PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY
ORIGINAL CONCEPT DEVELOPED BY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
COLORIST & ON-LINE EDITOR
POST PRODUCTION SERVICES
STILL PHOTO ANIMATION
"Nobody Knows The Trouble I Seen"
ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANTS
SPECIAL THANKS TO
DIRECTOR, NEW MEDIA
PROJECT COORDINATOR, NEW MEDIA
VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PROGRAMMING
American Experience is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY
CO-PRODUCED & CO-DIRECTED BY
ORIGINAL CONCEPT DEVELOPED BY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
COLORIST & ON-LINE EDITOR
POST PRODUCTION SERVICES
STILL PHOTO ANIMATION
ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANTS
SPECIAL THANKS TO
DIRECTOR, NEW MEDIA
PROJECT COORDINATOR, NEW MEDIA
VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PROGRAMMING
American Experience is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
On a misty April evening in 1865, a jubilant crowd packed the White House lawn to hear President Abraham Lincoln first speech since the end of the Civil War. They expected a stirring celebration of the Union victory — but instead got harsh reality. Even with the South defeated, Lincoln warned, the future would be "fraught with great difficulty." He called the task ahead reconstruction — a word that returned to American headlines nearly a century and a half later, in the aftermath of the war in Iraq.
Even as Lincoln spoke, opposing forces were gathering. Some Americans saw Reconstruction as a chance to build a new nation out of the ashes of war and slavery. Others vowed to wage a new war to protect their way of life, and a racial order they believed ordained by God. Lincoln saw the problem with agonizing clarity. Bitter enemies, North and South, had to be reconciled. And four million former slaves had to be brought into the life of a nation that had ignored them for centuries. In some ways, it was harder than winning the war.
Three days after delivering his warning, Lincoln was shot dead. Reconstruction would have to go forward without him.
Spanning the momentous years from 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tracks the extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans — Southern and Northern, white and black — as they struggle to shape new lives for themselves in a world turned upside down.
Reconstruction's remarkable cast of characters includes Tunis Campbell, a daring former minister who staked out an independent colony for blacks in Georgia's Sea Islands — and declared it off-limits to whites. Frances Butler, the daughter of a Georgia rice baron, struggled to rebuild her family's plantations — and to negotiate labor contracts with the very men and women her family used to own. Marshall Twitchell, a battle-scarred Civil War veteran from Vermont, rose to power in the wild northwest corner of Louisiana with deadly consequences. John Roy Lynch, a former slave from Mississippi, was elected to Congress, where he challenged whites' deepest beliefs about race and class.
The narratives of these and other unknown players are interwoven with the stories of presidents and generals — Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman — and others whose lives were caught up in the epochal struggles of the era. "An old social order had been destroyed," says Eric Foner, historian at Columbia University and author of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. "Everything was up for grabs."
After four bloody years of civil war, North and South would continue to fight over the meaning of freedom, the meaning of citizenship, and the survival of the nation itself. Reconstruction brings to life this turbulent and complex period through original footage shot on location, primarily in the South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina), and with the assistance of regional groups and associations -- the First Louisiana Cavalry Regiment, Company E; the Liberty Greys, Civil War re-enactors based in New England; South Carolina's Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition; and the Thirty-Second Georgia Artillery, among others.
Reconstruction shows how, in just a few years, a series of stunning events -- the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fourteenth Amendment granting ex-slaves citizenship in 1868, the enfranchisement of blacks the following year -- reversed centuries-old patterns of race relations in America. People who for generations had been the property of others were now free to run their own lives.
The whole Southern world was turned upside down. And yet, despite these challenges and terrible racial violence in this period, so much was accomplished. Reconstruction brought public schools to the South for the first time. Black Southerners were elected to local and national offices. And the nation committed itself to equality under the law for all Americans, regardless of race, by passing the Fourteenth Amendment. Reconstruction laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, and the foundation for the American society we live in today.
Cast & Crew
NARRATOR: April 11th, 1865, two days after the end of the Civil War. In the White House, President Abraham Lincoln agonized over his first speech since the defeat of the South. The jubilant crowd outside expected a celebration of the Union victory. Instead, the president warned that "Reconstruction," as he called it, would be "fraught with great difficulty."
EDWARD AYERS, HISTORIAN: The war has spiraled far beyond the worst imaginings of anyone. Over six hundred thousand people had died in the last four years. The largest slave system in the modern world is in shambles and no one knows what is going to replace it. People just can't imagine how they're going to put the country back together again.
DAVID BLIGHT, HISTORIAN: It is a revolutionary, chaotic situation, and the responsibility now was to come up with a plan to restore this society. But you also had to do it with this deep and abiding division over race.
NARRATOR: Three days later, the statesman who led the Union through the Civil War was assassinated. Suddenly, the extraordinary challenge of reconstructing the nation was in the hands of ordinary men and women. A Yankee officer would venture to the most violent corner of Louisiana to try to impose order. A plantation mistress whose slaves were now free would struggle to reclaim her place in the world. A fiery black minister would mount a pitched battle with white landowners. And a new President would force a dramatic showdown with Congress.
ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN: An old order, an old social order has been destroyed; and everything is up for grabs.
CLARENCE WALKER, HISTORIAN: The violence in the South was a way to reestablish white Supremacy. This was a war of terror.
NARRATOR: After four bloody years of Civil War, Americans, North and South would continue to fight over the meaning of freedom, the meaning of citizenship, and the survival of the nation itself.
READING, Kate Stone: The life we are living now is a miserable, frightened one -- living in constant dread of great danger, not knowing what form it may take, and utterly helpless to protect ourselves.
NARRATOR: Kate Stone was 21-years-old when the Civil War came to her doorstep. In the winter of 1862, Union troops overran Milliken's Bend, only a few miles from Brokenburn, the family's plantation in Louisiana. Stone watched as bluecoats scoured the countryside for food and supplies and ransacked plantations.
AYERS: Before the Civil War, the South would have been among the five richest societies in the world. To the eyes of the South, this is almost this biblical attack. It's like a plague being brought down on the white South. Their sense of self has been shattered just as their property has. Those are the memories that white southerners hold close to them as examples that their enemy were not really honorable men.
NARRATOR: With her father dead and her brothers away fighting for the Confederacy, managing Brokenburn fell to Kate Stone and her mother. The plantation was 1260 acres, with 150 slaves.
DREW GILPIN FAUST, HISTORIAN: Owning 150 slaves meant that they were in the absolute upper echelons of Southern society and Southern wealth. And so she is both a young privileged woman, but she finds herself, essentially, on the battlefield. And sees Yankee troops frequently, runs from Yankee troops.
NARRATOR: Many of her wealthy neighbors abandoned their homes. The Stones clung to their plantation, and determined to wait it out. As frightening to Kate as the federal troops were the black men and women now claiming their freedom.
READING, Kate Stone: Mr. Hardison's Negroes came out today... Six men with their children and clothes walked off in broad daylight after a terrible row, using the most abusive language to Mrs. Hardison.... The other negroes declare they are free, and will leave as soon as they are ready.
NELL PAINTER, HISTORIAN: It was a tremendous shock for many in the planter class to discover, first of all, that the people who worked for them were not happy to work for them, and secondly, sometimes the people who had worked for them were really angry at them.
FAUST: Kate expresses a lot of fear throughout the war, and it's most often fear of armed slaves. "What are they going to do to me, given what we have done to them?"
NARRATOR: Mother and daughter watched as their world was upended, until they could watch no more.
FAUST: This kind of lack of order, lack of control, was the most frightening thing to the Stones, and they thought they had to get away.
READING, Kate Stone: With much difficulty we got everything ready for the start at midnight ... the night was cloudy and dark with occasional claps of thunder, but we had to go then or never.
NARRATOR: From Louisiana, the Stones fled three hundred miles by horseback and boat to Tyler, Texas. There, they joined other wealthy planters, who had also escaped to wait out the war.
READING, Kate Stone: God will aid us in our righteous cause...the people will ... fight till the last foe expires, to conquer or die.
Sherman and Ministers
NARRATOR: Less than two yeas later, General William Tecumseh Sherman scorched a path of destruction across Georgia that ended with the capture of Savannah. In December 1864, Sherman offered the port city to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift. Union victory was near. The general took for his headquarters the mansion of one of the city's wealthiest cotton merchants. He celebrated with his officers, feasting on native oysters and turtle soup. On the outskirts of the city, thousands of emancipated slaves were gathered. They had followed Sherman's army to Savannah, doubling the city's population.
WALKER: In the Book of Revelations it is written that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And this is interpreted as that moment where God, in his omnipotence, has now come to deliver his people from bondage.
NARRATOR: "It came so sudden on 'em, they wasn't prepared for it," recalled one liberated slave. "Just think of whole droves of people, that had hardly ever left the plantation, turned loose all at once with nothing in the world but the clothes on their back." Lincoln 's Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves across the South. But Washington still had no clear plan for what to do once African Americans were free. On January 11th, President Lincoln sent his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton to Savannah. Stanton instructed General Sherman to set up a meeting with some of the city's black ministers. He wanted to hear how the freedmen imagined their future in the South. That evening, twenty black men entered the grand parlor as guests of Stanton and Sherman. Sixteen were former slaves. They chose Reverend Garrison Frazier who'd purchased his freedom nine years earlier, to be their spokesmen. For the first time, Federal officials conferred with freed slaves about the future of African Americans in the South.
BLIGHT: The exchange that occurs between Sherman, Stanton, and the Union generals, and Reverend Frazier, is one of the extraordinary moments of the Civil War and the ending of the Civil War, because they asked Frazier not just, "What should we do with all these refugees?" They asked him questions about what the war meant. They asked him questions about what the Emancipation Proclamation had meant. They asked him what the presence of black troops in the Union army meant. And, in many ways, you'll find no better definition of the meaning of the Civil War in the kinds of answers that Garrison Frazier gives that day in Savannah.
READING, Garrison Frazier: The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the [Emancipation] Proclamation is taking us from under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor.
WALKER: To be a slave, as one of these ministers pointed out to General Sherman, was to be someone who had no control over his life's decisions. And now these people feel the need to express their abilities, their choices.
READING, Garrison Frazier: The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land...and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare. We want to be placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.
BLIGHT: This was a man, who'd never left, probably, coastal Georgia in his life, but he understood the Declaration of Independence, he understood the Emancipation Proclamation. And beyond that, he said, in effect: You should give us our rights, and you should protect our rights, and then you should leave us alone and let us be citizens."
NARRATOR: Four days later, anxious to get thousands of freed slaves off his hands, and Washington off his back, General Sherman issued Special Field Order 15. It was only a temporary order, but it became one of the most controversial of the Civil War. Plantations in the rice country had been abandoned by white planters during the war. Four hundred thousand of these acres would be given over to African American for settlement. The huge land tract included the Sea Islands and parts of the Georgia and South Carolina coast.
FONER: Forty acres of land will be given out to each family. Plus, Sherman says, the Army's got tons of mules, which we don't really need. They're broken down from our long march. If any one wants a mule they can have one of these mules. This is the origin of that famous phrase, "forty acres and a mule."
BLIGHT: Here was a real revolution, a revolution in the land, on the land, a chance to-to be their own freeholders.
NARRATOR: For four million African Americans in the South, news of "forty acres and a mule" spread as fast as the contagion of freedom itself. Many saw this as proof that emancipation would finally give black men and women a true stake in the land they had toiled on for centuries.
