No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment

By James E. Bond | Go to book overview

Representative Robbins introduced a bill in December 1869 to prevent discrimination on steamboats. None of the bills passed. 108 The debates on school legislation revealed a sense that the Fourteenth Amendment did not necessarily command integration. Even the black delegates generally took the view that "social mixing should be allowed but not forced." 109 Thus Senator Galloway answered a proposal that the galleries be segregated by suggesting instead that each race should have a side with a middle section kept open for both. 110

The debate on the militia bills confirmed the apparently widespread belief that separate but equal treatment would insure blacks the equal protection of the laws. In August 1868, legislation for the reorganization of the state militia was introduced. 111 It passed, despite the fact that Representative Leary opposed the bill because Section 3 called for racially separate militia and because Section 13 of a substitute bill promised that white and black members would not have to serve together. 112 Indeed, seven of the ten black representatives voted for it; and all three black senators voted for the bill. 113 Some black delegates doubtless compromised their insistence on equal treatment in order to secure protection against the reign of terror that the Klan had already begun to inflict upon blacks and their friends. 114 Indeed, the conservative Democratic leadership considered the Klan "a god-send" because it "reduced the number of Negro voters through intimidation" and "[drew] out a larger and more unified white vote." 115 That blacks had to make that concession in order to obtain police protection from a legislature sympathetic to their needs only dramatized how narrowly those who favored equal protection viewed its scope.

Even that commitment vanished within a few years. The much-maligned Albion Tourgee had seen the bleak future the newly freed slaves faced in North Carolina even as the Reconstruction Acts were being passed in the spring of 1867. In fact, he had opposed those acts precisely because "they lacked effective federal implementation and were dependent upon southern Republican strength." He predicted that "the mass of poor, uneducated, and inexperienced Negro and white Republicans would not long succeed against the wealth, ability, and power which opposed them." 116


NOTES
1.
The standard history for the period is Joseph G. Hamilton, Reconstruction in North Carolina ( New York: Columbia University, 1914). Hamilton's work is thorough but biased. At points, it reads like an apologia for the Democratic Party and its aristocratic and racist policies.
2.
Journal of the House of Commons of the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina at the Sessions of 1864-1865 ( Raleigh, N. C.: Wm. E. Pell, Printer to the State, 1866), 26. These debates over Congress's enforcement powers foreshadowed the debate over Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
3.
See generally Hamilton, Reconstruction in North Carolina, 154.
4.
By the summer of 1866, most of the Southern states had reorganized their governments under the terms of presidential Reconstruction. They had complied with all the

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No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - The Remembered Past of the Fourteenth Amendment 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - Ratification in Tennessee 15
  • Notes 26
  • 3 - Ratification in Mississippi 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Ratification in North Carolina 53
  • Notes 65
  • 5 - Ratification in Louisiana 75
  • Notes 95
  • 6 - Ratification in Alabama 101
  • Notes 114
  • 7 - Ratification in South Carolina 121
  • Notes 137
  • 8 - Ratification in Virginia 143
  • Notes 158
  • 9 - Ratification in Florida 169
  • Notes 183
  • 10 - Ratification in Arkansas 189
  • Notes 205
  • 11 - Ratification in Texas 211
  • Notes 225
  • 12 - Ratification in Georgia 231
  • Notes 245
  • 13 - The Imagined Future of the Fourteenth Amendment 251
  • Notes 272
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 289
  • About the Author 297
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