tv The Civil War CSPAN March 31, 2016 9:05pm-10:01pm EDT
before "washington journal." >> next, history professor and author douglas egerton discusses black activism during the civil war and into the early years of reconstruction. he talks about the series of conventions organized by activists in both northern and southern states in which african-americans met to organize their fight for equal rights and in particular, the right to vote. this talk was part of a day-long symposium held at the library of virginia in richmond. it's just over 50 minutes. >> dr. douglas egerton, professor of history at lemoyne college in syracuse, new york, where he teaches early american and 19th century u.s. history. he earned his ph.d. at georgetown in 1985, but he's no stranger to richmond. his 1993 book "gabriel's rebellion" is one of the most important studies of one of the
most important slave conspiracies in american history. he spoke about it at the university of richmond 20 years ago and he's going to be interviewed about that book later today for television. most of dr. egerton's work has been on the subject of slave resistance, colonization and abolitionism during the american revolution and early national period. you will find a partial list of his publications in your program. his work deals with the intersection of race and politics. his most recent books deal with the mid-19th century. years of meteors, steven douglas, abraham lincoln and the election that brought on the civil war. and the wars of reconstruction, the brief violent history of america's most progressive era. his talk today will draw mostly from that final book and the title of his talk today is black
activism in the wars of reconstruction. ladies and gentlemen, doug egerton. >> thank you. good morning. nice to be back in richmo. i have already learned at least one important lesson this morning which is not to follow dr. ayers so i will see what i can do to keep you all awake and thank you for that very nice introduction. so here we are. the ses question centennial of the end and the dawn of reconstruction. for most americans, when lee surrenders, the story is over and the wonderful "new york times" blog disunion stopped because apparently the story was done and two months ago, the secretary announced to congress a number of states had ratified the amendment, slavery was dead, the war was over and americans
today, as dr. ayers mentioned, when it comes to reconstruction, started to get very fuzzy and kind of confused and not very interested and in fact, when john asked us to come and speak today, he asked us all to provide a couple paragraphs explaining basically why you should want to come and hear this. john's question was well, now that the shooting is over, why should americans care about reconstruction and of course, the shooting is not over in 1865 or 1866. the shooting goes on literally for a very long time. so 1866, the war was over, but a new kind of war was just beginning. that's why i titled my book the wars of reconstruction, because it was a new kind of struggle, new kind of war simply by different means. of course, the war and reconstruction, as dr. ayers mentioned, overlap by a good deal. of course, 1863, lincoln has his 10% plan, congress responds with the way davis built and most classic books on reconstruction
era, phoner's book, all begin in 1863 because they begin with this fight in washington, d.c. between whether the president will have jurisdiction and has his 10% plan or whether congress will have jurisdiction. and of course, this is really sort of a disagreement on jurisdiction because the fact is the 10% plan is not all that different from the way davis responds. but for black americans, 1865 was the end of something and it was the start of a new struggle. so when historians look at reconstruction and kind of focus on these disagreements between the so-called moderate lincoln and the so-called radical republicans and then those conservative northern democrats who don't even want to use the term reconstruction. they prefer the term restoration, implying that now that the country is back together, yes, slavery is dead but otherwise, bring the country back the way it was before. despite these disagreements, though, the one thing that most
white republicans and most democrats in congress could agree on is that reconstruction was something designed to be imposed on the defeated confederacy. black veterans, black activists, former slaves, knew otherwise, that the entire nation, as douglas once said, required reclamation. i began my story outside of washington. i'm looking at people who really advanced the agenda, those who were pushing to make this a more egalitarian, a more perfect nation. for the most part it wasn't republicans in congress. lincoln of course was focused on winning the war. republicans in congress were focused on imposing some kind of peace and some kind of solution on the white south. so for the most part, it wasn't people in washington thinking about how this country has to be different and not just the south, but how the entire
