Color-Blind Justice: Albion Tourgée and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson

By Mark Elliott | Go to book overview

1
Judge Tourgée and the Radical
Civil War

There was a minority of the North who hated slavery with
a perfect hatred; who wanted no union with slaveholders;
who fought for freedom and treated Negroes as men. As the
Abolition-democracy gained in prestige and in power, they
appeared as prophets, and led by statesmen, they began to
guide the nation out of the morass into which it had fallen.
They and their black friends and the new freedmen gradually
became the leaders of a Reconstruction of Democracy in the
United States, while marching millions sang the noblest war
song of the ages to the tune of "John Brown's Body."

—W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1935

IN THE SPRING OF 1902, a package arrived at the U.S. Consulate in Bordeaux, France, containing a complimentary volume of The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden, by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Walter Hines Page, the prominent publisher who had personally arranged for the publication of The Leopard's Spots at Doubleday, Page, and Company, probably sent the volume believing that the American consul in Bordeaux would find the subject matter of great interest. If so, Page was not alone in this assumption. More copies of Dixon's first novel were sent to Albion Tourgée by friends and foes alike.

White-haired, overweight, and suffering from diabetes, the sixty-fouryear-old Tourgée read The Leopard's Spots from his quiet post in the Bordeaux Consulate with a mixture of disgust and perverse bemusement. The book's prefatory note declared that all of the historical incidents described within were selected from "authentic records," or came within Dixon's "personal knowledge." An amazed Tourgée, however, found an historical portrait within that was, in his words, "entirely worthless as a

-17-

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