Kate Stone/END OF WAR
READING, Kate Stone: Our forces are victorious...Great Peace rumors are afloat, and General Lee has certainly given Grant's army a good drubbing...We hear that general Sherman is dead.
NARRATOR: Through the winter and spring of 1865, Kate Stone and her mother remained in Texas, clinging to every desperate rumor of Rebel victory. In April, they learned the true state of things. In Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Lee had surrendered his army. The Confederate rebellion had been crushed.
READING, Kate Stone: "Conquered," "Submission," "Subjugation" are words that burn into my heart. The degradation seems more than we can bear.
FAUST: I think those words had particular relevance in a white Southern society that was fixated on honor. Honor and glory, independence, were at the core of the white South's understanding of itself, and particularly the understanding that male Southerners had of what it meant to be men, what it meant to have manhood. Because who is conquered, subjugated? That's a slave.
AYERS: The white South can only imagine that they must have invoked God's wrath in some way. Maybe God is punishing us. But surely he does not mean for black people to be their equal. Maybe slavery was meant to end. But surely God didn't mean for black people to stand alongside whites.
FAUST: There's a story of a slave who ran away from his master, joined the Union army and came back into the South and seized his own master's plantation with his regiment. And he sees his former master and he says "Bottom rail on top this time, Massah. Bottom rail's on top now."
INTRODUCTION TO JOHNSON
NARRATOR: In his first speech after the Union victory, Lincoln alluded to the enormous challenges reconstruction would bring. He even suggested that some black men in the South might get the vote. His words infuriated many, including a Confederate sympathizer who assassinated the president three days later. With Lincoln gone, the question of how to put the country back together again took on even greater urgency. Northerners were exhausted by four years of war. Most had hoped Lincoln would reconcile North and South and get the states get back to normal relations as soon as possible. But there was no consensus on how to achieve this. Just as uncertain was the future of millions of black men and women freed into a society where many whites, North and South, questioned the idea of any rights for former slaves.
TED TUNNELL, HISTORIAN: The notion of civil rights for blacks was revolutionary. Nineteenth century American's whole notion of what it meant to be an American was all wrapped up in whiteness. An American was a person with white skin.
BLIGHT: Here you have the great questions of Reconstruction immediately are what people faced: who will rule in the South, who will rule in federal government, and will the dimensions of black freedom be?
NARRATOR: All eyes looked to Washington. Former Confederates held their breath, and steeled themselves for the worst.
AYERS: The South doesn't know what to expect. Will there be punishment for leaders? Will there be land confiscated? Will there be an occupying army? And a lot of people imagined that these traitors, these people who had tried to destroy the United States, should be executed, should be imprisoned.
NARRATOR: No one was sure what to expect from the new president. Andrew Johnson was from Tennessee, but he had fiercely opposed the Confederate secession and was the only southern senator who refused to give up his seat in Congress.
AYERS: Andrew Johnson embodies a lot of the hopes that Abraham Lincoln has that the Union can be put back together easily. But Andrew Johnson had been an outspoken enemy of the big planters, who he blamed for causing secession.
FONER: In Tennessee politics, he saw himself as a spokesman for the poor whites. He owned a slave or two, but he was not a member of the plantation aristocracy. In fact, he resented them very much.
NARRATOR: In his first speech after taking office, Johnson warned that traitors had to be punished. But Johnson shared the white South's desire to keep blacks subordinate. Frederick Douglass, the renowned black leader, got his own impression of Johnson when the two met for the first time at Lincoln's second inaugural.
TUNNELL: The very first expression that came over Johnson's face was one of scorn and derision. And Douglass concluded that that expression was the true index of his heart. Douglass turned to a companion and said, "Whatever else this man may be, he is no friend of our race."
NARRATOR: Even as Lee surrendered to Grant, scores of newly emancipated men and women were arriving at St. Catherine's in the Sea Islands of Georgia. Under Sherman's Field Order 15, these abandoned lands would be theirs. Leading them was 53-year-old Tunis G. Campbell, from New Jersey. For years, Campbell had worked tirelessly as an abolitionist, a preacher, an educator, and political organizer. With the help of Secretary of War Stanton, Campbell got himself appointed superintendent for the Union occupied islands in Georgia.
FONER: There were a lot of people in 1865 who were trying to tell blacks what freedom is, and tell them what they ought to be doing. Campbell reflects the impulse, "We should really determine ourselves what we're doing." Independence from white control -- that's critical to their definition of what freedom is. It just happens that on St. Catherine's Island you can create such a thing. The whites have all fled. Sherman has given out land. So the opportunity to create an independent black community exists.
NARRATOR: "We left with rations and a few families and at Hilton Head got more," Campbell wrote, "and Savannah loaded us as deep as we could swim." These deserted lands had been at the heart of the South's rice-growing empire.
RUSSELL DUNCAN, HISTORIAN: As Campbell arrived to the island and they put the gangplank down, the island was overgrown. It's been looted by Union naval forces. The sea grass is high. There are rattlesnakes. There are alligators. He can see the slave cabins. They're also in great disrepair. Immediately upon arriving and assessing the situation there, he writes to the American Missionary Association asking for seed, asking for plows, sweet potatoes to supplement the diet, marriage licenses for the people. And he calls a meeting of the people to explain to them: "This is our home." Uh, "Beginning next week, I will divide up the land into forty acres for each of you."
NARRATOR: By June, the settlers had crops in the ground. "I have corn, watermelons, citron, onions, radishes and squash," wrote Campbell. "But the rebels have destroyed the sweet potatoes. Do not fail to send them. Send eight No. 11 plows, six cultivators -- get the improved ones."
BLIGHT: Tunis Campbell sees the South as a kind of new political frontier. He sees himself as a kind of political pioneer, to go to that place where this new regime of black political liberty and civil liberty might flourish.
NARRATOR: Campbell arrived at St. Catherine's with his own blueprint for a government. There would be a Congress with eight men in the Senate and twenty in the house of Representatives. A Supreme Court, and Campbell himself as President. He even established a 275-man militia. "Order," said Campbell, "is Heaven's first law."
DUNCAN: So you've got this tiny little island, twelve miles long, three miles wide, and a government set up to-to resemble the United States government with a Supreme Court at the top. It's wonderful, beautiful, experiment in-in democracy; and-and people took to it very well. They liked the idea of having the power to select their leaders and remove them.
NARRATOR: But at St. Catherine's, no one was going to remove Tunis Campbell.
MARSHALL TWITCHELL ARRIVES
NARRATOR: That same fall, nine black soldiers and their white captain climbed aboard a sternwheeler in New Orleans, and headed up river. The captain, Marshall Twitchell, was a career soldier from Vermont who had led black troops during the war. He had fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, and just about every other major battle in the East.
TUNNELL: Twitchell is one of those Union veterans who enlist in the first year of the war and stays the duration. He's wounded several times. He gets a Minie ball right in his face. It cuts a grove around his face and exits behind his ear. He'll have the scar for the rest of his life.
NARRATOR: The war was over, and Twitchell was restless. In New Orleans, he got himself a commission in the Freedmen's Bureau. In the chaotic post-war South, the job of the Freedmen's Bureau agent was to smooth the transition from slavery to freedom. The Bureau built schools for the former slaves and fed and clothed war refugees, black and white. Twitchell was posted to Bienville Parish, in northern Louisiana, a place he knew nothing about.
TUNNELL: Here he is on a sternwheeler, heading up the Red River. This region had never been conquered. So he's entering the last part of the Confederacy to surrender. It is dangerous, exotic. It's isolated. And he doesn't know it but he is entering what is probably the most violent place in America. It's no coincidence that Harriet Beecher Stowe chose to put the final, brutal ending of Uncle Tom's Cabin, where Uncle Tom is beaten to death by Simon Legree, it's no coincidence that she puts it on the upper Red River. It's a violent region.
NARRATOR: "I was without telegraphy, railway or water connections," remembered Twitchell. "If I'd known beforehand what my position was to be, I should have remained with my regiment." At the courthouse in Sparta, the county seat, Captain Twitchell set up office as the sole Freedmen's Bureau agent for the parish. He soon discovered his new neighbors were as hardened to battle as he was.
JAMES G. MARSTON, III, DESCENDANT OF PLANTER: My great-grandfather had, uh, two brothers killed in the war, and another wounded. And -- and I'm named after one of 'em. There wasn't a family here that didn't lose someone to the war. But in our little area, these veterans were never defeated and that is a lot of the feeling here. The war just ended and -- and so everybody went home. And up into the midst of this came Twitchell.
TUNNELL : The people of the area are wary. They don't quite know what to expect, but they quickly discover that this Freedman's Bureau agent is somebody that they're going to have to deal with.
NARRATOR: Agents like Twitchell had military authority to settle labor disputes and conflicts between former slaves and masters.
TUNNELL: Planters certainly resented this intrusion into so sensitive an area. They wanted direct control over black labor. They didn't want some Yankee Freedman's Bureau agent there questioning their behavior, actually sitting them down and having them testify in an open hearing. And for the freedmen, here was somebody that they could go to if they were mistreated. He can't fundamentally change the economic lives of these people. All he can do is try to be a mediator; to give them some degree of justice.
NARRATOR: Twitchell would soon learn that for a Yankee officer all alone in northwest Louisiana, even a degree of federal justice might be too much.
JOHNSON'S LENIENT PLAN
NARRATOR: For the first forty-eight days of Andrew Johnson's presidency Southerners waited anxiously to hear what he would demand before allowing them back into the Union. On May 29, 1865, Johnson announced his plan for what would be called "Presidential Reconstruction."
BLIGHT: There was good evidence in 1865 that a lot of white Southerners, the leadership even of the Confederacy, would have accepted relatively harsh policies at that moment. But very soon it became clear that Andrew Johnson wanted a rapid, lenient restoration of the Union with as little alteration of the Constitution and the creation of black civil and political rights as possible.
NARRATOR: Johnson would issue blanket pardons for most former Confederates. The Rebel states would be encouraged to form new governments quickly. Washington would not interfere. The president's leniency surprised many in the North. Southerners responded with relief.
FONER: Johnson actually sets only the most minimal requirements. All they have to do is admit, "We lost the Civil War. The Civil War is over. Slavery and secession are dead." Other than that, there are no requirements.
NARRATOR: Johnson was harder on the planter aristocracy. He insisted that wealthy planters and Confederate leaders write him personally and beg for clemency.
FONER: This basically eliminates the planter class from leadership of Southern politics. If you're not pardoned, you can't vote, you can't hold office, and you can't get your property back if it's been seized by the federal government.
NARRATOR: Andrew Johnson had no sympathy for wealthy planters. He had risen from poverty and identified with poor white southerners, who, before the war, had far outnumbered the slave owners. Now, he was anxious to protect poor whites from what they saw as a new threat.
WALKER: Poor whites have to face the fact that now that black people are free means that they have to compete with this new element for livelihood, for social position, and political power ultimately.
FONER: Johnson's aim is to bring the white South and the white North back together. African Americans just do not play a role in Johnson's vision of the postwar South, other than to go back to work and be landless and rightless plantation laborers.
NARRATOR: Johnson's contempt for the freedmen infuriated many in Washington, and none more than Thaddeus Stevens. The congressman from Pennsylvania had been a fierce abolitionist long before the war. Within the Republican Party he led a small, vocal faction known as the Radicals.
