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.
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
|page created on 12.19.03|
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
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