil War America, based on egalitarian republicanism. But Sections 2 and 4 clearly have long-term significance as well, by reassembling the financial and political architecture of the United States now reconstructed under the promise of equal protection of the laws.

 

[1] Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2002), 259.

[2] Dan T. Carter, When the War Was Over: The Failure of Self-Reconstruction in the South, 1865-1867 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 68–74.

[3] “U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 4,” Yale Law School Avalon Project, accessed July 4, 2018, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/amend1.asp#14.

[4] “U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 4.”

[5] Aaron Astor, Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2012), 177.

[6] Quoted in Scott Bomboy, “Reviewing the 14th Amendment debt ceiling argument,” Constitution Daily: National Constitution Center, September 30, 2013, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/reviewing-the-14th-amendment-debt-ceiling-argument.

[7] “U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 4.”

[8] “U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 2,” Yale Law School Avalon Project, accessed July 3, 2018, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/amend1.asp#14.

[9] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More (1815-1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (New York: European Publishing Company, 1898), 254, http://archive.org/details/cu31924032654315.

Aaron Astor

Aaron Astor, Associate Professor of History at Maryville College in Tennessee, is the author of Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri (LSU Press, 2012), The Civil War Along Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau (History Press, 2015), and eleven articles for the New York Times Disunion series. He is currently writing a book on the 1860 Presidential election as a grassroots phenomenon from the perspective of four distinct American communities.

Erasing Dred Scott’s Shadow

Erasing Dred Scott’s Shadow

Today we are publishing Hilary Green’s contribution to our Fourteenth Amendment roundtable. Previous contributions to this roundtable can be found here, here, and here. The final post and conclusion can be found here and here.


Amid the chaos of the current political moment, the July 9, 2018, sesquicentennial anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification must not be overlooked. By establishing birthright citizenship, this is one of most significant Reconstruction amendments. It affirmed African Americans as citizens following the 1857 Dred Scott decision and Confederate defeat in 1865. It also reflects the past and present struggles of marginalized communities and their allies to hold the nation accountable to its democratic ideals. By highlighting how African Americans embraced a constitutional amendment during the Long Reconstruction era, some important lessons emerge for those living in the present.

The Fourteenth Amendment served as a tool of empowerment. Ratification showed African Americans across the nation that their struggle for full citizenship had not been in vain. Resistance and perseverance mattered. Upon its ratification, editors of The Elevator, a black San Francisco newspaper, proclaimed their intention to take their places as full American citizens. Of course the machinations of President Johnson, who initially threatened a veto, raised some concerns among the editorial staff and readership. And, the shadow of the 1857 Dred Scott decision loomed over the process in their minds. Would voters nationally approve this amendment guaranteeing birthright citizenship of African Americans?[1]

Once the necessary number of states had confirmed ratification, however, the newspaper announced: “Notwithstanding the silly and unconstitutional action of the Democratic Legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey, in attempting to rescind the resolutions of preceding Legislatures confirming the Fourteenth Article of the Constitution of the United States, that article has been confirmed by the requisite number of States, and is now the law of the land.”[2] Although unsure what “effect this amendment will have on the political status of the colored citizens of the loyal States,” the newspaper educated its readers by reprinting all five sections of the amendment.[3] Thus, black Californians celebrated while preparing to claim and defend all of the rights there enshrined. Within the year, The Elevator called for a national colored convention that would challenge the exclusion of black voters from the 1868 Presidential election. The editors even endorsed a Nevada senator’s bill to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment as a “felony punishable by fine and imprisonment.”[4]

Ratification even emboldened some African Americans to question white allies’ paternalism and publicly air their dissent. Foretelling the later rift within the women’s suffrage movement, an African-American weekly called The Christian Recorder challenged Susan B. Anthony’s racially divisive commentary on the Fourteenth Amendment in an editorial entitled “Republican Honor and Honesty.” The editorialist succinctly dismissed Anthony’s claim that African Americans were ignorant about the framers’ intent when drafting the amendment, by stating in the concluding sentence: “The truth is, Miss Anthony and her clique are prepared to sacrifice the negro, Republican party and all, if she can but attain her ends.”[5] This rebuke revealed cracks that eventually widened into the irreparable split in the women’s suffrage movement. Former allies became foes. New alliances and organizations emerged. One thing did not change. African American men and women embraced their constitutional right. They demanded their inclusion as equal partners and not as racially subordinated foot soldiers from their white allies. Often, this meant that newer generations of African American activists, notably Frances E. W. Harper, broke with their abolitionist forefathers and foremothers.[6]