country has to be different. and of course, that's not the story you get quite often in popular culture. i assume most of you saw it, i loved it, abraham lincoln, vampire slayer. there's abe with this black sidekick, friend of mine, i won't name the college, but a college down the road from me said doug, it's not very accurate. i said what part of vampire were you having a hard time understanding? but you get the same thing in spielberg's movie with lincoln pounding the table saying now, now, the time is now and the one man freeing the slaves and changing the nation. that's the story that i think i don't want to tell in this book or today. so you know, who really was gazing into the future and envisioning what kind of country this could be and for the most part, it was black americans. men and women, who had fought against slavery in the years
before the war. many of them had been born in the south like frederick douglas had gotten out of slavery and come to the north, but they were the ones who really understood that the entire country required reconstruction and not simply virginia or south carolina or alabama. lincoln recalled that slavery had existed in all 13 english mainland colonies. lincoln recalled slavery existed in new york. and they understood that the entire country had to be fixed, that slavery had been a national problem and therefore, its legacy, racism, remained a national sin. for decades even as they fought against slavery in the south they faced a host of discriminatory laws and practices all across the north that made their lives more difficult. as we all know, voting of course was a state prerogative. and before the civil war, the only states that allowed black men to vote on an equal basis with white men was of course, in
new england and not coinciden l coincidentally, those were states that had very very few black men. these activists understood that jefferson davis might be the ultimate enemy, but that they were facing problems at home in places like syracuse, where i have lived for the last 27 years. new york of course finallieneded slavery in 1827 but six years before 1821, new york wrote a new state constitution that eliminated the last property qualifications for white men but imposed one on black men and i guess they thought that made sense because there still was slavery in new york at the time and so the property qualification again that was not imposed on whites was $250 in property. so frederick douglas who owned a house and newspaper in rochester, he could vote but a black barber in syracuse couldn't vote. douglas' two sons i will mention in a moment, charles and louis, who worked for dad, didn't have the property qualification and couldn't vote despite being 19
and 23. in 1860, new york tried to put a ballot initiative to get rid of this qualification imposed only on men and of course, lincoln carries new york handily in 1860, but the initiative went down in flames, meaning a lot of the moderate republicans who went to the polls and cast their ballot for lincoln then banded together with conservative new york democrats and voted down this property qualification elimination. things of course were worse in lincoln's illinois, in chase's ohio, in stevens' pennsylvania where, when the war broke out, not a single black man could vote. in the midwest, states for years had passed discriminatory laws known as the black codes. we think about the black codes being something the white south passes in 1865 and 1866. for decades before that the black codes existed in places like indiana, ohio, lincoln's
illinois. ohio, illinois, indiana, had all passed laws banning free blacks from migrating into their states. not always effectively but they had those laws on the books. ohio imposed a $500 fine on any white business man knowingly doing business with a free black who had entered the state illegally. in 1848, indiana even allocated money in the state assembly to colonize in liberia black men who entered the state and they also allocated money for black men already there legally if they wanted to leave the u.s. and go to west africa. so that's why i began my story in 1863 but not because of this fight between lincoln and the congress and the way davis built the 10% plan. of course as we all know, january 1863 the emancipation proclamation goes into effect and finally therefore the war department allows black men to serve. here is charles -- pardon me, louis douglas, sergeant major
louis douglas, member of the massachusetts 54th. of course, as we all know, these men enlisted and then they got to greenville, massachusetts and promptly found out they were being paid less than white soldiers, white privates were paid $13 a month. louis douglas was paid $10 a month and they deducted another $3 for clothing. so basically they were paid just about half of what white soldiers are paid. that would not be fixed until june of 1864, thanks to thad stevens. they were also told they could not become noncommissioned, pardon me, commissioned officers, so louis douglas is a sergeant major, but can't rise much higher. so that's why i began the story in '63 because the experience of men like this. of the 1510 identifiable men of color who hold state, national, local office during the construction, at least 130 are
ex-military, ex-massachusetts. no big surprise, this is my father's generation. you couldn't run for office unless you came home with the uniform and same with these men so black men all across the north marched to massachusetts to join up in the 54th. i'm sure you have all seen the film "glory." wonderful movie that manages to get everything wrong about the story of this regiment. they come from all across the north, 19 men come from my syracuse. in fact, new york state had the second largest contingent in the 54th, pennsylvania was number one, ohio was number two and the sister overflow unit, the 55th, ohio has the largest contingent. again, that's interesting because it means young men, 20 years old, are leaving ohio and they are joining up, yet they can't vote back home. and the still operational dredd scott decision has told them they are not a citizen in the country of their birth but they are putting on a uniform and
