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John Hope Franklin, Historian, on
Political obstacles faced by Fisk

John Hope Franklin Franklin : Tennessee presents a slightly different picture from the other southern states. And I think that was because Tennessee had been occupied much earlier than the other states, generally, and because their major leader had become a Union official and of course was the Vice-President in Lincoln’s second term, Andrew Johnson. Now, Andrew Johnson’s position as first Vice-President and then, after April 1865, as the President of the United States, meant that his influence would be rather considerable in modulating the reconstruction program in Tennessee and in other southern states, because he was opposed to the kind of reconstruction that the Union wanted to impose on the South. And one would have thought that as a great Union leader, he would be in favor of what they wanted to do to the South, to punish the South. And he had spoken of punishing the South. But when it came down to it, he was not in favor of it. And indeed he vetoed the measures that that would have imposed some kind of punishment on the South. He didn’t believe in the equality of freedmen. And he vetoed the civil rights bill of 1866, and he vetoed all the efforts, the reconstruction bill of 1866, one in 1867. He vetoed them because he didn’t believe that blacks should have political equality. This will put a damper on the reconstruction efforts in Tennessee and in some of the other southern states. But Tennessee did not even go as far as some of the other southern states in providing political and educational, economic opportunities for the freedmen. You have a window in Tennessee that barely opens, a window of opportunity for political activity on the part of blacks, nothing like you had in, say, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi or Louisiana or even Virginia. And that will be, as I said, because of the early occupation of Tennessee and the opposition of the President to any kind of reconstruction, radical reconstruction in those states.

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