Monday, February 28, 2011

Early Civil Rights II

While Black Americans gained rights by law, Democrats despised them and used any means to keep them from voting, sometimes devious, sometimes violent.

For example, in Georgia they ruled that while Blacks might be elected, they could not serve. They went so far as to expel 31 elected Blacks from the Legislature.

Democrats also rushed the floor of the Louisiana Legislature to seize power from the elected Black Republicans. Federal troops had to restore peace and return the African Americans to their positions.

Congress, therefore, required Confederate States to rewrite their state constitutions to include equal civil rights. This brought on massive resistance, riots and attacks.

Much opposition to Black Americans occurred state by state. In 1866, however, Democrats formed a group to break down the Republican government - the Ku Klux Klan. Thirteen volumes documenting the Congressional investigations in 1872 conclude that the KKK played a prominent role in the Democratic Party through murders and public floggings.

In 1866 Congress passed the Civil Rights law that made it illegal to deprive a person of civil rights because of race, color or previous servitude. Democratic President Andrew Johnson vetoed this bill, but Republicans overrode it.

Two more civil rights laws were passed that year - one protecting marriage, one prohibiting slave-hunting.

Three years after the Civil War, Democrats were still refusing to recognize any rights of citizenship for Black Americans. Knowing that these laws could be easily rescinded by a future Congress, the Legislature moved to guarantee these rights with the 14th Amendment. Once again, no Democrats voted for the Amendment.

African Americans progressed so well through the Republican Party that Democrats fought back. They ignored the 13th and 14th Amendments by manipulating laws and election results.

In 1868 General Wade Hampton, a former Confederate General, became the Democratic Governor of South Carolina. As a member of the Resolutions Committee, he inserted a clause into the Democratic platform declaring that federal civil rights laws were “unconstitutional, revolutionary and void.” He even demanded abolition of Freedmen’s Bureau.

Knowing that the civil rights laws could be overturned, Congress passed the 15th Amendment; it guaranteed that voting rights could not be denied on the basis of race or color – the final of the 3 post War civil rights Amendments. It passed along straight partisan lines with no Democratic votes.

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At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Jim Rapp said...

Thanks for another provocative piece, Sheila. Just a couple of observations.

The years between 1876 and 1964 were a sad chapter in our history. We haven't outlived it yet. It is true that the Southern Democrats worked hard to preserve their special way of life and keep the Blacks down. But later when the Democratic Party of the North advocated for black rights they were opposed by Northern Conservative Republicans and ultimately the Southern Democrats split with their party and fled to the Republican Party. After the Civil War conservatism and reactionary politics resided in the Democratic Party. Today it is just the opposite. Interesting how we change sides but keep on fighting the same old battles.


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