FONER: These were principled men. Before the war they had been the strongest Republicans opposing the expansion of slavery. During the Civil War they had been the first ones to call for arming of black troops, for issuing an Emancipation Proclamation. Long before there was any conceivable political benefit to be gained from supporting the rights of black people, they were doing it.
BLIGHT : The Radical Republicans had a vision of what Reconstruction should be. They believed it should be longer in duration. They believed the Southern states had left the union and destroyed their status as states. They had to be reinvented. To Thaddeus Stevens, Reconstruction meant not only safeguarding and preserving the essential results of the Civil War, but in his vision it meant remaking the South. It meant the increase of democracy in terms of representation. It meant the spread of the right of suffrage.
NARRATOR: The Radicals' hard-line marginalized them within their own party. Most Republicans feared the Radicals' position on black rights would drive away white voters in the North.
WALKER: It is the radical wing which is the most sympathetic to black people. The Party in general was committed to a limited program of civil rights, protection of property, education, etc. But the party is not in any way committed to any sort of radical restructuring of Southern society.
NARRATOR: Johnson's reconstruction plan could not be challenged until Congress convened in December. That summer, Radical leaders could only watch as scores of planters descended on Washington pleading to be pardoned. Whose petition would be denied or granted was uncertain. Still, former Confederates were hopeful. "White men alone," President Johnson told one senator, "must manage the South."
NARRATOR: On St. Catherine's Island, Tunis Campbell's township was flourishing. Three hundred and sixty-nine settlers occupied fifty-four slave dwellings, left from the old days. They grew fruits and vegetables of all kinds. But what they wanted were schools. "There is one sin that slavery committed against me that I will never forgive," remembered one man. "It robbed me of my education."
WALKER: Before the Civil War, maybe no more than ten, fifteen percent of the black population of the South was literate. To learn how to read was a revolutionary act. They understood that it was necessary if they were to take their place as freed people within the Union, that they have the rudiments of education to survive.
NARRATOR: After the war, freedmen who had secretly educated themselves quickly opened schools in warehouses, on barges, even in old slave markets. And the Freedmen's Bureau and Northern missionaries built thousands more throughout the South. At St. Catherine's, Campbell used his own savings to bring teachers down from the North. Then he called on his wife, Harriet, in New York.
DUNCAN: He writes a letter to Harriet, says, "Bring the sons down. We're going to establish the schools. We're on an island of our own. There are no white people here and we're going to lift up children. Bring all the primers you have, and please join us." This is the first time he's seen his wife and sons in about two years.
NARRATOR: Harriet and Tunis taught side by side with Northern teachers. Campbell reported that eighty children and adults on St Catherine's and sixty on nearby Sapelo Island were enrolled in schools. More than a thousand students attended Campbell's makeshift academies.
DUNCAN: The adults are being taught at night. They need to deal with white people more as equals. And to do that, they have to be literate.
NARRATOR: White planters watching from the mainland resented the schools and the entire settlement, not just because the land had been seized from one of their own, but because of Campbell's ambition and independence.
WALKER: People like Campbell were viewed as black people "out of their place." He can think for himself in ways that whites find hard to believe that a black person can think. This means, then, that history has somehow spun out of control.
NARRATOR: By June 1865, Jacob Waldburg, the white planter who had owned St. Catherine's, was back in Georgia. He demanded that Campbell get off his land.
DUNCAN: The planters are holding up deeds to the islands that are two hundred years old, or one hundred fifty years old. They said, "No, wait a minute. This is a nation of laws, and see, my great-granddaddy had this deed. And yours comes from a possessory title given to you in time of war for abandoned lands? How does that affect my promise of property rights under the Constitution of the United States?"
NARRATOR: Waldburg got his answer: St. Catherine's Congress passed a law forbidding any white person from setting foot on the island. Campbell's militia stood ready to enforce it.
KATE STONE RETURNS HOME
READING, Kate Stone: At home again, but so many changes.... It does not seem the same place... the bare, echoing rooms, the neglect and defacement of all.... gardens, orchard and fences are mostly swept away... Nothing is left but to endure.
NARRATOR: When Kate Stone and her mother returned to their Louisiana home after the war, they were nearly bankrupt. There was no credit to be had. Of the one hundred fifty slaves they had owned, only a few remained at Brokenburn. The Stones had safeguarded the family silver before their escape. Now it was a reminder of the wealth and position the family had lost. What the women mourned most were the men who had sacrificed themselves for the Southern cause.
FAUST: Many white southerners find themselves facing as Kate Stone does, a defeat that has taken the lives of her brothers and her uncle and so many of the people she's known. When, um, Kate's oldest brother, who is not killed in the war comes back, he hardly speaks, she says, for many months. This was a civilization in which three out of four men of military age served. Many of them were in the war for years on end. How would we not expect that that experience and defeat and slaughter and tragedy would have left them in some sense wounded.
AYERS: All these hundreds of thousands of Confederate soldiers are going back home, uncertain of what they're going to find, and uncertain of what they're going to do. As they look around and see the freed black people refusing to do just what white men tell them to do, and trying to create freedom for their families, everything looks to them as an insult and as a threat. White southerners say, "We gotta make it clear who's boss. We gotta make clear that we're in control of all this."
WAR IN D.C/ O.O. HOWARD
NARRATOR: In Washington, President Johnson shared white southerner's concerns over growing black independence in the South.
WALKER: Johnson is seeing a black population who have abandoned the plantations. People who are demanding that they be treated in a decent fashion. And Johnson believes they should return to their former places of work and above all should accept their subordination to white power and authority.
AYERS: Andrew Johnson believes if there's going to be a reconciliation between North and South, that it's going to be a reconciliation of white northerners and white southerners. And if black people have to be set aside, fine.
NARRATOR: The President abandoned his strict policy toward the planters. By fall of 1865, he was pardoning so many that special clerks had to be hired to keep up with the paperwork.
FONER: Johnson thinks that only the planters can really keep these African Americans under control, so very quickly he begins to bring the wealthy planters back into his Reconstruction policy, in order to really impose subordination on the former slaves.
DUNCAN: The planters only want to be pardoned so that they could get their land back. And so Andrew Johnson complies with their wishes, pardoning fifteen to twenty thousand planters, hundreds of them being pardoned every day. When these planters then are pardoned, they return to their islands and to their acreages all over the South, and they want the people who are then living there, removed.
NARRATOR: The President ordered that Confederate lands seized by Union troops during the war be returned to the planters, including land confiscated under General Sherman's Field Order 15.
O.O. Howard/ Tunis's Exit
NARRATOR: In Georgia, the assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau refused to give planters back their land. Johnson fired him and replaced him with someone who would. In Washington, the head of the Bureau, General O.O. Howard, sympathized with the freedmen and resisted the president's decree for as long as he could. Finally in October, Howard set out for the black settlement at Edisto Island, off the coast of South Carolina. His orders from President Johnson were to "effect an agreement mutually satisfactory to the freedmen and the land owners." Behind the bureaucratic language Johnson's directive was clear.
FONER: General Howard has to tell these former slaves that the land that they thought had been given to them by the Federal Government now is going to be given back to the former owners. And if they want to remain there, they're going to have to sign labor contracts to work as laborers on these plantations. These people believe they have a right to this land. To them this is a violation, a deep betrayal of the promises that the government made to them. They are not willing to just take this lying down.
READING, General Howard: I'd endeavored to explain the wishes of the President, and with one voice they cried, "No! No!" In the noise and confusion, a sweet-voiced Negro woman began the hymn, "Nobody knows the trouble I [feel] -- Nobody knows but Jesus."
NARRATOR: Many had been following events in Washington and insisted they would wait and see what Congress had to say. Others petitioned Howard in writing. Wrote one man: "You ask us to forgive the landowners of our island...the man who tied me to a tree and gave me thirty-nine lashes, who stripped and flogged my mother and my sister and will not let me stay in his empty hut, except I will do his planting and be satisfied with his price -- that man I cannot well forgive." In January 1866, a large contingent of black soldiers arrived at St. Catherine's with orders to restore the land to Jacob Waldburg. Campbell's militia had kept whites off the island but this was something different.
DUNCAN: Tunis Campell believed that people have to take things into their own hands, sometimes. But African American freedmen are not go into fire on African American soldiers. No.
NARRATOR: The experiment in independence at St. Catherine's was over. A determined Tunis Campbell headed for the Georgia mainland.
TWITCHELL/ LABOR CONTRACTS
NARRATOR: In Louisiana, black farmers had leased over ten thousand acres from the Freedmen's Bureau, believing they would soon own them outright. Marshall Twitchell and other Freedmen's Bureau agents delivered a different message: No matter what they'd heard, no forty acres and a mule was coming from this government.
TUNNELL: This is what Presidential Reconstruction is coming to mean. It's telling the freedmen that the government is not going to pamper you. The government is not going to give you any land. You have a hard row ahead of you. Get used to it.
NARRATOR: "Freedom from slavery," Twitchell informed black laborers, "is not freedom from work." His words reflected worries shared by whites North and South: that freed African Americans would not work, and would refuse to go back to the cotton fields.
FONER: What would then happen to the cotton crop of the South? Northern industry needs that cotton. It's still the largest export of the United States. To earn foreign money you need to export cotton. Northerners were not willing to let blacks stop growing cotton.
TUNNELL: Freedmen, I think, probably would have chosen to duck out of the cotton economy all together. You can't eat cotton. For freedmen, becoming an independent landowner is-is a dream. That's their version of the American Dream. But that kind of independence for freedmen, southern planters don't want, the Freedmen's Bureau doesn't want it. Many Northerners in Congress don't want it.
NARRATOR: Across Louisiana, white planters now sat down to draw up labor contracts with the men they used to own.
AYERS: No matter what color your skin is, no matter what your status before the war had been, it's a new order for everybody. No matter what happens politically, you've got to figure out how you're going to feed yourself and your family. That's the back beat. That's the rhythm on which everything else depends.
WALKER: The freed people understand that they're going have to work, but they do not want someone riding around on a horse with a whip curled on his shoulder, as the overseer had done during slavery. And they also do not want to work for low wages.
FAUST: For many white Southerners, negotiating with slaves seemed unimaginable. Because in the very notion of negotiation is an assumption of some kind of equality. And for many white Southerners, they don't have anything to pay them with, because they themselves are on the verge of desperation.
NARRATOR: "There is now nothing between me and the nigger but the dollar, the almighty dollar," said one South Carolina planter, " and I shall make out of him the most I can at the least expense."
TUNNELL: They want submissive, obedient employees. I think in their heart of hearts they want a system that is as close to slavery as possible.
VIOLENCE / BLACK CODES
NARRATOR: Black laborers who insisted on better wages and working conditions were regularly met with threats and violence. Vigilantes lynched whole families, and used the bullwhip on men and women as they had in slavery days. In 1865, more than two thousand black men women and children were reported murdered in Louisiana alone.
WALKER: The violence in the South was a way to reestablish white supremacy.
TUNNELL: These gangs of whites pick out the guy who's trying to save his money, who's trying to get ahead. The man who is an inspiration to other black people in the community -- he's the one that gets murdered. It amounts to systematic culling of alpha males from the black community.
NARRATOR: The southern legal system became an instrument of intimidation. Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida passed laws that virtually prohibited freedmen from any work except as field hands. The laws were called "Black Codes." The aim was slavery without the chain.
BLIGHT: The Black Codes were laws passed to control and restrict and constrain the lives of the freed people, essentially rendering them bondsmen again under law.