they are ready to fight and die for country that doesn't want them as citizens and won't allow them to vote back home. because of all of this, a northern activist decided to start advancing some political demands by the summer of 1863. there had been a black convention movement of course before the war, mostly anti-slavery convention movement that had collapsed with the dredd scott decision. black activists just so gave up after 1857, they kind of walked away from this convention movement. even frederick douglas who always denounced the idea of colonization actually had booked a ticket to go to haiti in the spring of '61 and see what things were like in haiti and only the guns of fort sumter led him to cancel that trip and stay in the united states. the final straw was the behavior of new york governor horatio seymour, a conservative democrat who had been silent during the july draft riots when he had failed to condemn the rioters. i'm sure you all know the story,
a mob had burned an orphanage, black orphanage in manhattan, lynched black men from street lamps. one of the teenagers, a 13-year-old child who was killed by this mob in manhattan, his uncle was in the 54th and so they kill his nephew just as the uncle is getting ready to fight at fort wagner. that's of course why so many black men from new york got on the train and went to readville because the governor simply had no interest in raising a black regiment in the empire state. so in the early summer of '63 this man here on the left, robert pervis called for a convention in poughkeepsie to restart the now mormon black convention movement. he was a charleston-born freeman, obviously very light complexion, had gotten out of south carolina. he's the mastermind also there with henry highland garnet, long
time abolitionist and this man on the right, reverend benjamin franklin randolph, who would go on to become a u.s. army chaplain. he stayed in south carolina when the war was over. he would become a state senator and minister and be assassinated in 1868 getting on a train car in columbia. he had that same kind of combination of religious and spiritual power and political power that of course got the church in charleston shot up last june. two-day gathering and interestingly, the gathering broke up on july 16 with the men of the 54th saw their first action on james island. of course, they had friends, they had cousins, they had sons in the 54th so it was their meeting in poughkeepsie, their sons were bleeding on james island in the first big engagement of the 54th just outside of charleston. the issue of the document called the manifesto of colored citizens, this said this is not just a war against southern slavery. it's quote, a battle for the
right of self-government and true democracy so note what they're doing here. they're not simply saying this is about south carolina, the confederacy, alabama. they're saying this is a war that's also for something. it's for democracy. it's for voting rights for black men all across the north. they are kind of trying to reinterpret what the war is about. and if their sons are going to fight and die in the 54th and 55th, they want to make sure that the country gets things right in new york, pennsylvania and ohio. the last act was to call for future conventions, they see this not as the end of something, not as kind of a one-shot. this is going to be again kind of restarting the old black convention movement. they were going to organize all across the north. it took more than a year but in october, of 1864, the next big convention took place in my syracuse, new york.
150 delegates from washington, d.c. and 17 states, they billed this as a black man's rights convention but 19-year-old highgate had been teaching and was back home just kind of announced she was coming in and she was going to give a speech and she did. the two masterminds here were the man on the left, reverend loguen, a tennessee runaway who got out, made to it syracuse and became an important, a minister, and of course, the man in the middle, the alpha male of the anti-slavery movement, frederick douglas. they were about to become in-laws. loguen's daughter was engaged to louis douglas who by this point had been mustered out. he was so badly wounded at fort wagner he could not fight on. so he comes back home. the media in syracuse in the methodist church, it still exists. it's now a mexican food restaurant.
i can say this as somebody who was born and raised in arizona, it's not very good. they don't have a hard liquor license. they make the margueritas with sweet white wine. no sin there. if you are ever in syracuse, do go to the restaurant. you can sort of feel the douglas vibes of the place. so they meet for three days, issue a series of demands, and in syracuse, it had been attracting free blacks from the upper south, virginia, maryland, delaware for decades. it was the only sizeable city in the state of new york that had integrated schools. rochester did not. but as a reminder, this was still america. many of those in attendance were veterans of the old black convention movement, black anti-slavery movement. douglas of course was there.