The ratification process also functioned as a cautionary tale about how the struggle for an inclusive democratic society remains constant. As David Blight reminded us in a 2015 essay in The Atlantic, Frederick Douglass cautioned against being lulled into complacency after the constitutional victory embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification.[7] The freedom struggle was not over. It merely changed. Delivered after the ratification, Douglass reminded his audience: “Had [slavery’s] death come of moral conviction instead of political and military necessity; had it come in obedience to the enlightenment of the American people; had it come at the call of the humanity … of the slaveholder, as well as the rest of our fellow citizens, slavery might be looked upon as honestly dead.”[8] The noted African American leader and former slave understood the necessity of continued vigilance against those whom might accept slavery’s demise and then fail to eliminate the racism that undergirded the institution.

E. W. Kemble, “Congress, Fourteenth Amendment,” c. 1902. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Subsequent judicial interpretation of the rights of African Americans as American citizens revealed the prophetic nature of Douglass’s 1869 words. State and federal courts have both affirmed and reversed many gains granted to African Americans. Indeed, Supreme Court decisions of the late nineteenth century, including the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), United States v. Cruikshank (1876), Civil Rights Cases (1883) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), contributed to the reversals of the advances made during Reconstruction.[9] At the same time, African American litigants managed to win civil suits in eight southern state supreme courts using the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. As Melissa Milewski has recently shown, in Chaires v. City of Atlanta (1926), Alonzo Herndon and other black barbers successfully argued that a city ordinance prohibiting black barbers from cutting the hair of white women and children and limiting their hours of operation had violated the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving these barbers of “their liberty and property without due process of the law.”[10] The equal protection clause has allowed for the some of the greatest civil rights victories, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) as well as major defeats of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries such as Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2014). This ebb and flow of judicial interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to African Americans, Latinos, women, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities will most likely continue. Here, African Americans’ post-ratification struggles for the fair application of the amendment should prove instructive.

On this sesquicentennial anniversary, this long history of the Fourteenth Amendment and African American usage since ratification has shown the importance of vigilance, perseverance, resistance, and hope. These lessons should inspire the current social justice struggle. Recent debates on whether birthright citizenship should be abolished or limited for undocumented immigrants and other marginalized communities should convince individuals to educate themselves of this history, find allies, speak out, and vote.[11] Though significantly faded, the shadow of Dred Scott still lingers, but only continued activism and perseverance will allow for its complete erasure.

 

[1] Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), 251-261; “The Constitutional Amendment,” The Elevator (San Francisco, CA), July 31, 1868, 2, https://phw03.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_006292018_1006_45228_259.pdf.

[2] “The Constitutional Amendment.”

[3] “The Constitutional Amendment.”

[4] “Call for a National Convention,” The Elevator (San Francisco, CA), November 27, 1868, 3, https://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_006292018_1008_28590_635.pdf; “The Fourteenth Amendment,” The Elevator (San Francisco, CA), January 15, 1869, 4, https://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_006292018_1009_47502_562.pdf.

[5] “Republican Honor and Honesty,” The Christian Recorder, October 3, 1868, 2.

[6] See Nell Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996), 222-233; Bettye Collier-Thomas, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Abolitionist and Feminist Reformer 1825-1911,” in African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965, ed. Ann D. Gordon, Bettye Collier-Thomas, John Bracey, Arlene Voski Avakian and Joyce Avrech Berkman (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997), 49-54; Corinne T. Field, “Frances E. W. Harper and the Politics of Intellectual Maturity,” in Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women, ed. Mia Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara Savage (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 115-118.

[7] David Blight, “Slavery Did Not Die Honestly,” The Atlantic, October 21, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/slavery-did-not-die-honestly/411487/.

[8] Blight, “Slavery Did Not Die Honestly.”

[9] Steven Hahn, A Nation Without Borders: The United States And Its World in An Age of Civil War, 1830-1910 (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), 355.

[10] Melissa Milewski, Litigating Across the Color Line: Civil Cases Between Black and White Southerners from the End of Slavery to Civil Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 168-169, 182-184.

[11] Liz Peek, “Trump, GOP should keep DACA but scrap birthright citizenship,” Fox News, September 4, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/09/04/trump-gop-should-keep-daca-but-scrap-birthright-citizenship.html.

Hilary N. Green

Hilary N. Green is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama. She earned her M.A. in History from Tufts University in 2003, and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, as well as Civil War memory, African American education, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham, 2016).