NARRATOR: Some states made it illegal for freedmen to handle weapons and restricted them from buying or renting land. Black children could be seized from poor families and forced to work in the fields. If a black man had no job, he could be jailed and auctioned to a planter for his labor.
FONER: They make a travesty of the freedom that African Americans have acquired. They are so far from any notion of fairness or freedom that even northerners, who are not egalitarians, say these laws are unacceptable. And so northern Republicans are faced with a dilemma. They don't want to have a big fight with the president, but to accept the idea that Johnson's policy is a success, and accept the Black Codes, they feel means giving up the victory in the Civil War.
NARRATOR: To Louisiana's black veterans, one freedman offered this advice: "I would say to every colored soldier -- bring your gun home."
TWITCHELL AND ADELE
NARRATOR: By early 1866, Marshall Twitchell was feeling pressure from the locals who resented his authority. Soon another distraction made his life even more complicated. Adele Coleman was just 20-years-old. She was spirited, intelligent, and much admired by local bachelors. Adele and Marshall became daily companions. But their romance was troubled from the start. Scandalized by their daughter's suitor, Adele's parents forbade her to see the Yankee officer. When she tried to continue the affair in secret, Adele's brother Gus, a Confederate veteran, set out to hunt Twitchell down. One evening, a stranger came calling on Twitchell, unannounced.
TUNNELL: Marshall goes walking outside. He's ready to blow this person away. And then when the person speaks, he hears Adele's voice. It is Adele in disguise. She has come to warn him that her brother Gus is out gunning for him. He, of course, is not going to let her ride home alone. The trip takes two and a half to three hours. It takes Marshall and Adele, this particular night, all night. Adele comes marching in with the morning sun and the Coleman household just goes berserk, ballistic. Twitchell has gotten himself into the position whether he fully realizes it or not, he's either going to marry her or they're going to kill him.
NARRATOR: Not everyone in northern Louisiana believed marriage was the honorable solution.
MARSTON: A southern girl, following the Civil War, there were no men, there were no men to marry. But, for goodness sake, they couldn't marry a Yankee. And Adele Coleman did. But, a lot members of her own family didn't like the fact that she had married a northerner, and especially one in the position of power that he was in.
NARRATOR: Six months after their wedding, Marshall and Adele settled on a 420-acre plantation overlooking Lake Bistineau. It was as much an alliance as it was a marriage.
TUNNELL: It opens up possibilities for the Colemans; it opens up possibilities for him. Here is, in a sense, the opportunity to become wealthy much quicker than he had ever anticipated. The Colemans teach Marshall Twitchell about growing cotton and he teaches them about Yankee business enterprise.
MARSTON: Everybody in the South was broke. And I think that he came to enrich himself. And if that helped somebody then fine, and if it hurt somebody, that's the spoils of war.
39th Congress/ "Rebel Strut:"
NARRATOR: In December 1865, the Thirty-Ninth Congress, the first since the end of the Civil War, convened in Washington. More than sixty former Confederates prepared to take their seats, including four generals, four colonels and six confederate cabinet officers, even Alexander H. Stephens, the former vice president of the Confederacy, expecting as one observer put it, "to govern the country he had been trying to destroy."
BLIGHT: If the South was going to "rise again" so to speak, control it's own political life, control the freed people, indeed if the ex-Confederates themselves were going to be allowed back into leadership at the national level, then to so many white northerners it seemed like the war would have been fought in vain.
NARRATOR: On the opening day, the Clerk of the House refused to announce the names of the Southern delegates in his roll call. The former Confederates were denied their elected seats and sent packing. The fight for control of Reconstruction had begun.
BLIGHT: In many ways, Congress was a poisoned atmosphere in the debates over the Reconstruction policy. There were raw war memories being played out. There were visceral hatreds being played out on the floor of Congress between Republicans and Democrats. These debates are between men who have experienced this war, who have fought this war. They are fighting, literally, about the meaning of that conflict they have just fought.
NARRATOR: Northern Democrats sided with Johnson, and railed against Republicans across the aisle. Washington must get out of the way, they insisted, and let southerners run their own affairs.
AYERS: The Democrats had always identified themselves as the party of the white man. They very explicitly said, "We are here to protect the rights of white men North and South, and how do we do that? We hold the Union together." For that reason the Democrats saw themselves as trying to put the North and South together as quickly as possible during the Civil War and as soon as it's over, trying to knit North and South together at the expense of black men.
BLIGHT: At one point in the debates Thaddeus Stevens stood up, and answering his Democratic colleagues says, "Do not, I pray, admit those who have slaughtered half a million of our countrymen, until their clothes are dried and until they are re-clad. I do not wish to it side by side with men whose garments smell of the blood of my kindred." It was Stevens's way of saying, "We're going to keep the South out of the Union, as long as we can, and we're not going to allow anybody back in here who was responsible for making the war."
NARRATOR: A Congressional committee on Reconstruction concluded that southern governments were unable to keep law and order, or stem violence against African Americans. Allowing southern states unchecked power so soon after the war, the committee said, was "madness and lunacy." Moderate Republicans had hoped to persuade Johnson to provide minimal protections for blacks in the south. Now even they were growing impatient with the president's policies. In March 1866, both houses of Congress passed a landmark Civil Rights Bill that protected the rights of American citizens without regard to race. Republicans warned Johnson not to veto the bill if he hoped for any continued cooperation with Congress. Two weeks later, Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill.
WALKER: Johnson is opposed to the granting of those kinds of protections to black people. This had not been done for the white immigrants who had come to America why then are you doing it for these black people?
NARRATOR: Moderate republicans were outraged.
FONER: Johnson was stubborn, self-righteous, rigid in thinking. He was really the worst person possible to become President accidentally, at a time when flexibility, vision and creative leadership were really what was required.
BLIGHT: Moderate Republicans were forced into the Radical camp because they had to oppose Andrew Johnson. Johnson's plan of Reconstruction was so lenient, in utter contempt of black liberty that it was simply unacceptable.
NARRATOR: A united Republican party overrode Johnson's veto. America had its first Civil Rights Act. But many in Congress argued that the act was not enough -- that safeguarding civil rights required changes to the Constitution itself. Republican leaders proposed a new amendment.
FONER: The Fourteenth Amendment becomes the crux of the political battle in 1866, and basically what they put into the Constitution is a new definition of American nationality and citizenship, making African Americans, for the first time, full citizens of the United States. This is the origin of the concept of civil rights in American society, rights which obtain to you as a citizen, which cannot be rescinded because of your race.
BLIGHT: This is a titanic debate about just what the authority of the Federal Government is going to be. There were plenty of Americans who argued the federal government had no right to declare black people citizens.
FONER: The Democrats are constantly putting forward racist arguments: You are eradicating a line between black and white which has existed forever. To Republicans, what's at stake here, really, is the definition of freedom. If a person can be discriminated against in every walk of life because of their race, has slavery really been abolished?
NARRATOR: Congress overwhelmingly passed the Fourteenth Amendment, but it had to be ratified by three fourths of the states. The President denounced the amendment, and accused the Republicans of treason.
WALKER: Johnson is opposed to an expansion of Federal power. For him, constitutional authority resides at the state level, not at the national level. And Johnson believes that the Republicans are engaged in an enormous usurpation of state authority.
NARRATOR: The lines were drawn.
NEW ORLEANS RIOT
NARRATOR: Since the end of the war, black political conventions had been taking place across the South. The central issue was black suffrage. "We simply ask that we be recognized as men," declared the South Carolina Convention of Colored People, "that the same laws which govern over white men shall govern black men." "We stood by the government when it wanted help," a delegate from Mississippi wrote President Johnson, "Now will it stand by us?" In New Orleans, hundreds of black men declared they were ready to fight for the right to vote. Militant whites in the city vowed to stamp out black agitators and Radical Republicans. President Johnson dismissed the growing signs of trouble. At midday on July 30th 1866, New Orleans exploded. At the state convention, a mob attacked white Radical Republican delegates and their black supporters. The Republicans were chased out of the convention hall and shot down. Black men were murdered in the streets. By the time federal troops restored order, thirty-four blacks and three white Radicals had been killed.
AYERS: And the Radicals say, "We told you. We told you that unless you stamp out this serpent of white power in the South, unless you kill it, it's going to rise up again."
"SWING AROUND THE CIRCLE"/ RADICAL RECONSTRUCTION
NARRATOR: The growing violence in the South turned the mid-term elections of 1866 into a referendum on Presidential Reconstruction. With Union war hero Ulysses S. Grant at his side, Johnson barnstormed the Northeast and the Midwest. Dubbed "The Swing Around the Circle," the speaking tour was an unprecedented effort to sell his policies to northern voters. It was a disaster. At the podium, the president traded insults with hostile crowds. And blamed the slaughter in New Orleans on Congress.
BLIGHT : He called the leadership of the Republican party traitors. He even referred to himself as a Jesus figure, being crucified on the cross of Radical Reconstruction, which to many northerners was just a kind of pathetic political rhetoric.
WALKER: Many northerners felt that black people should receive minimal constitutional protections. And it is the South's intransigence, and the policy that President Johnson pursues by encouraging the South to reconstitute itself, that drives many northerners away from his position.
NARRATOR: The Atlantic Monthly called the president "egotistic to the point of mental disease.... Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered." That fall, Republicans won three-fourths of the seats in both houses of Congress, enough to override any Johnson veto. In only eighteen months, the Radicals had gone from a fringe minority to the center of Republican leadership. Now it was their turn to define the course of Reconstruction. Thaddeus Stevens was 75-years-old, so frail that he had to be carried into the Senate by admirers. In a voice his colleagues could barely hear, the tireless Stevens made a final plea for federal intervention in the southern states.
READING, Thaddeus Stevens: Congress has been sitting here, and while the South has been bleeding at every pore, Congress has done nothing to protect the loyal people there -- white or black -- either in their persons, in their liberty, or in their property."
NARRATOR: In March 1867, both houses of Congress again rejected a veto by President Johnson, and passed the Radicals' Reconstruction plan. The former Confederate states were divided into five military districts, each commanded by a General with power to enforce law and administer justice. New southern governments would be created. They would have to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. And -- black men would have the right to vote.
FONER: This really was a remarkable leap in the dark for world history. It was the first large scale experiment in interracial democracy that had existed anywhere.
NARRATOR: When Tunis Campbell learned of the Radicals' bold plan, he immediately decided to run for office. Marshall Twitchell also went into politics, as a delegate to Louisiana's Constitutional Convention. It was like nothing he'd ever seen. More than half the delegates were black. Within a year, Andrew Johnson would be impeached by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. His presidency would survive, by a single vote.
Kate Stone/Big Drunk
NARRATOR: When Radical Reconstruction passed there were still thirty-eight thousand federal troops stationed in the South. In Kate Stone's Louisiana, more than half the regiments were black.
AYERS: Women like Kate Stone look at this and see embodied in black soldiers their greatest fear. These black men, many of whom had been slaves only eighteen months earlier, they wear that uniform as if it's their right, as if they're Americans, too.
FAUST: For white southerners, this is not just politics, it's about your very core being. Congress is going to do certain things, but there's almost a kind of guerilla warfare of the domestic, of the local, of people just refusing to let society change.
WALKER: From the point of view of the white South, the Civil War was a tragic mistake. They had only defended what they understood to be their constitutional rights; it was not that they had disrupted the Union, engaged in an act of treason. They felt the North was a vicious aggressor, committed to a perversion, which was black equality. This sense of grievance and sense of injustice only grew. That this was something not to be accepted.