john mercer langston, who was going to be working for the freeman's bureau and of course had become a congressman from the state of virginia was there. there is no picture sadly of the 19-year-old girl who kind of elbows her way in. william wells brown on the right, long-time anti-slavery activist. this is the best and the brightest of the black anti-slavery movement that is met here in syracuse. new to the movement but also there, a philadelphia school teacher. we will talk about him more in a minute. he single-handedly integrates spre street cars in philadelphia and pays for that with his life. also the reverend richard cain who would settle in south carolina and go into state politics. and the restauranteur, george downing, who ran a series of restaurants in rhode island. he made -- probably was one of the most prosperous black men at the time and then became the
restauranteur for the house of representatives in washington which gave him kind of a real kind of inside view what was happening in the house and would talk to people like stevens about what should be done in congress. they are all there meeting in syracuse. they met for three days, issued their list of demands and of course, the most obvious simply was an amendment abolishing slavery. note the date. this is october of 1864. this is before congress gets around to even really considering seriously an amendment. they call for voting rights for black men in all states, new york, illinois, ohio, so again, this is not just about the south. this is about fixing the entire country. they called for equal pay for black soldiers. congress had finally just gotten around to doing that. and the right for black men to rise in the ranks and become commissioned officers and again, this reminds us how many of the guys meeting in syracuse had sons, nephews, friends who were serving in the black regiments or usct, so they are kind of speaking for black veterans here.
again, by this date, louis douglas had been mustered out due to wounds. but charles douglas, the baby of the family remained in the 54th and served in the 55th and finally in the calvary as a clerk. he was in the fifth calvary when they come marching into richmond at the war's end. as had the delegates who met in the smaller poughkeepsie convention, they end their convention by calling for more conferences. they want conferences all across the country to kind of push this agenda. and again, they see this not as the end of something but the beginning of a master reform drive. so within months, they met in albany but now of course it was 1865 and that changed everything. by the time they met in albany the war was over. abraham lincoln was dead. and of course, therefore the movement moved south. on may 9, 1865, they met here in
richmond in the house of a black schoomaker named robert johnson. think about how amazing that is. this is two weeks after robert lee surrenders and blacks are meeting here in a political organization here in richmond. in june they met in norfolk and typically, somebody who had been one of the early conventions was kind of deputized to go and speak and kind of continue the message so henry garnet gets on a train, goes to norfolk to explain what had been happening in poughkeepsie, syracuse and albany. they met in a baptist church. within weeks, they met in alexandria, virginia. there they endorsed the earlier agenda issued by the syracuse delegations and demanded now that virginia be reconstructed on the basis of universal suffrage, black or white. they met just a few blocks from what had been the old franklin
slave trading factory. as one of the delegates said if we had done this two months before we would have been hanged and now we are meeting in a political convention. two weeks after that they simply moved across the river and met in a convention in washington, d.c. the list went on. new orleans had fallen to the u.s. navy as early as 1862. there of course, the african-american community had been badly divided for decades among fairly prosperous mixed race freemen and now newly liberated black slaves. but oscar dunn who had been in syracuse got on the train, went all the way down to new orleans and countselcounseled the black community to put aside their differences. when they met you had this amazing convention of well-to-do new orleans people of color who had been born free sitting next to shabbily dressed field hands and black veterans. and of course, the south had been passing black codes at the end of the war, and that kind of
shoved those who were free before the war and those freed during the war into this kind of new political alliance. on august they met in nashville. one of the speakers was a former south carolina slave turned sergeant in the usct, henry maxwell. again, this is no accident. a lot of these guys come back from the war with their uniform and 178,000 men of color fight in the u.s. army, about 140,000 were born slaves so they come home to tennessee, to virginia, and like the delegates in syracuse, they are not going to accept turning the clock back and having things the way they were back in 1860. speaking here, sergeant maxwell said that black americans had already won the cartridge box as he put it. he said now it's time for us to win the ballot box and the jury box.
the same pattern held true when they met on august 9 in far-away sacramento. where there, they were dealing with segregated street cars. soon they met in harrisburg, cleveland and again, after every convention at least one or tw men agreed to go to another city, start a convention there, pass the message on and kind of keep this drive going. i was in a conference in raleigh last summer walking down the street and there was an a.m.e. church and there was a sign, free men's convention. where the convention meets and black men start to make political demands. the question of course is how you get congress to agree to this. now they have got this big convention movement going. what they have to do is force somebody in washington to pay attention and to effect some kind of change.
