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Cultivating Liberty: Activist Tunis Campbell and former slaves start self-sufficient lives in Georgia.
Introduction: After a bloody Civil War, Americans fight about how to rebuild the nation. Chaos: Southern planters and liberated slaves are thrown into chaos as Union victory nears. Revolution on the Land: The Federal government allots abandoned plantation acreage to freed slaves as Southern whites face defeat. Uncertainty: After President Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson takes office amid deep uncertainty. Cultivating Liberty: Activist Tunis Campbell and former slaves start self-sufficient lives in Georgia. Freedmen's Bureau Agent: Union veteran Marshall Twitchell moves to an isolated, battle-hardened Confederate district. 'White Men Alone': President Johnson plans to restore the Union quickly with few changes to the social order. An Independent Black Community: Tunis Campbell's black settlement establishes schools and bans whites from the island. Losses and Reconciliation: As Southerners return home to catastrophic losses, the president pardons planters and returns their lands. Slavery Without the Chain: To rebuild their cotton economy, Southern whites force black submission. Opportunity: Yankee Marshall Twitchell and Southerner Adele Coleman marry, over her family's objections. War in Congress: Deep rifts divide Washington as Congress passes the first law to protect civil rights. Radical Reconstruction: Shocked by Southern violence, Northerners support military governance and black suffrage. Citizens at Last: White Southerners' sense of injustice and fear of vengeance grow as black men obtain the vote. Credits Introduction: As Abraham Lincoln warned, Reconstruction is a task 'fraught with great difficulty.' Interracial Democracy: Black suffrage is imposed in the South, though blacks cannot vote in many Northern states. Sharecropping: Landowner Fan Butler negotiates new labor arrangements with her former slaves. Carpetbagger: Southerners start to view Northerners like Marshall Twitchell with suspicion. 'Let Us Have Peace.': As racial conflicts continue, Ulysses Grant gains the presidency by promising reconciliation. The New Order of Things: Republican legislators like former slave John Lynch introduce new services -- and new taxes. War of Terror: Secret groups like the Ku Klux Klan form to attack black political power with violence. Seeking Profit: Southern whites and blacks struggle to gain political power and forge a workable economy. A New South: The Federal government cracks down on violence, and Grant's re-election promises more change. The Lost Cause: The nation loses patience for the plight of Southern blacks as whites take back power. The Coushatta Massacre: President Grant makes an unpopular decision to send troops South to suppress an insurrection. Ideals and Intimidation: Congress passes a visionary civil rights bill, but Southern vigilantes continue their violence. At War: White vigilantes in Coushatta, Louisiana try to kill Marshall Twitchell. Secret Compromise: The North abandons Reconstruction in a secret political deal. Looking Back: By 1913, Reconstruction is widely viewed as a mistake, though its progressive legacy will endure. Credits
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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.

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.

"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.

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." "Beginning next week, I will divide up the land into forty acres for each of you."

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."

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.

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."

So you've got this tiny little island, twelve miles long, three miles wide, and a government set up to resemble the United States government with a Supreme Court at the top. It's wonderful, beautiful, experiment in democracy; and people took to it very well. They liked the idea of having the power to select their leaders and remove them.

But at St. Catherine's, no one was going to remove Tunis Campbell.

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