NARRATOR: In North Carolina, the last legislature elected solely by the white vote adjourned. The legislators marked the occasion with a whisky punch party. Before long the state capitol was in a drunken uproar. With the ballot in black hands, many whites expected to give up their seats to former slaves. "We have lost all hope of escaping the vengeance of the Northern people, wrote one senator, "and all are preparing for the worst."
TUNNELL: What Reconstruction does by suddenly enfranchising blacks, it communicates the message that all of a sudden these people who have been part of the background scenery, who've been stage props, they're going to come onto center stage and be actors. And that is deeply disturbing to white Southerners and to many people in the North.
NARRATOR: Across the South, black newspapers exhorted every black man to seize the moment. "He owes it to the martyrs who have fallen to procure his rights," declared a Georgia newspaper. "He owes it to his God, who has wrought his freedom. Let the Republicans of the North know the strength and character of the colored vote in the South. Vote. Vote in spite of every threat." To freedmen, the ballot was sacred proof they were bondsmen no longer, but citizens at last.
NARRATOR: April 11th, 1865. Two days after the end of the Civil War. In the White House, President Abraham Lincoln agonized over his first speech since the defeat of the South. The jubilant crowd outside expected a celebration of the Union victory. Instead, Lincoln delivered a sobering message. The task that lay ahead, he warned, would be "fraught with great difficulty." He called it Reconstruction. Six hundred thousand had died. Bitter enemies, North and South, had to be reconciled. And four million former slaves had to be brought into the life of a nation that had excluded them for centuries.
DAVID BLIGHT, HISTORIAN: Nobody had scripted this moment. It was a greater challenge than the challenge of winning the war.
NARRATOR: In the turmoil that followed, Americans North and South would write their own scripts for the future. In a wild corner of Louisiana, a Northerner and his family rose to political power, with violent consequences.
JAMES G. MARSTON, III, DESCENDANT OF PLANTER: Once they were arrested, they were going to die.
NARRATOR: In Georgia, a fearless former minister staked out an independent colony for blacks, and found himself locked in a struggle with a determined young woman who came back to reclaim her family's plantation.
CLARENCE WALKER, HISTORIAN: As black people showed that they were capable of controlling and guiding their own lives, this only created greater anxiety and white hostility.
NARRATOR: In Congress, a former slave challenged whites' deepest beliefs about race and class.
ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN: It's one of those very rare historical moments when everything is up for grabs. An old order, and old society has been pretty much destroyed.
NARRATOR: Some saw Reconstruction as a chance to build a new nation out of the ashes of war and slavery. Others vowed to resist. They would wage a new war to protect their way of life and a racial order they believed ordained by God.
"BIG DRUNK" / VOTING / TUNIS CAMPBELL RUNS FOR OFFICE
NARRATOR: In March 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, the United States Congress decided to bring racial equality to the South. For the last all-white legislature in North Carolina, it was the beginning of the end. They threw a wild party in the state capitol. We had "the very best liquor, [and] ice, lemons and sugar," wrote one state senator. "The whole capital was in an uproar." Under Congress' new Radical Reconstruction plan, military rule would be imposed on the South. White state lawmakers would be swept from their seats. And the unthinkable: black men, many of them former slaves, would have the right to vote and run for office. "We have lost all hope of escaping the vengeance of the Northern people," a senator wrote "and are preparing for the worst." That fall, southern blacks embraced Congress' plan. In Louisiana, about a hundred black men approached the town of Natchitoches, ready to defend their new rights with sticks and guns. They had come to cast their ballots. Scores of Union soldiers, many of them black, stood guard at the polls. It was a scene repeated throughout the South.
FONER: This really was a remarkable leap in the dark for world history. It's the first large-scale experiment in interracial democracy that had existed anywhere.
EDWARD AYERS, HISTORIAN: This may be the most radical single change that emerges out of this entire era, to go from being an enslaved person, to not merely a citizen, but to being a voter and a holder of office.
NARRATOR: In Georgia, Tunis Campbell was among the first blacks to run for political office. Right after the war, he had set up an independent black colony in the Sea Islands of Georgia -- and declared it off-limits to whites.
RUSSELL DUNCAN, HISTORIAN: Tunis Campbell was impressive in appearance. He was 6 feet tall, habitually dressed in a 3-piece suit with a bow tie, carried an umbrella, a top hat. The planter class is in awe of him. But African Americans are also in awe of him. And he uses that to great advantage.
NARRATOR: Trained as a minister, he could reach into the heart of a community.
DUNCAN: He often stood behind the pulpits in black churches on Sundays and said, "Under the new acts of Congress, we're going to be allowed to vote. You're going to be protected in that vote. We have a great black majority in this district. We are going to elect black judges. We are going to elect black sheriffs. We are going to elect black senators."
BLIGHT: The right to vote for black people was an almost spiritual experience. It was a physical manifestation of their freedom. It meant that somebody was actually recognizing them as a political human being. The right to vote was like breathing life into them.
NARRATOR: Many white Southerners boycotted the elections.
AYERS: They say the government that's created by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington for proud, independent, enlightened men, is now going to be occupied by former slaves who cannot read. This must be an injustice, they say. This must be a farce.
FONER: At this time only five northern states -- all of them in New England, with very small black populations -- give African Americans the right to vote. Ohio doesn't. New York only gives a tiny number the right to vote. Pennsylvania doesn't. Illinois doesn't.
AYERS: And white southerners feel that this is just one more example of the hypocrisy of Reconstruction, that white northerners are willing to inflict upon white southerners things they would not tolerate in their own home states.
NARRATOR: When the votes were counted, Tunis Campbell had won a seat in the Georgia state senate with an overwhelming majority.
WALKER: Black voting carried with it an enormous meaning. It meant that political power was going to be shared between blacks and whites. This is a very frightening thing for many white southerners because they have, in effect, lost control over what they had deemed to be their birthright, which is the right to run these governments.
NARRATOR: One white southerner uttered words of warning: "Let not your pride flatter you into the belief that you ever can or ever will govern the white men of the South."
FAN BUTLER RETURNS TO GEORGIA
READING, FAN BUTLER: "The day was cloudless, the air soft and balmy; the wild vegetation that edged the river beautiful beyond description...Not a sound broke the stillness but the dip of our oars [and] the wild minor chant of the Negro boatmen."
NARRATOR: Anxious to reclaim their land, 28-year-old Fan Butler and her father, Pierce, were nearing their plantation on St. Simon's Island in Georgia. Rice, not cotton, had been king here before the war. And Pierce Butler had been one of the richest of the rice aristocracy. Fan Butler's mother, the celebrated English actress Fanny Kemble, had made headlines around the world, when she publicly declared that she could not live with a slaveholder. After her parents divorced, Fan Butler had to make a choice.
DUNCAN: She was involved in not a brothers' war, but a family war. When her parents were divorced, she took sides, and she sided with the South and with her father.
NARRATOR: From the safety of Philadelphia, the Butlers heard that their land was being confiscated by victorious Union troops.
DANA D. NELSON, HISTORIAN: Pierce saw it not only as the possible ending of his family's plantations in Georgia, but he saw it as the end of the way of life that he treasured. And so they headed back South as soon as they could.
NARRATOR: They found the Butler plantation in ruins.
READING, FAN BUTLER: My bed stood under a hole in the roof, through which the rains came. The whole country was absolutely swept. Not a chicken, not an egg was left. For weeks I lived on [nothing but] hominy, rice, and fish.
NARRATOR: Fan and Pierce got one piece of good news: a federal decree returned the plantations to their original owners. But their claims on the land were fiercely resisted by freedmen.
AYERS: Black southerners say, "the South is mine too." I helped make this place. I remember when this plantation was nothin' other than woods. And we cleared it. And it's ours. And I'm not leaving. This is rich land."
READING, FAN BUTLER: We found the Negroes on St. Simon's Island in a very different frame of mind. They had been brought under the influence of Northerners, some of whom had filled the poor people's minds with all sorts of vain hopes and ideas, among others that their former masters would not be allowed to return, and the land was theirs.
NARRATOR: In this charged atmosphere, the Butlers had to negotiate with their former slaves.
READING, FAN BUTLER: My father. . . told [the Negroes] they might have [their corn and cotton], but that they must put in twenty acres for him, for which he would give them food and clothing, and another year, when he hoped to put in several hundred acres, they should share the crop. They consented without any show of either pleasure or the reverse."
NARRATOR: The new system came to be called sharecropping, but many landowners wanted something more than their share.
NELSON: Pierce's plan was to evolve his relationship with his former slaves back into something that would probably look and work a lot like slavery. And as Fan would later say, when it was her land, "You have the freedom to leave, but I have freedom too. And what's more, I own this land. And if you're going to stay here, you have to do what I say."
NARRATOR: Fan Butler was not as confident as she sounded
READING, FAN BUTLER: We are, I am afraid, going to have terrible trouble...with the Negroes, and I see nothing but gloomy prospects for us ahead."
MARSHALL TWITCHELL, CARPETBAGGER FROM VERMONT
NARRATOR: New Orleans in the fall of 1867 was a bankrupt city with just four paved roads. The war had left the whole state of Louisiana, one official lamented, "dirty, impoverished, and hopeless." But in Mechanics Hall, there was excitement about the future. Under the new Reconstruction law, delegates had gathered to draw up a new constitution for the state.
TED TUNNELL, HISTORIAN: The majority of the delegates to this convention are black. They were well spoken, they were well dressed, and they play a dynamic role in this convention. The constitution that results from this assembly will, in large part, be their work.
NARRATOR: Among the white delegates was Marshall Twitchell, a battle-scarred former Union soldier from Vermont. Right after the war, he'd come up the Red River and settled in the northwest part of the state. It was a wide-open frontier.
James G. Marston, III, Descendant of Planter: My ancestor, Henry Marston, in the 1840s bought land up here. It was land speculation. And it was rich fertile land to be cleared into cotton land. And so I imagine Mr. Twitchell was very excited about what he was going to do.
NARRATOR: The thrifty Twitchell had saved enough to buy 420 acres of cotton land. He married Adele Coleman, the daughter of a local planter, and got to know his neighbors, both black and white.
BLIGHT: The vast majority of northerners who moved south moved there because the South was now, uh, the new pioneer society.
FONER: They came as business people. They came to buy land. They came to set up businesses. They came to invest. At first they were welcomed.
NARRATOR: In the summer of 1867 Twitchell made a fateful decision. He agreed to represent his district at the state convention. He'd commanded black troops in the war, but this was a new world.
TUNNELL: For the next few months, Twitchell is going to have to work with black men as equals in a way that he has never done before.
NARRATOR: Twitchell supported most of the provisions in the new constitution, including a controversial one that would take voting rights away from white men associated with the old Confederate government. He had crossed a line: many white southerners resented watching northerners like Twitchell making crucial political decisions.
TUNNELL: Midway through the conventions, you can see the conservative newspapers covering the conventions sort of searching for some new language to describe these people. And then they hit upon the word "carpetbagger." It conjures up the image of a lowlife Yankee. He packs his scanty belongings in a carpetbag and takes the first steamship south, to profit upon the misery of a defeated people
NARRATOR: Twitchell came to be viewed with suspicion by some of his white neighbors.
MARSTON: He's a villain. The carpetbaggers are always thought of as a danger. You had the boll weevils; they were a danger. Of course low prices, and the carpetbagger.
NARRATOR: The Yankee from Vermont was starting to make powerful enemies in Louisiana.