notice how progressive they are by comparison to what so-called radicals in congress are doing. 1866, of course, there are anti-black riots in memphis, riots in new orleans, congress responds by passing the civil rights act, and what does the civil rights act not call for? it does not call for black voting rights. these guys, at least two years out in front of the radicals in congress calling for democratization of the american military, calling for voting rights all across the country, calling for an end of slavery. they finally decide they are going to go to washington now and make their case. they have this kind of groundswell conventions and now it's time to go and make their case. so in february of 1866, they have a delegation, frederick douglas, his wounded son louis douglas, and the restauranteur, george downing, they all go down, they have a disastrous meeting with andrew johnson.
they are as polite as they can be. johnson seems not to know who douglas was. at one point he said bieshy the, lincoln i don't think ever read douglas' narrative. the first time lincoln and douglas met, he began to explain who he was and lincoln said i heard all about you, i know exactly who you are. johnson seems not to. at one point, johnson says to him have you ever lived on a plantation. he thinks douglas is from rochester. douglas says matter of fact, i was born on one in maryland. disastrous meeting. when the delegation leaves, johnson turns to his secretary and says you know, i know people like that douglas that negro, doesn't use the term negro, says he would rather put a knife in the white man's back than anything. but the delegation had great success. they talked to republicans in congress. they make two kinds of pitches for why congress should get on board with sort of the convention agenda.
the first simply is war. 180,000 black men had now risked their lives, they fought for country, it's time for the country to fight for them. recognize they are citizens and voters. but these guys are also pragmatic and practical so they are not just going to make a moral argument. they remind politicians how elections work in this country. they point out now 13th amendment is being passed how that changes other parts of the constitution and of course, it erases the three-fifths clause. if black men can't vote, south carolina will lose the war and be rewarded by getting more seats in congress which of course they will fill with conservative white democrats. so if black men can vote, that's going to be the difference. they also remind congressmen how the electoral college works. 1860, of course, lincoln wins with a record low, still a record low popular vote of 39.8%. lincoln got in 1860 1,887 votes
in what is now west virginia. of course, nobody was handing out lincoln tickets, the precursors to modern ballots in south carolina, mississippi and douglas reminds republican congressmen south carolina and mississippi have a black majority. so you know, lincoln wins because he's running against a former whig, he wins again in '64 because the south isn't voting. '60 it's going to be different. so in '68, grant loses new york which lincoln carried twice. but he carries both north carolina, south carolina, florida and alabama. so what does grant say in his inaugural address? let's make quick work of the 15th amendment and get black voting rights because grant is quite aware he was elected president thanks to southern black votes and now he wants those blacks to be able to vote in new york, pennsylvania and so finally thanks to the 15th
amendment, five years after the fighting is over, that black barber in rochester can go to the polls and vote. sometimes a lot of these activists paid for their efforts with their life. here is again young school teacher, octavius catto, taught as an all black school for boys in philadelphia. he taught greek, latin, mathematics, geometry. he's teaching the same kind of curriculum elite white boys would be taking. he's walking home one day and this is the city of brotherly love, and the street cars are segregated and like rosa parks, he's had a long day and he's tired and he gets on a streetcar and he's holding his nickel and it's late in the day. driver tells him to get off. he's not going to get off. driver says he doesn't need this headache, he simply unhooks the team, takes the team back to the
barn, figures he'll come back in the morning and the kid will be gone. comes back the next morning, catto is still sitting there holding his nickel and overnight the streetcar has filled up with black philadelphians and they are all holding a nickel and they are not going to get off. the city comes in and integrates street cars. and he was assassinated in 1871 on election day, murdered by a philadelphia democrat in front of a giant crowd and the all white jury let him go. the former south carolina slave, roberts walls turned politician turned u.s. congressman, in the 1890s, gave a speech in congress in which he said 53,000, 53,000 black activists had been systematically targeted for elimination and assassination and the number's interesting. not about 50,000, but 53,000. he's keeping data.
he's keeping count. when i was working on this book and i'm reading the papers of people like blanche bruce, the black senator from howard university, blacks all across the country as far away as oregon are writing to people like robert smalls, blanche bruce because they are their representatives as well because they are the black political voice in washington. people are writing. they're saying here's what's happening in this county in alabama or here's what's happening here and he's keeping count. look at those numbers. all americans today know about gettysburg and of course, we should. this means the casualty rate for being a black activist in reconstruction is worse than being at gettysburg. what the white south learns early on is the danger of putting on a white robe, riding around the south, congress passes the klan act under grant's prodding.