“Though Declared to be American Citizens”: The Colored Convention Movement, Black Citizenship, and the Fourteenth Amendment

“Though Declared to be American Citizens”: The Colored Convention Movement, Black Citizenship, and the Fourteenth Amendment

Today we share the second installment of our Fourteenth Amendment roundtable. You can find the guest editor’s introduction here, and the first contribution here. Subsequent contributions, including the conclusion, are available here, here, and here.


“The National Colored Convention in Session at Washington D.C.,” 1869. Courtesy of commonplace.org.

Past struggles over the meaning of citizenship speak to us today. The question of who is and is not an American (today we might use the term “real American”) has been and continues to be central to debates about how our government should behave and whom it should serve. Black leaders of the nineteenth century understood that while securing specific rights was an important part of their struggle for citizenship, and they celebrated the Fourteenth Amendment for this, they were also engaged in a larger struggle, a struggle to ensure that African Americans were understood and treated as truly American.

“And thou starry banner! Wave all thy folds in the glad, sweet air of June; flap out upon the breeze the music of liberty; such a luster shalt thou fling back to the sun of the coming Independence Day as he never, in ninety-two years, saw in thy stripes and stars before!”[1] With these words the Christian Recorder, published in Philadelphia by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, celebrated Congress’s passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. Just sixteen years earlier, Frederick Douglass had famously insisted, “This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mineYou may rejoice, I must mourn,”[2] but now, for the first time in the eyes of many African Americans, their claims on the United States had been vindicated.

This is not to say that the amendment was without its black critics. Many black leaders were quick to point out its failures, especially its failure to secure black voting rights.[3] Beyond this, as recent scholarship has emphasized, federal and even state government was often limited in its ability to enforce the liberal ideals enshrined in the Reconstruction amendments. African Americans understood this failing all too well.[4] In light of these nineteenth- and twenty-first- century critics, perhaps rather than thinking of the Fourteenth Amendment as the culmination of the fight for black citizenship, we might more fruitfully think of it as a part of a much longer struggle to establish African Americans as Americans, a struggle that continues even today.

It is worth considering just how profound a change it was, for African Americans to be considered citizens of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Just a few years earlier, the prospect of black citizenship, guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, was unthinkable for most whites. It continued to be unthinkable for many, including the president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, who reportedly insisted that “this is a country for white men, and by God, so long as I am President, it shall be a Government for white men.”[5] The language of both the supporters and opponents of the amendment is telling. Both saw the ability of African Americans to claim the United States as their own nation as central to the larger stakes of the amendment.

The struggle of African Americans to establish their claims on the United States stretched back to the very origins of the nation itself. It unfolded side-by-side with the struggle against slavery, in every public forum that African Americans could turn to the purpose, but one particularly important arena in the early nineteenth century for the African American struggle to make black citizenship imaginable was the Colored Convention Movement. In the decades before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, hese national conventions (along with a host of similar state conventions) served as a forum in which black leaders, often driven from public spaces and legally denied most of the rights and privileges they considered rightly theirs, enacted black citizenship and helped to forge a national black community. These black leaders elected officers, established rules to govern their organization, provided for state and local auxiliaries, and generally addressed the issues facing African Americans across the nation. The minutes of these conventions, published and then reprinted in abolitionist newspapers, served to demonstrate and publicize this public service, providing witness to this long struggle for citizenship.[6]

The convention movement arose at a time when many white Americans sought to deny free black people the very right to live in the United States. The first colored convention, in 1830, was called in response to a vicious anti-black riot in Cincinnati, in which white mobs had burned black homes, schools, and churches, in an effort to drive free blacks out of the city. The convention was forced to consider in a literal sense whether there was a place for African Americans in the United States. Some concluded that there was not, and the convention resolved to support the establishment of a colony in Canada. At the same time the convention delegates asserted, “we who have been born and nurtured on this soil, we, whose habits, manners, and customs are the same in common with other Americans,” making it clear that this was a matter of practicality rather than a rejection of their claims to their native land.[7]

Portrait of Henry Highland Garnet, black activist, c. 1881. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

This tension, between those who advocated emigration outside of the United States and those who rejected this option, would persist, though most often the conventions forcefully called for African Americans to stay in the United States and fight. “We are Americans, and as Americans, we would speak to Americans,” read a typical convention address, from 1853. “We address you not as aliens nor as exiles, humbly asking to be permitted to dwell among you in peace; but we address you as American citizens asserting their rights on their own native soil.”[8] There were frequent, heated disagreements, among attendees at the conventions, but a constant theme was that African Americans were American citizens.