TUNIS CAMPBELL EXPELLED FROM GEORGIA LEGISLATURE
NARRATOR: In the summer of 1868, Tunis Campbell entered the Georgia state legislature in Atlanta. With him came thirty-one other black members of the Republican party. The work of re-making the southern states had begun.
FONER: Suddenly you get hundreds of men elected to every office from member of Congress, the Senate, House of Representatives, member of state legislature, state positions, down to sheriff, justice of the peace, school board official, you name it.
NARRATOR: For Democrats, who had bitterly resisted the Republican Reconstruction plan, the very idea of blacks in political office was an aberration. "The Negro is unfit to rule the State," The Atlanta Constitution declared. "The Democratic party will protect him in every civil right. It is unwilling, however, to make him Congressman, Governor, and Judge. It will not consent to degrade its own race by elevating an inferior above it." In the Georgia legislature, blacks were outnumbered four to one. As soon as Tunis Campbell took his seat, he came under attack from whites on both sides of the aisle.
WALKER: What you have here is a very volatile moment in which alliances politically are shifting very rapidly, and from one day to the next, you don't know really what's going to happen.
NARRATOR: The few white Republicans who did support black legislators were branded as traitors to their race. Blacks "should quit dabbling in politics," argued one newspaper, "and go to work...to earn an honest subsistence." Most whites in the legislature maintained that the new Georgia Constitution only gave blacks the right to vote, not the right to hold office.
DUNCAN: The Georgia constitution did not specifically allow office-holding by black Americans. Of course it didn't specifically authorize office holding by white Americans either...
NARRATOR: One legislator, Henry McNeal Turner, expressed the outrage of his black colleagues. He was entitled to his seat, he said and would not cringe or beg for it. Tunis Campbell also refused to be intimidated.
READING, TUNIS CAMPBELL:
"On behalf of nearly five hundred thousand loyal citizens of this State, we do enter our solemn protest against the illegal, unconstitutional and oppressive action of this body."
NARRATOR: White legislators made it clear that Campbell was not welcome in the chamber.
DUNCAN: Many of them put their hands on the butts of the pistols of the guns they wore into the chamber. They shuffled their feet. They banged on the desk. They-, they, uh, talked about the "Congo senator's insolent harangue."
NARRATOR: Just two months after it had first convened, the Georgia legislature voted to expel its black members. "You may drive us out," Turner warned, "but you will light a torch never to be put out."
1868 GRANT WINS
NARRATOR: Tunis Campbell immediately left for Washington to ask the federal government to intercede in Georgia. The capital was in the midst of the first presidential election since the Civil War. The campaign of 1868 came down to a battle over Reconstruction. The Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour and Frank Blair. Their views were shared by many in populous northern states like New York and New Jersey.
BLIGHT: The Democratic Party ran arguably the most openly white supremacist election campaign in American history. They painted the Republicans as, quote, "nigger lovers."
FONER: The Democrats absolutely repudiate Reconstruction. They basically say, "If we get in, forget about Reconstruction. We're going to repeal all this and put the South back under the control of-of white leaders."
NARRATOR: Though the views of the Democrats had wide support, many voters gravitated to the Republican candidate, Ulysses S. Grant. They found comfort in the Union general who had won the war. Grant's slogan was "Let us have peace." The general understood that the northern heart cared deeply about reuniting North and South. He promised to support Reconstruction but wrap it up quickly.
BLIGHT: There was a kind of new politics of reconciliation, a need to bring South and North together because it would be good for the economy; it would be good for the federal government; it would be good for expansion and growth.
NARRATOR: The North was booming. To many voters there, Grant represented a chance to solve the southern problem; they could then turn their attention to the future. In the South, blacks saw him differently. Almost half a million turned out to vote for Grant because they believed that at last they would have an ally in the White House. The new President seemed to prove them right. Grant and Congress ordered the Georgia governor to readmit the expelled legislators. Tunis Campbell and his thirty-one black colleagues took back their seats.
JOHN ROY LYNCH & BLACK LEGISLATORS
NARRATOR: While Tunis Campbell fought aggressively for black rights, John Roy Lynch moved more cautiously. Lynch had been a house slave in Natchez, Mississippi. After the war, he had learned to read, taught himself photography, and worked his way up in the business.
PAINTER: I think he only had about four months of formal schooling. But he's a very bright young man, and a fast learner. He listened, and he was also in the photography business, so he heard a lot of people who could afford to have their pictures taken.
NARRATOR: Lynch's customers talked politics, and he soaked it up, even teaching himself parliamentary law. By 1870, he was a newly elected state legislator walking up the steps of the Mississippi capitol. He was 22-years-old.
FONER: John R. Lynch is one of those guys who is created by the Reconstruction situation. Opportunities open to him, which could have been, in which would have been inconceivable before this moment.
READING, JOHN LYNCH: This legislature had some very important work before it... The entire government had to be reconstructed so as to place [it] in perfect harmony with the new order of things.
AYERS: Black legislators are not asking for really radical changes. They're asking for deeply American things: equality in the courthouse; the right to be on juries; the right to testify in your own behalf.
FONER: A lot of what these black lawmakers and white Republicans are trying to do, you might almost say, is bring the South into the nineteenth century. Public school systems, for example. South didn't have that. Large numbers of southern whites were illiterate. Reconstruction establishes the first public school systems in the South.
NARRATOR: Within a year, Mississippi opened 230 new schools for blacks, and 252 for whites. There were plans for new hospitals, railroads; but who would pay the bill? Before the Civil War, slaveowners had paid most of the taxes. Now, the burden shifted to anyone who owned land, small farmers as well as rich planters.
AYERS: White southern landowners said, "If you think for a minute that I'm going to give up my hard-earned money to build up the government to take care of colored people, you're crazy."
NARRATOR: Lynch had some sympathy for the white opposition.
READING, LYNCH: The war had just come to a close, leaving most of the people in an impoverished condition... Their property was in a state of decay...To have the rate of taxation increased was to them a very serious matter.
NARRATOR: After fierce debate, Lynch and the Republicans managed to pass the tax increase. In statehouses and small towns across the South, black officials were transforming daily life for freedmen.
DUNCAN: As African Americans encountered local government, for the first time in their lives they were encountering black faces behind the desk, faces that were accepting, faces that knew who they were, what they had been through.
AYERS: There was one thing that white southerners feared more than anything else. They used one word for lots of different kinds of things. They called it "Negro rule." Well, when you have a black sheriff with a gun, that's Negro rule. Sometimes even if you have a black postmaster, who makes white women stand in line to get stamps -- that could be Negro rule. It all looks like Negro rule, and it's hard for white southerners to get a sense of proportion about all this, because they consider all of it a violation of the natural order, a violation of the way that things should be.
NARRATOR: A shadowland of secret clubs and societies began to take shape: in Mississippi, the White Liners; in Louisiana, the Knights of the White Camellia -- and across the South, the Ku Klux Klan.
WALKER: If you grow up in a society in where, for centuries, you have been taught that other people are your racial inferiors, it's very hard to accept the enormous social change involved in their emancipation. Any benefit that accrued to blackness was interpreted as a loss of whiteness. Education, the acquisition of property, was viewed as somehow unnatural.
AYERS: The Ku Klux Klan does not see itself as Lawlessness, but as the Law. Because they do not believe that black men deserve political power or know what to do with it once they have it, they think that it's their right, maybe even their Christian responsibility, to destroy black political power before it has a chance to become too entrenched.
KKK, ABRAM COLBY WHIPPED
NARRATOR: Abram Colby had been elected to the Georgia legislature, along with Tunis Campbell. The Democrats wanted to curb his power in the county. They tried bribes, but Colby turned them away. In October of 1869, the Klan set out to teach him a lesson.
NELL PAINTER, HISTORIAN: They were the mercenary forces of the Democrats, who were trying to regain power. They were not simply using the ballot, because they felt they would lose at the ballot box. They were using violent coercion. They were eliminating their competitors.
NARRATOR: Colby's attackers could not hide behind their hoods.
READING, ABRAM COLBY: Some of them [were] the first-class men in our town. One is a lawyer, one a doctor, and some are farmers. I knew the voices of those men as well as I know my own.
BLIGHT: They would take people out of their houses or their cabins in the dark of the night, strip them out in a road, make them run down the road, make them sometimes lie on a rock where they would be whipped, where men would line up to whip them. Sometimes they would burn parts of their bodies. These were, these were sadistic tortures.
COLBY: They said to me, 'Do you think you will ever vote another damned Radical ticket?' I said, 'If there was an election tomorrow, I would vote the Radical ticket.' They set in and whipped me a thousand licks more.
WALKER: This was a war of terror. The Ku Klux Klan, organized in 1867, is an original American terrorist organization.
GOOD TIMES FOR TWITCHELL
NARRATOR: By 1870, 30-year-old Marshall Twitchell had bought another plantation, and was starting to make money. He brought down from Vermont his three sisters and their husbands, his brother, Homer -- and their mother. And he decided to run for the state senate. In a district that was seventy percent black, Twitchell had an advantage.
TUNNELL: One of the things black people most want -- they want to be treated with dignity and respect. Marshall Twitchell does treat black people with dignity and respect. He does want to see them get an education. That doesn't mean he invites his black lieutenants over for Sunday dinner.
NARRATOR: Senator Twitchell appointed some blacks to positions in the local government, and he made real improvements in the district, building levees, schools, a courthouse, churches. But the better jobs in the government went to the Twitchell men, and some of his white neighbors resented his family's growing power.
MARSTON: They were the clerk of court, the tax assessor, the sheriff, the state senator. And he used those positions then to enrich himself and his family. And that's how he was viewed by the people that lived here with him.
NARRATOR: From his nearby plantation, Confederate veteran B.W. Marston kept a wary eye on his neighbor.
MARSTON: My great-grandfather had a military background, and- and a violent background. His regiment overran General Sherman right at Shiloh Church, so he had known violence, and he had known leadership. And this was a frontier area. And he did what it took.
TUNNELL: This is the most violent place in Louisiana and probably the most violent place in the South. Even without the Civil War and Reconstruction, it's a violent area. The Civil War and Reconstruction add a thick layer of social and political violence.
NARRATOR: The affairs of the parish were being "extravagantly managed," B.W. Marston said of Twitchell, "managed in the interests of a ring for spoils... I consider him a tyrant."
FAN BUTLER VS. TUNIS CAMPBELL
READING, FAN BUTLER: The next morning, I had the bell rung to summon the people here to sign the contract, and then my work began in earnest..."
NARRATOR: Fan Butler was trying to run two Georgia plantations by herself. Her father, Pierce, had died of malaria the year before. Fan had three hundred laborers working for her, many doing backbreaking, dangerous work in the rice fields. By law, she now had to negotiate annual contracts with each of them.
NELSON: She understood that if she made the concessions that these newly freed people wanted, she wouldn't turn a profit. So she basically needs to make enough from them to cover their most minimal demands, and then to make a profit for the plantation.
READING, FAN BUTLER: For six mortal hours I sat in the office without once leaving my chair, while the people poured in and poured out....One wanted this altered in the contract, another that. One was willing to work in the mill but not in the field. And so it went on all day, each one 'making me sensible,' as he called it.
WALKER: Neither she nor the other members of her class know how to handle free labor. What they want is a docile, disciplined labor force. They don't want people asking to be guaranteed their wages. They don't want people asking for time off, because this is just completely unacceptable.
