Black Reconstruction Leaders
This article is about the emergence of black politics and its eventual decline before and after Reconstruction. By the end of 1867 virtually every black voter that could vote was a member in the Union League or some other political organization. Political organizations served as a political school for blacks, a way for blacks to get deeply involved in politics, a way for blacks to have some control of their new found freedom, and a media through which they can make their voice heard during reconstruction. But hate, redemption, and the overthrow of reconstruction eventually destroyed black politics.
Hundreds maybe thousands of blacks held political positions ranging from constable, to school board official, tax collector, and sheriff. They were most extensive in South Carolina and Mississippi. Leaders tended to be teachers and preachers. Literacy determined other leaders. They tended to be lighter skinned and prosperous or benevolent leaders.
Many times, they worked hand in hand with white republicans. But the National Republican Party’s views had precedence over the needs of the black organizations. Black leaders had to side with ideals that wouldn’t be in the best interest of blacks, or join the Democrats in opposition, which would further alienate them from Northern Republicans. Even though blacks made up most of the Republican voters they were barred from the most important positions.
At height, blacks during reconstruction envisioned a society with no racial distinctions. They felt that rights that were enjoyed by whites would have to be enjoyed by blacks. Anything less would be against the principals in which our country was founded.