Out of the conventions and their debates emerged a complex vision of black citizenship. Perhaps the most contentious of these debates occurred in 1843, when Henry Highland Garnet submitted an address calling upon those who were enslaved to strike out against their oppressors. “There is not much hope of redemption without the shedding of blood.” he insisted. “If you must bleed, let it all come at once—rather die freemen, than live to be slaves.” The convention came one vote short of endorsing this fiery address, driven by fears of what sort of response such a call might provoke among white southerners. It is striking, though, that Garnet did not simply call for violent resistance, he insisted that such resistance was in fact the expression of American citizenship. Throughout the address, he referred to the enslaved as his “fellow citizens,” and established a lineage of American revolutionaries that joined “Lafayette and Washington” with “the patriotic Nathaniel Turner.”[9] Slave rebellion, the great fear of the white South, was transformed into the highest expression of black citizenship.

Ultimately, when that rebellion came, many of the leaders of the convention movement were among the thousands of black northerners who joined their southern brethren in armed struggle. Even in the midst of the Civil War, though, the conventions continued to meet. The leaders of the convention movement understood that black service in the Union war effort was the strongest argument they had for black citizenship, and they saw it as their task to highlight this service. They also recognized that many whites would continue to denigrate the very soldiers who had done so much to preserve the Union and would soon try to forget that service. “Are we citizens when the nation is in peril, and aliens when the nation is in safety?” they asked.[10] They fought to ensure that the answer would be no.

Honorable Alonzo J. Ransier, Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This effort would prove to be an important, though not sufficient, part of the eventual passage and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet, it was quite clear that the struggle of African Americans to secure justice at the hands of their government, to be treated as truly American, was not complete. In the opening address to the convention of 1872, Alonzo J. Ransier, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, warned against such complacency. “Consider for a moment what kind of government we are living under…the position in which we find ourselves today, though declared to be American citizens; still laboring without adequate compensation, our education and that of our children almost totally neglected; shut out from decent accommodation at the hotels, places of amusement and in common carriers.”[11] It is important to note that Ransier was not simply critiquing the failure of the government to enforce the rights that the Fourteenth Amendment had supposedly guaranteed. He was instead calling for a bolder version of black citizenship, one that was not reducible to a set of limited rights. It was a more expansive sort of citizenship, in which government was expected to play an active and beneficial role in the lives of black Americans.[12]

Today we as a nation continue to struggle with this question of what American citizenship means and who deserves it. There are, of course, specific citizenship rights that are under assault, yet if we limit our understanding of citizenship to just these rights we miss the bigger picture of what citizenship means. We should recall the words and struggles of our nineteenth-century predecessors who understood the larger stakes and broader significance of their own struggle for citizenship.

 

[1] “A Great Day in Congress,” Christian Recorder, July 4, 1868.

[2] Frederick Douglass, “What To the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Philip S. Foner (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1999), 188-206.

[3] See, for example, John Mercer Langston’s critique during the Colored National Labor Convention of 1869. “Proceedings of the Colored National Labor convention: held in Washington, D.C., on December 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, 1869,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 25, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/591.

[4] See especially Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur, “Echoes of War: Rethinking Post-Civil War Governance and Politics,” in The World the Civil War Made, ed. Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 1-21.

[5] Hans L. Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 236. It is not clear that he actually said this, though it was reported that he did so, and his policies certainly reflected this belief.

[6] Particularly interesting in this regard is the Colored National Council, created by the 1853 convention. “Proceedings of the Colored national convention, held in Rochester, July 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1853,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 24, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/458.

[7] “Constitution of the American Society of Free Persons of Colour, for improving their condition in the United States; for purchasing lands; and for the establishment of a settlement in upper Canada, also, The Proceedings of the Convention with their Address to Free Persons of Colour in the United States,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 21, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/70.

[8] “Proceedings of the Colored national convention, held in Rochester, July 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1853,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 25, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/458.

[9] The address itself is not included in the minutes of the 1843 Convention, only the debate is. The text here is taken from a later published version of this address. See Henry Highland Garnet, A Memorial Discourse (Philadelphia: J. M. Wilson, 1865), 44-51.

[10] “Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men; held in the City of Syracuse, N.Y.; October 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1864; with the Bill of Wrongs and Rights; and the Address to the American People,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 24, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/282.