NARRATOR: Organizing Fan Butler's workers, making sure their demands were heard, was a formidable adversary: Tunis Campbell felt that he could have more impact working directly with his constituents at the grassroots level. He urged Butler's workers to assert their rights.
DUNCAN: Tunis Campbell told them "If they can get you cheaper, they will. If they can take part of your crop, they will. And Fan Butler is one of the worst abusers of the system, So be tough with her. Say, 'Okay, Ms. Butler, but I've been told that laborers have rights too.'"
NARRATOR: Sometimes Campbell called meetings on the spur of the moment, in the middle of the day. Fan Butler was furious.
READING, FAN BUTLER: There seemed to be no remedy for this evil, the Negroes throwing all our authority to the wind, and following Campbell wherever he chose to lead them... We had no proper authorities to appeal to, should our Negroes misbehave themselves."
AYERS: No matter where you are in the South, it's white and black trying to forge some kind of workable economy out of all this. Everywhere you go in the South, it's former slaves trying to find a way to make something out of nothing. Everywhere you go in the South, it's people who had had ownership of other human beings, trying to figure out now, "How do I live without that?"
KKK HEARINGS & SOUTH CAROLINA TRIALS
READING, COURT OFFICER
State your age, where you were born, and where you now live.
READING, ABRAM COLBY'S TESTIMONY: I am fifty-two years old. I was born in Greene County and it is my home now... when I can live there.
NARRATOR: In October 1871, two years after the attack that nearly cost him his life, Abram Colby testified before a Congressional committee. His back had been badly injured, and he had lost the use of his left hand. But he'd gone back to the Georgia legislature. And he continued to campaign against Klan violence.
READING, ABRAM COLBY'S TESTIMONY: No man can make a free speech in my county. I do not believe it can be done anywhere in Georgia... If you go there you will be killed, or shot at, or whipped, or run off.
NARRATOR: The growing number of attacks like Colby's had finally prompted a federal investigation. Hundreds of witnesses risked their lives to tell their stories. Northerners who cared little about the fate of blacks in the South were horrified by the accounts in the newspapers.
FONER: It really reveals to the country the extent of these kinds of atrocities and terrorism in the South, and it creates a political pressure for Grant to do something.
AYERS: Grant realizes "We've got to stop this. We can't just allow everything that we're trying to accomplish to be destroyed by the flagrant acts of these white vigilantes in the South."
NARRATOR: Grant understood that the memories of war, North and South, were still raw, and felt he couldn't risk full-scale intervention. He could, however, set an example in one state, South Carolina, where Klan terror was at its bloodiest. In the fall of 1871, he declared martial law. Scores of suspected Klan leaders were rounded up and tried in federal courts.
AYERS: It's infuriating to white southerners that they would come in, impose this national power in their own homes, doubt their word, solicit the testimony of former slaves. This is something that would just insult white southerners more than anything that had been done up to this point.
NARRATOR: By the end of the trials, federal prosecutors had destroyed the Klan in South Carolina. Grant's crackdown had brought a measure of peace -- for the time being.
NARRATOR: In March 1873, on one of the coldest evenings in Washington history, Ulysses S. Grant celebrated a landslide victory. His crackdown on the Klan had been popular with many Northerners and helped him win a second term. "The States lately at war with the General Government," he announced confidently, "are now rehabilitated." For the first time in American history, blacks had been invited to the inaugural ball.
BLIGHT: It's an extraordinary moment in Congress for black Congressmen. There were seven black Congressmen from southern states, serving in the US House of Representatives -- one of whom was John Roy Lynch.
NARRATOR: After two years in the Mississippi legislature, Lynch was elected to Congress. Just twenty-five, he was the youngest member of the U.S. House. Only ten years before, Lynch had been a slave. Now he was a Congressman, part of a generation of Republican legislators trying to build a new South.
AYERS: The Republicans say, "We're not just trying to do things for black people. We're trying to improve the entire economy and fairness for all people." These railroads aren't just going to help black people. And somebody is going to have to take care of ill people who can't take care of themselves. You poorer white families would also like to have schools for your children, wouldn't you?" This is a chance for a new South to emerge.
TUNIS CAMPBELL IN COURT
NARRATOR: In Georgia, Tunis Campbell had moved beyond organizing laborers. He was now rewriting the codes of behavior for freedmen.
DUNCAN: Tunis Campbell was determined not to let whites overcome blacks in areas that he could control. Couldn't control what was going on at the state level any more. Couldn't control what was going on at the national level. But on the local level, uh, through his office, he could make decisions that affected people's lives on a daily basis.
NARRATOR: Campbell told freedmen they did not have to yield to whites when they passed on the sidewalk, and they no longer had to address them as master and mistress. In Campbell's district, some blacks were even seen carrying hunting rifles.
NELSON: I do believe that Tunis Campbell aimed to be at least a little provocative. He was very idealistic about the possibilities for African American citizenship. But at the same time very savvy about the nature of power relations.
NARRATOR: Whites in the county were significantly outnumbered, and feared a black uprising. Fan Butler was terrified.
READING, FAN BUTLER: The Negroes seemed to reach the climax of lawless independence. I never slept without a loaded pistol by my bed.
DUNCAN: Democrats were relentless in their efforts to depose him. He's too famous to kill. They can't kill him. They're afraid of that. They're afraid of what might happen in the local community. So they kept him involved in a myriad of lawsuits, charging him with abusing his office.
NARRATOR: Whatever the charges, Campbell's real offense, according to court documents, was seeking to "give the Negro supremacy over the white man." Campbell was incensed.
READING, TUNIS CAMPBELL: Just before every election they commence trying to intimidate by arresting all prominent colored men. As usual they have arrested me again.... The intention was to keep me out of my seat in the senate."
DUNCAN: When Campbell's called to trial, his lieutenants send out word, and African Americans come off the plantations. They stop work, they go home and get their shotguns, and they arrive at the courthouse. The wives come and children come as well, and they clog the streets with black bodies, saying emphatically to the white community, "Don't touch our man."
NARRATOR: In one tense hearing, the courtroom was packed with Campbell supporters. The judge released him. "If they had put him in jail," a white witness would later comment, "the niggers would have put the jail in the river."
CORRUPTION AND CRASH
NARRATOR: In early 1873, a series of articles began to appear in the New York Tribune. Black lawmakers in South Carolina, the newspaper declared, were plundering the treasury. All through that winter, fresh accusations surfaced. The charges were highly exaggerated, but they contained an element of truth.
FONER: A lot more money is flowing through these state governments; they're doing a lot more things than the governments had in the past. And also, a lot of the Republican legislators are not people with any significant livelihood, other than being an office holder. And so there begins to develop this sense of, "Well, make some money while you can."
NARRATOR: In the North, corruption was just as widespread -- but South Carolina, the only state with a black majority legislature, was an easy target. The accusations fueled anti-black feeling in the North, and added to a growing sense that Reconstruction had been a terrible mistake. That fall, frightening news from Wall Street gripped the North, and eclipsed the troubled conversation about Reconstruction. The nation's biggest banking house declared bankruptcy, and the North's overheated economy crashed. Thousands of businesses failed; a million people were thrown out of work. In the terrible depression that followed, Northerners had little patience for the plight of Southern blacks. Increasingly, they were falling under the spell of a more romantic idea of the South -- a growing legend of a lost civilization.
SOUTHERN MEMORIALS & TOURISM
AYERS: White northerners begin to sympathize with the ideals of the white South. Yes, there was a time in United States when life was not all about money. Yes, there was a time when there was an aristocracy. And you find that white northerners as well as white southerners love these ideas, deep into the twentieth century.
NARRATOR: It came to be called the Lost Cause. The white South's own version of its history became a kind of civic religion. White southerners began to build memorials, consecrate battlefields -- it was their way of dealing with loss.
DREW GILPIN FAUST, HISTORIAN: Eighteen percent of white southern men of military age are killed in the war. Eighty thousand widows in Alabama, applying for support and aid. One of the things they want to do is, simply on an emotional level, cope with all that death and somehow reclaim the meaning of those deaths. But to honor the dead you have to enhance the cause. So this wasn't simply about the loved ones, it was also about the cause for which they died.
AYERS: The Lost Cause is a celebration of what white southerners see as the best of the Confederacy: its nobility, its Christian virtues, its leadership, the loyalty of its men.
BLIGHT: They basically began to forge the Confederate Lost Cause as not a story about loss but a story about victory. They might have lost the war, but they were now winning the ultimate victory, over control of their own society and against Reconstruction.
NARRATOR: Democrats took back power in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas. White Southerners called it "Redemption". Many of the elections were won through violence and intimidation. White Northerners did nothing to stop it.
FAUST: I think a key part of it is race, and the basic agreement, North and South, among white Americans, about the need for subordination of African Americans.
NARRATOR: Lured by the myth of the old South, Northern tourists began to flock to the moss-covered plantations of Georgia, Virginia, Florida. Travel guides suggested that whites and freedmen had learned to live together in harmony. "Nothing can be more beautiful than a cotton field," one travel writer declared, "when the snowy globes of wool are ready for picking, and the swart laborers, with sacks suspended from their shoulders, wander between the rows."
NARRATOR: In the summer of 1874, Marshall Twitchell went to New Orleans for the Republican state convention. His brother-in-law, Frank Edgerton, the sheriff of Coushatta, wrote him a letter warning that some of the leading men in town had formed a chapter of the White League. "The purpose of the White League," Edgerton wrote, is [the] extermination of the carpet bag element." "Nothing more nor less." Twitchell's reply was intercepted by the League and published in the local paper. He wanted to call in federal troops, he had written. But they would only come if some "overt act" were committed.
MARSTON: He needed an incident so he could bring federal troops to Coushatta. And he got an incident, but I don't think it was what he was counting on.
NARRATOR: The White League was also looking for an incident. Members staged random attacks on blacks, and when a white man was wounded in one confrontation, they had what they needed. Claiming the Twitchell clan was behind a black rebellion, they siezed Twitchell's brother, Homer, his three brothers-in-law Clark Holland, Henry Scott, and Sheriff Edgerton, and twenty of their black allies. They were forced to sign a document promising to resign and to leave Louisiana forever.
TUNNELL: The majority would like to see these people out of town, safely. After all, they have broken bread with these men. They have entertained one another. They've gone to church with one another.
NARRATOR: Escorted by guards, the white Republicans left Coushatta, carrying all their money and valuables. They headed for Texas.
TUNNELL: They haven't gone far when they look back and see a large body of thirty or forty men riding hard, closing in upon them. Out front is a heavily bearded man, sweat just streaming from his body, and as he approaches the rear guard he screams out "Get out of the way or share the prisoners' fate". The guards get out of the way; they offer no resistance. At the head of the column, the six Republicans suddenly see these men coming down upon them, and one of them screams out, "Mount and ride for your lives." And almost immediately, three of them are shot from the saddle. Homer Twitchell supposedly cried out, "Somebody give me a gun. I don't want to die like a dog." And a bullet hits him in the face a moment later.
NARRATOR: Homer and two others were killed instantly. The other three were captured and shot. All were buried in shallow graves.
MARSTON: Once they were arrested, they were going to die. They had to. Because these men would have come back with a military force the likes of which Red River Parish had never seen, and there would be military tribunals for all of the people involved in this uprising.
NARRATOR: The following morning, Twitchell got the terrible news.
TUNNELL: I imagine Twitchell reading that telegram, and reading it again, and reading it -- reading it again, thinking there's got to be some mistake. They can't all be dead. Surely some of them were simply wounded.
