Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction

Article excerpt

Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction. By Edmund L. Drago. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998. Pp. xviii, 158. $32.00, ISBN 1-55728-541-1.)

Lee Drago's Hurrah for Hampton! complicates our understanding of the collapse of Reconstruction in South Carolina by attending carefully to the African American men who donned the red shirt and rode with Wade Hampton's paramilitary army to redeem the state in 1876. Drago suggests that historians have seriously erred in discounting their importance. They have played the "numbers game," adding or subtracting black participants to support their own purposes. Although Drago admits that it is impossible to know the exact number of African Americans who supported Redemption, some did so, because blacks had reasons to support Hampton in 1876 aside from the intimidation, fraud, and violence that white Democrats used to keep Republicans from the polls. Drago proves the point with a careful analysis of newspaper accounts and other primary sources, including many black Red Shirts' own testimony regarding their role in the election of 1876.

Using Abbeville County as a test case, Drago demonstrates in the first chapter that the Democrats appealed to African Americans who were "too poor and too black" to be a part of the black aristocracy, which one might expect to support the white agenda (p. 29). The subsequent chapters present Drago's evidence: the testimony of seven black Red Shirts, taken during the U.S. Senate's investigation of the 1876 election; and later accounts by ten others, who provided their narratives to WPA researchers. …

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