[11] “National Convention at New Orleans, LA,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 24, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/544.

[12] On the limits of the liberal vision of Reconstruction, see Laura F. Edwards, “Reconstruction and the History of Governance,” in The World the Civil War Made, 22-45.

Andrew Diemer

Andrew Diemer is Associate Professor of History at Towson University. He is author of The Politics of Black Citizenship: Free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic Borderland, 1817-1863 (Georgia, 2016). He is currently working on a biography of the black abolitionist, William Still.

The Roots of Reconstruction

The Roots of Reconstruction

Today we share the first contribution to our scholarly roundtable on the Fourteenth Amendment. The guest editor’s introduction and conclusion can be found here and here. Subsequent posts can be found here, here, and here.


During Reconstruction, black men claimed unprecedented formal political power by participating in southern state constitutional conventions like that held in Richmond, Virginia, in 1868. At the same time, activists continued to work outside of these formal spaces to promote their visions of legal change. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

In the decades before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, African American activists helped generate a concept of citizenship that changed the nation’s legal structures. Key to the story of that amendment is the decades of black protest that shaped the intellectual context of postwar lawmaking. In the antebellum period, black Americans established the roots of Reconstruction, and exploring their politics points to the ways marginalized people can shape lawmaking in a way that moves governments toward justice.

The Fourteenth Amendment was in some ways the culmination of decades of black activism. As early as the 1820s, African Americans publicly challenged exclusionary laws in northern states. They called themselves citizens as they worked toward specific legal changes including protections from kidnappers, free movement throughout the country, equal employment opportunities, and the right to vote.[1] That work was potent because white lawmakers did not agree on the significance or content of citizenship; many felt the status simply identified a person’s connection to a place.[2] In 1838, the black Philadelphian Robert Purvis lamented that when an African American was accused of being a fugitive slave, “a free-born citizen of Pennsylvania [could] be arrested, tried without counsel, jury or power to call witnesses . . . and carried across Mason and Dixon’s line within the compass of a single day.”[3] Statements like Purvis’s made specific arguments about who could be a citizen and about the legal protections that status should provide. Black activists thus constructed citizenship as a legal status in their political statements.

The process of emancipation brought African American politics and the uncertain terms of citizenship to the center of government debates as congressmen considered what black freedom should mean.[4] With that new opportunity, black people continued their work, using citizenship to make specific claims to rights and protections. African American activists gathered for meetings around the country at which they discussed strategy and publicized arguments about their legal status. Their meetings followed a pattern of black conventions from the antebellum period, but emancipation allowed more black people from the South to take part in these political forums and brought increasing urgency to arguments about the legal terms of freedom.[5]

In August 1865, activists met in the Lyceum of Alexandria, Virginia. They recognized the risks of holding a convention in what had been the most important state of the Confederacy. George Cook, a delegate from Norfolk, reported that some white southerners had tried to pay those people whom they had once owned to stay away from the convention. Others, Cook noted, threatened black Virginians, saying “that coming here would hurt us at home.” But Cook relished the high stakes of his politics, hoping to “to secure the franchise in every way that is honorable and just.” “If I die in the attempt,” he said, “my children will reverence me for it the more.”[6]

In the face of mortal danger, Cook and his colleagues pushed for sweeping legal change and for specific rights that would give texture to their new status. Delegates demanded that “as citizens of the State, the laws of the Commonwealth shall give to all men equal protection.” They sought a relationship with government that would allow any man to “appeal to the law for his equal rights without regard to the color of his skin.” They argued that voting was essential to citizen status, and they looked beyond Virginia, calling the franchise “the privilege of the nation.” They were “natives of American soil,” and “citizens of the country.”[7] These Virginians joined black activists throughout the country in outlining a vision of a new legal order. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a group declared “we are American Citizens,” and argued that because of their status, “protection and equal right to the ballot and the law, are due to us.”[8] The Civil War produced new legal relationships between the federal government and individual black people, and activists worked to sustain and shape the terms of those relationships.

It is difficult to know whether lawmakers read statements that black conventions produced or if they looked to black activists for ideas about the formal lawmaking process. But the legal terms of Reconstruction reflected many of black peoples’ chief concerns. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared black Americans to be citizens by birth and extended to them a set of protections by way of that status. Alongside the specific right to contract, to file lawsuits, to testify in court, and to hold property, the act secured to black people “full and equal benefit of all laws . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.”[9] Republicans in Congress then strengthened that law by embedding its ideas in the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment echoed key provisions of the act, declaring citizenship a birthright and connecting it to equal protection of the laws. It empowered Congress to describe and enforce the legal relationship between individuals and the federal government. Together, these measures built a new legal order and held out the potential for further change by providing a broad outline of citizenship and allowing lawmakers to continue building its terms.[10] As black people had long desired, Reconstruction linked them to a powerful federal government responsible for legislating racial equality.