NARRATOR: The Coushatta massacre made headlines across the country. Many people were shocked that the violence in the South was now targeting whites.
TUNNELL: All these people who were killed were office-holders. So you've taken the public officials of Red River Parish and simply executed them. And if it can happen in Red River, it can happen every- anywhere. And for freedmen, if the White League can take white Republican officials and execute them in cold blood, what can they do to us? Nobody is safe.
NARRATOR: For weeks following the massacre, local black leaders slept in the woods at night. The massacre was part of a larger push to take back Louisiana from the Republicans. On September 14 , the White Leaguers struck in New Orleans, seizing the Republican-run legislature. President Grant was alarmed. He had been reluctant to send more troops to the South. But he could not allow this armed insurrection to go unchallenged. The next day, Grant ordered the army to occupy New Orleans. Federal troops entered the State House and forcibly removed the White League representatives, reinstating the Republican government. Twitchell went back to Coushatta escorted by soldiers from the Third U.S. Infantry. He carried with him a long list of suspects.
MARSTON: My great-grandfather, Captain Marston, was rounded up in this. He writes about it. He felt as if he were dragged before a carpetbagger court, a Yankee judge, as he called him. He said he would rather take death here than be hanged in a for-, by a foreign court in New Orleans.
TUNNELL: In all, twenty-five people are arrested for complicity in the Coushatta massacre. These people are housed in the Coushatta courthouse. But they will never be brought to trial. Twitchell can never get the evidence that will permit him to bring these people to trial -- although he will keep trying, with perhaps disastrous results.
NARRATOR: Grant's intervention in New Orleans backfired. The spectacle of federal soldiers marching into a state legislature was a shock -- not only in the South, but all across the North. Many felt that Grant had gone too far -- overstepped his constitutional powers. "If this can be done in Louisiana," said one senator, "how long before it can be done in Massachusetts and in Ohio?"
JOHN ROY LYNCH & THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL
READING, JOHN ROY LYNCH:
When I leave my home to come to Washington I am treated, not as an American citizen, but as a brute. Forced to occupy a filthy railroad car with gamblers and drunkards. And for what? Not that I am unable or unwilling to pay my way; but simply because I happen to be of a darker complexion.
NARRATOR: By early 1875, John Roy Lynch was pushing for a new law protecting the right of blacks to be treated as equals in public facilities: in restaurants, on trains, in hotels and theaters. With the North fast losing interest in the troubles in the South and the economy unraveling, Lynch faced an uphill fight. Worse, the Democrats had taken back control of the U.S. House in the fall elections. Lynch and his Republican allies had only a short lame duck session to win support for the controversial Civil Rights bill.
BLIGHT: It was a remarkable bill because it had such-such a modern ring to it. At least it would to us. These were the kinds of public access issues that would later become so much a part of the modern civil rights movement of the twentieth century.
NARRATOR: The Civil Rights bill was taking on the unwritten social codes of everyday life.
WALKER: The social code is that "You are free, but you're not as free as I am free," which is to say that black people will only rise to a certain level, and there they will remain. Whites saw [the Civil Rights bill] as the opening wedge into the bugbear of nineteenth century society, and that was a belief that if you opened up these places to black people, it would open the door to racial mixing. This is the great anxiety and fear that haunts all of the discussion about civil rights during the Reconstruction period. And this fear is not only a fear in the South; it's a fear in the North also.
NARRATOR: Lynch refused to give up.
READING, JOHN ROY LYNCH: If this discrimination is to be tolerated, then I can only say that our social system is a disgrace; and our religion a complete hypocrisy.
NARRATOR: The Republicans managed to push the bill through. But it was never widely enforced.
Within a decade, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
FONER: Most of Reconstruction legislation is far ahead of its time. It took another century for this country to try to live up to the ideals that were implemented temporarily in Reconstruction.
NARRATOR: A few weeks after the Civil Rights bill passed, John Roy Lynch went back to Mississippi to campaign for re-election. He found a state in chaos. Democratic vigilantes shot at blacks in broad daylight to keep them away from the polls. Newspapers openly called for assassination. It was a full-scale, open assault on Reconstruction.
WALKER: What you have here now is the overturning of a democratic process by illegitimate means.
NARRATOR: The governor of Mississippi pleaded for help, but President Grant had learned a hard lesson in Louisiana.
AYERS: Grant refuses to help. And it's a political calculation. "No, I'm sorry. You're going to have to face this on your own." And the result of it, of course, is that the Republicans are driven from power.
NARRATOR: John Roy Lynch managed to hang on to his seat -- the only Republican, black or white, elected to Congress from Mississippi. Back in Washington, he called on the President. "It surprises me that you yielded," Lynch said to Grant. It is the first time I have ever known you to show the white feather." Grant told him that if he had sent troops to Mississippi the Republicans would have lost the White House. The General who had won the Civil War, was now close to losing the war over Reconstruction. He told Lynch: "I am very much concerned about the future of our country. What you have just passed through in Mississippi is only the beginning of what is sure to follow."
TWITCHELL ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
NARRATOR: In the spring of 1876, Marshall Twitchell risked a brief visit to Coushatta to tend to some business.
TUNNELL: On May 1, he goes into Coushatta and finds an unusual number of prominent Democrats in town. Some kind of pow-wow is clearly going on. He asks one of them (it's late in the day), "What's everybody doing around here so late in the day? It's almost dark." And he's informed that an issue of long standing is being decided. And only afterwards will the meaning of that reply become apparent.
MARSTON: Twitchell has to be done away with. And-and maybe that will end it. Because we're at war now.
NARRATOR: The following day, Twitchell left his plantation for a meeting in town. With him was his only surviving brother-in-law, George King. They took the ferry across the river to Coushatta.
TUNNELL: Early that morning, a strangely clad man had ridden into Coushatta. He was wearing a long oilcloth coat, green eye goggles, a hat pulled down low over his face, and possibly false whiskers. He goes to the blacksmith's shop, and there he waits.
NARRATOR: As the ferry approached, the man made his way to the riverbank in full view of townspeople.
TUNNELL: Twitchell was sitting in the ferry, reading a newspaper. He looks up, sees this man pull the rifle from underneath his coat. And he screams out, "Down in the boat." Twitchell moves fast. But he gets hit in the leg before he can get over the side of the boat. His brother-in-law, George King, pulls a pistol and gets off a shot, and the rifleman above shoots him in the head and he pitches back in the boat, dead. Twitchell 's got one arm up over the gunwale of the boat. The rifleman above is a good shot and he puts two bullets in that arm. Twitchell uses his other arm. The rifleman puts two bullets in that arm. The rifleman above empties the rifle, throws it aside, pulls out a big pistol, and blazes away with that. Twitchell (he's been shot six times), he whispers to the ferryman, "Tell him I am dead." And he turns and floats face down in the water, drifting with the current. A black servant woman approaches the rifleman. She asks him if he was shooting at an alligator. And he says, "Yes, a damned black alligator."
NARRATOR: The assassin's identity was never revealed.
MARSTON: There's some speculation as to, uh, it being my great-grandfather. He was the kind of man that could have done it. If it had to be done, he would have done it.
NARRATOR: Amazingly, Twitchell survived the shooting. He was taken to a house a few miles from Coushatta, where both his arms were amputated.
READING, MARSHALL TWITCHELL: I turned my face to the window, watching the sun as it disappeared behind the trees, reviewing my past life, and trying to imagine what would be my future in the world.
NARRATOR: A delegation of local black ministers came to pay their respects.
TUNNELL: The concern of these ministers was not simply for Twitchell himself, but for all he represented. He represented this dream of a truly biracial society in which black people would be treated with respect and dignity. And he's almost a corpse now, and he becomes a metaphor for their own broken dreams.
NARRATOR: The White League in Coushatta had a very different reaction. "Our people rejoiced at it," B.W. Marston recalled, "as much as they would at the killing of any tyrant in the world."
MARSTON: Everyone was very happy that Twitchell was gone. We're still happy today that he's gone.
NARRATOR: After ten tumultuous years, Reconstruction died in 1877 in a back-room deal in Washington. The outcome of the presidential election the year before had been bitterly disputed. The two parties came to a secret compromise. Southern Democrats agreed to accept a Republican in the White House. In return, the Republicans agreed to abandon Reconstruction.
WALKER: The whole Civil War and Reconstruction process had been characterized by a deep ambivalence on the part of the North. And that ambivalence by 1870's, by the late 1870's, has crystallized into, "Let's cut our losses and get out. And the best thing is to leave this to the people who know best how to handle it."
NARRATOR: B.W. Marston took Marshall Twitchell's seat as state senator.
MARSTON: The North won the war. In northwest Louisiana, we won Reconstruction.
NARRATOR: On April 24, 1877, a crowd lined the streets of New Orleans, as the last of the federal troops stationed there marched towards the steamship that would take them away. The cheers were deafening. Someone let out a rebel yell. The retreat of the North left blacks across the South feeling betrayed and deeply in danger.
WALKER: You fight a bloody war, and you set people on the road to freedom, and then when they make an effort to establish themselves, that road is pulled out from under them and they are left to the people who are their enemies.
NARRATOR: Marshall Twitchell moved back to Vermont. Fitted with artificial arms, he was made a consul to Canada in 1878. After Louisiana, he found his quiet life...unnerving. Fan Butler married an Englishman. She tried to keep the plantations afloat, but eventually gave up and moved to Britain in 1877. John Roy Lynch managed to stay in politics for another twenty years and wrote an impassioned defense of Reconstruction.. He died in Chicago in 1939. Tunis Campbell's enemies finally caught up with him. He was sent to a convict labor camp for a year, then fled Georgia. He died in Boston in 1891.
NARRATOR: In July 1913, more than fifty thousand Civil War veterans gathered on the battlefield at Gettysburg. Gray-bearded soldiers, North and South, joined to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the battle.
AYERS: Veterans felt a kind of bond that came from being soldiers in the war, regardless of which side they had been on. They're celebrating their youth. They're celebrating their glory, uh, bravery. They're celebrating the fact that the American nation had come back together.
NARRATOR: The poetry of the moment was irresistible; bitter enemies reconciled, a nation made whole once more. No one there seemed to notice that there were no black veterans in the crowd.
WALKER: That reunion comes at the cost of black liberty and black freedom. It also comes through a very clever process of rewriting history.
NARRATOR: The Southern legend of the Lost Cause had prevailed.
FONER: By the turn of the century, an image of Reconstruction has been fixed in the American consciousness, both North and South, as a terrible mistake, a travesty of democracy. According to this image, African Americans were given these rights they were unprepared for. Therefore there was this period of terrible mis-government.
BLIGHT: Great changes take time, and this is a great experiment in biracial democracy. But, one of the tragedies of Reconstruction is that it only lasted such a short period of time.
NARRATOR: By 1913, many of the rights won by African Americans during Reconstruction had been taken away. Segregation was the norm and lynching epidemic. But some of what they had built amid the turmoil of Reconstruction had survived -- communities, schools, and churches.
AYERS: Over the next several generations, black Americans never let up in their desire to be full American citizens.
WALKER: The idea of being a black Congressman did not die. The idea of being a black justice of the peace, or superintendent of the schools, did not die.
AYERS: That ideal of America where there was equality, of a South where there was opportunity, never died. And all across the twentieth century, and emerging in this great Civil Rights Movement, we see the legacy of Reconstruction. Took generations to play out, but it never died.