as soon as they catch one guy he names names or a lot of prison time in upstate new york. the government crushes the organized klan pretty quickly but white vigilantes in the south understand you don't need to put on a robe or have 20 guys with you. you simply sit outside of the house of a poll worker or activist and then you shoot him when he comes out the door and you ride away and no one knows and one of the main sources for the book were the freed men bureau papers and i would look at counties in the south in october, november and december of election year and they are essentially nothing bau but atrocity records where i'm sure you know in those days they voted with like a big bookmark ticket, he had the tickets and last night they killed him and we took the tickets and basically we have no ballots on election day. that would make a bureau report, it would make a local newspaper. it doesn't make the national
news. one by one, vigilantes come to understand, today's catto who goes to syracuse to convention is working as a poll worker getting shot on election today is tomorrow's state assemblyman and next year's u.s. congressman and year after that might be like blanche bruce, u.s. senator. you eliminate them before they get that level of thing. catto's story of course because he is in philadelphia does make the national news. this is from a black newspaper. but the fact is, he wins his fight but loses his war. let me summarize this way and then we will have time for questions, if you wish. black activists of course always had white allies. but their experiences were different. wayne garrison understood there was racism in his massachusetts but had never been attacked by white toughs for the crime of walking down broadway with a white lady on his elbow which of course happened to frederick
douglas. he was never thrown off a carriage like activist david ruggles for the crime of being black inside the carriage as opposed to getting on top. bear in mind that many garrisonnians didn't vote. they were pacifists. they didn't like the kind of deals politicians make. he burned copies of the constitution, didn't vote. so for them, fighting for the right to vote wasn't that important but for former sergeant major louis douglas, it was a sacred right and responsibility. so when we think about the end of the war and the dawn of reconstruction, we are right to praise the victors. i should say here that my people were north carolina slave holders. when i talk about victors i'm not talking about my great great grandfather. we are right to applaud general grant so magnanimous in victory at appomattox.
we were right to mourn the events of good friday at ford's theater. frederick douglas called the conflict a war for national reclamation and black americans understood the fighting had hardly ended at appomattox. in many ways it was just beginning. that was 43 minutes. [ applause ] so we have time i think for questions, discussion, disagreement. please buy my book. it's out there. i'm still paying off one loan for my college daughter. you can get her out of hock. >> can i ask a question?
about the situation in new orleans. we were talking last night about a proposal that you had heard about about the possibility of a proposal for erecting a monument to james longstreet in new orleans. if you could comment on the back story behind why that was proposed at all and the prospects for it. >> that's, yeah, let me sort of the really big back story on longstreet. the doctor was talking about the endless question we will never know the answer to, what would have happened if lincoln had not gone to ford's theater that night. one of the things i discovered while researching this book and there was also another book that just came out by mark summers under construction who had a lot of the same findings, the rank and file confederates understand they have lost in '65 and all you have to do is look at a picture of richmond, charleston, you understand why. bureau reports, letters from
soldrs all across the south are saying, they are licked and they know they're licked. basically they will accept, you know, anything we impose on them, they are done fighting, their cities are destroyed, their economy is in tatter, the rail lines, the bridges are gone, and james longstreet writes a series of editorials in new orleans papers who says we fought the good fight, we won, we fought it, they won, we lost, and if we have any sense at all we will go along and accept what happens. so of course, when johnson comes along and basically gives what dick cheney would call the dead enders. that's not an endorsement of dick cheney. but the people, kind of the hardcore reactionaries gives them the green light and ip convinced they're the ones who kind of then not just assassinate people like catto but kind of shout down the james longstreets who say it's over, let's kind of pick up the pieces and move ahead and let's accept
any kind of solution that republicans wish to impose upon us. and so there's a moment in time i think when reconstruction could have been very, very different. so for me, one of the real tragedies is because this war isn't won in 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, reconstruction does not end in 1877. it has to be fought again. in the 1950s and 1960s. so once again, people put their lives on the line to integrate schools, north, south, decent apartment rates in chicago, because the fight wasn't done, wasn't finished the first time around. so i mean, i think one of the real tragedies, it's not for me that lincoln was the only guy for the job. it's that andrew johnson was the absolute worst guy for the job and makes it very clear to the white south, go about your business, do whatever you want, actually reenslaving black americans and so it really gives