Whether or not lawmakers listened to black activists, the terms of Reconstruction emerged from a context that black people had helped to produce. Activists framed citizenship as a rights-bearing status and an important individual legal identity. Most republican lawmakers came from northern states where black people had consistently made such arguments about the nature of citizenship and the terms of their legal lives. By calling themselves citizens and using familiar forms of popular politics, African Americans shifted ideas about the possibilities of the nation’s laws, helping people to imagine and legislate black citizenship. They shaped the language available to lawmakers, insisting that citizenship should be a foundational legal status, a robust connection between individuals and the state.

But the story of the Fourteenth Amendment is also one about black Americans identifying and challenging its limits. In October 1868, a group of activists issued a public call for a national convention. They were concerned with a section of the amendment that outlined penalties to be imposed on states that denied black men the vote. Many people saw this gesture at protection as a tacit endorsement of black disfranchisement. Those who called for a convention worried that the new law allowed for “the partial or total exclusion of colored citizens from the exercise of the elective franchise and other citizen rights.” “Surely,” they said, “citizenship, as declared by that amendment, carries with it the rights of citizens.”[11]

Shortly thereafter, the Fifteenth Amendment would help secure black men’s voting rights, but immediately following the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification, activists were concerned about the implications of a law that implicitly separated suffrage from citizenship. They spoke publicly about the flaws of the Fourteenth Amendment, continuing the work they had done in the antebellum period. That work—molding and challenging the specific language of the law—pointed a way forward for subsequent struggles by those who sought to define the legal protections available through citizenship. Black Americans in the 1860s understood that the Constitutional changes of Reconstruction were incomplete steps toward justice. They felt entitled to an array of rights and protections as citizens, and they were clear that the Fourteenth Amendment had failed to secure them. They saw, as people would continue to see, that legal declarations of equality could have limited effects on their lives and often fail to manifest their visions of justice. Since 1868, people who have been marginalized because of their gender, ability, or other characteristics, have continued to build citizenship, hoping to clarify and expand the array of rights and protections to which they are entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

[1] See for instance Elizabeth Pryor, Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

[2] On these uncertainties, see James Kettner, The Development of American Citizenship, 1608-1870 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1973); William J. Novak, “The Legal Transformation of Citizenship in Nineteenth-Century America,” in The Democratic Experiment: New Directions in American Political History, ed. Meg Jacobs, Novak, and Julian E. Zelizer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

[3] Robert Purvis, Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens, Threatened with Disfranchisement, to the People of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1838).

[4] Sharon Romeo, Gender and the Jubilee: Black Freedom and the Reconstruction of Citizenship in Civil War Missouri (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016); Laura F. Edwards, A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 64-89.

[5] African Americans gathered in Baltimore for a convention in 1852, the only documented meeting of its type held in the South before the Civil War. “Maryland Free Colored Peoples’ Convention,” Colored Conventions Project, accessed June 19, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/260; Andrew Diemer, The Politics of Black Citizenship: Free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic Borderland, 1817-1863 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016).

[6] “Liberty, and Equality Before the Law. Proceedings of the Convention of the Colored People of Va., Held in the City of Alexandria, Aug. 2, 3, 4, 5, 1865,” (Alexandria, VA: Cowing & Gillis, Book and Job Printers, 1865), 3-4. Colored Conventions Project, accessed July 7, 2018, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/272.

[7] “Liberty, and Equality Before the Law,”10-12.

[8] Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, “To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress Assembled,” January 20, 1866, 2, 4-5. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, New York City.

[9] Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, sec. 1.

[10] George Rutherglen, Civil Rights in the Shadow of Slavery: The Constitution, Common Law, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Edwards, A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction, 102-105.

[11] Proceedings of the National Convention of the Colored Men of America, Held in Washington, D.C., on January 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1869 (Washington, D.C.: Great Republic Book and Job Printing Establishment, 1869), 1.

Christopher Bonner

Christopher Bonner teaches African American history at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is at work on a book manuscript that explores the ways black protest shaped the development of American citizenship in the mid-nineteenth century.