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8.11.3 Electioneering at the south

Sheppard, William Ludwell

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Electioneering at the south." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 22, 2020.

While many enslaved people fled Southern plantations as the US Army advanced into the South during the Civil War, many more formerly enslaved people had to wait until the end of the war to choose where to live. In the five years after the war, the Black population of Southern cities and towns grew rapidly. In these new settings, Black people built strong communities, including building schools, churches, and mutual-aid societies where they could support one another. African Americans pushed for the right to vote prior to the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, and after the law protected this right, they voted in high numbers during the remainder of the Reconstruction era. How does this image from after the Civil War contrast with what you imagined would have been possible for African Americans before the end of slavery? What ideas do you think they may have shared in settings like this?

Beginning in 1864 a group of free Blacks and whites in New Orleans established a newspaper, Tribune, that openly advocated for Black suffrage and other civil rights, including desegregation of Louisiana’s schools and the city’s streetcars. After the war, this paper also called for plantation property to be divided among freedmen. Republicans in the North became familiar with the Tribune and its message, and the push for suffrage — as well as Black engagement with politics — continued throughout the Reconstruction period. Civic engagement took many forms during Reconstruction, including Masonic lodges, drama societies, debating clubs, burial societies, fire companies, and equal rights leagues in addition to the churches and schools that became cornerstones of Black communities.

Electioneering at the South - Sketched by W.L. Sheppard