that hardcore reactionary group the green light and essentially silences people like james longstreet. i think that's one of the many crimes of andrew johnson. >> how would you assess the interest or perhaps the disinterest of black americans today in your work? >> well, i'm not sure there is. when the book came out i gave a talk in atlanta at the cyclerama which is closed. i speak at a place, it's closed. i hope things don't happen here. that's a fairly black neighborhood and i had a really good turnout. actually, mostly older black ladies who came. i find in general, looking at the audience here, i don't see a lot of 21 year olds and that's
not to pick on any of us or my gray hair, but most i think are not that interested in the war years or reconstruction. i think that's really quite criminal. if you want to be horrified, go on youtube. there's a young student at the university of texas, i was interviewing students about the war and reconstruction and the young black man, her question is who won the war. he said well, i don't know. the south? so you know, as somebody who taught now 31 years, i'm often horrified by what my students do and don't know about early american history and that's, you know, that's in the north. so i think it's a very important story and i think americans need to realize that it doesn't end in '65 and that there was kind of a whole new chapter here and that's what americans i think get a little fuzzy about is what happens in reconstruction. bear in mind there are black congressmen all the way down to
1901, george henry white of north carolina is the last to walk away, his district is gerrymandered, he gives up and stays in washington. the question of does reconstruction fail. if you're talking about shop keeper in chicago, it doesn't because now thanks to the 15th amendment you have voting rights that never go away the way they do in parts of the south. there's places in the south where black local political involvement actually rises after 1877. what democrats are trying to do is carry those states' electoral college. they don't care if there's a black assemblyman in this one district in louisiana. so for me, reconstruction, a, doesn't fail, it's killed. where it does stop, it's murdered. and it doesn't stop every place. so for blacks in my new york, it is in fact a story of success. does that mean all of america's racial problems are solved? not a bit. not anywhere.
but those voting rights are not going to go away. those integrated schools are not going to go away. >> the question i have for you is, i understand where you're coming from, these gentlemen had to have some supporters, i assume there were some whites. i got garrison and some of the others but you also indicated some folks here that a lot of us had not heard of so the corollary is are there some whites that were also part of this that we haven't heard of that were working with them? you certainly had a number of educators coming to the south and so forth but were there any men of douglas' standing or even, i had never heard of this catto gentleman before either. white, not black. >> right. the ones we would regard or douglas would regard as an ally we have heard of. and sumner has also figured out immediately that the
three-fifths clause is going to be a problem unless blacks can vote. they say to him it will sink the bill if you push for black voting rights. part of it is, a lot of these guys come out of the liberty party. garrison and douglas break early on because douglas does support engaging in politics and garrison doesn't believe in that. most of these black men have been voting liberty party in '56, in 1860. but they also understand that it's important this be a black-run movement, which is why they call these conventions the black men's meeting, the black men's convention. which is also a reminder they have the same kind of victorian attitudes toward women that white men do but of course, women can't vote so why bring them to the convention. but they understand it's important to get up and makes these speeches themselves and so they certainly do want to have white republicans in washington who are open to their ideas. but it's not unlike the women who meet at seneca falls in
1848. they think it's important for women to be running the show, to show that women can get up and organize this way, make speeches, i'm sorry, i wave my hands when i speak, the microphones, and so these guys understand the importance that importance that this time black men are not going to be sitting in the back while garrison speaks. they will be running the operation. they do want republicans in washington to then get on their bandwagon and embrace their agenda. and, of course, my book is not all about black activists. it's about 4r0e8 activism. a lot of those are teachers from chicago, young women who go down and work in the south and white men go down to teach and work at the friedman's bureau, for all the right reasons when the war is over. they have to have those kind of low-level allies. but there's nobody who is as famous or douglas or jermaine logan that we have not heard of today. again, they are, but they're in congress.
