Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations

By Nina Mjagkij | Go to book overview

U

Union League

The Union League, created in 1863, was the first African American-mass-based political organization. It originated in the border slave states among white unionists at the outset of the Civil War and then spread north during the war and south during Reconstruction. The league encouraged freed people to use political action to achieve economic and social improvement. It met violent resistance from conservative whites, spurring its relatively rapid decline after 1868.

In 1861, white unionists in Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and eastern Tennessee, hoping to counter the efforts of secessionist public officials, formed secret, oath-bound societies to aid the Union cause. Although not Republicans, they supported Lincoln during the war and generally endorsed radical war measures such as emancipation and the creation of African American regiments. In 1862, a Tennessee member introduced the league to Republicans in Pekin, Illinois. It spread slowly until midwestern newspaper editors and governors, in the wake of Republican losses in the midterm elections of 1862, adopted it as a way to reenergize the party. Meanwhile in eastern cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, patriotic members of the elite abandoned social clubs patronized by war critics and founded Union League clubs, which raised money for new regiments and the publication of prowar pamphlets. A meeting in Cleveland in May 1863 adopted a common constitution and ritual, creating the Union League of America. James M. Edmunds, a friend of Lincoln from Illinois who held a patronage appointment in the Land Office, became president, operating the organization from his Washington office. The league distributed copies of the ritual, constitution, and Republican literature, but its pleadings for chapter reports reveals a decentralized organization that could not enforce ideological consistency. Leagues formed among soldiers and sailors, African Americans, and ethnic groups such as Germans and, in some instances, moved beyond Lincoln's positions on confiscation of rebel property and race relations. Some leagues opposed colonization, encouraged the vigorous confiscation of slaves, and favored the use of black officers; other units took less radical positions. The league claimed over 700,000 members representing 4,554 councils in late 1863.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, a radical who favored franchisement of African Americans, sent numerous treasury agents who were league members to the South during the war. Their efforts to establish new, usually segregated leagues among southern loyalists in anticipation of Reconstruction were assisted by military officers, black soldiers, missionaries, and agents of the newly established Freedmen's Bureau. Particularly in southern cities, African Americans adopted the leagues as a way to promote equal rights. White loyalists, however, often preferred disfranchisement of Confederates and military occupation to African American voting. The level of league organization varied considerably among states. In April 1867 with new legislation franchising freedmen passing in Congress, the league sent Thomas Conway, a New Yorker and longtime freedman's advocate, south with the goal of introducing the league to every southern county. Arguing that the league would promote intelligent voting, respect for laws, and middle-class virtues of order and sobriety, league leaders hoped to blunt white opposition.

Paid agents, black and white, blanketed the South. The league mushroomed in rural areas among the African American population. Assembling secretly at member's homes, churches, or even outdoors under the protection of

Union League

-663-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 768

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.