how are the sizable native american populations affected by reconstruction? >> that's probably something that mark should be discussing later on. the native policy you're talking about? native american policy? >> native american population [ inaudible ] as we all know, living in oklahoma fighting for the confederacy owned slads. at the war's end, they accept them into cherokee society as equals. about ten years ago, cherokee
society then kind of threw him back out. so i mean, the liberty policy is kind of the 1%. others speaking today will have better answers when it comes to discussing native american policy. . >> would you comment on the experience of the blacks in the far west? >> let me rephrase your question and my answer. because whether it's 1865 or 1945, middle class white guys want to go home when they have businesses and farms and jobs and woois to go back home to. before that 140,000 slaves might have spouses to go home to, but they don't have farms, they don't have jobs. and so disproportionately, they're the ones who stay in the
military. the occupying force, both before and after the military construction act is disproportionately black. a lot of guys stay in the u.s. army. they're the ones who actually end up fighting out west against native americans. and one of the things that actually damages reconstruction in the south is the indian wars in the u.s. because the u.s. decides to down size the army dramatically after '65. the guys want to go home. and also because the country is spending a huge amount of money on the military. a black company that's needed to hold fair elections in south carolina get shipped out to the dakotas. they're finding a lot of letters. don't take any more of our guys and move them out west to fight the indians because we need them
here on election day. the indian wars has an impact in terms of wounding reconstruction in the south. that's a very long answer to it. >> yes. just curious in the wars of reconstruction of the attitudes or any sort of support or activities from the union generals in the war. granted they were probably fighting what for union, maybe not dissolution of slavery. >> one of the things that grant gets somewhat a bad wrap. grant is sympathetic to the
plight of blacks in the south and black soldiers in the south. what's interesting is that blacks southerners want him b k back. black americans, they think he's the one guy that will slap down his former enemies and help blacks and black veterans in the south. so there are people, especially during grant's first term, grant does kind of occasionally rouse himself enough to get involved with this issue. i think for most republicans in congress even, it's just kind of time to move on. that endless kind of struggles in the south, sort of wear down people in congress. it looks like the whites are just never going to give up -- you pass the civil rights act, they respond.
you pass the klan act, they respond with low will have level vigilante violence. and most of the country, white country is ready to move on after the war. and so the blacks pretty much are on their own down in the south or in philadelphia. >> one last one. a. >> there began to be exservicemen groups. did you find in your research that these groups played any significant part in advancing social political interests of a particular black ex-servicemen or the black population generally. >> especially in the north, they do. quite often, they're mostly joining predominantly white
chapters. in places in the north and new england, they have a lobbying power. of course in general, they're a giant lobbying machine. not so much involved in larger civil rights issues, but certainly in the north they do have an impact. and there's a few attempts to have white or black units, but especially in new england, blacks often serve members as white units. kwaen carney, the first black congressional medal of honor winner, he's the guy who holds the flag up after being shot in both legs, the shoulder, the back of his head. and he is just beloved by white jr men in length. he's always speaking at their rallies and groups. he was talking about political agenda in new england. they have kind of a low-level impact. thank you.
>> book tv has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend. and here are some programs to watch for. george washington university professor katherine ross discusses her book "lessons in censorship" which examines free speech issues for college students. and then at 10:00, former u.s. civil rights chair mary frances berry examines illegal voting practices in the united states. she's interviewed by spencer oberton, president for the joint center of political and economic studies. >> the donor class through the people in office and running for office, and the same people over and over very often in the state legislatu legislatures, they are the ones who are corrupt and they are the
ones corrupting democracy. and the other people are not getting the benefits of it because they're not acting collectively to counteract it and haven't found a way to counteract it in all of these years. >> on sunday in depth, live with guest steve forbes, author and publisher of "forbes" magazine. he'll talk about his life and his latest book "reviving america" in which he arguing repealing health care law, reframing the tax code and reforming the fed. how capitalism will save us and power, ambition, glory. join in the conversation. we'll take your phone calls, tweets and e-mails. then at 7:45, join book tv as we take a look at the fold jer spaks peer library, home to the largest spaks here collection. go to book tv.org for the complete weekend schedule.
>> every election cycle we're reminded how important it is for citizens to be informed. c-span is a vehicle for empow empowering people to make good choices. it really is like you're getting a seven-course gourmet five-star meal of policy. and boy do i just sound like a nerd right there, but it's true. >> to me, c-span is a home to political junkies and track the government as it happens, whether it's on capitol hill or the agencies. >> most staffers seem to have a television on their desk and c-span is on. i think it's a great way for us to stay informed. >> i urgely colleagues to vote for this amendment. there are a lot of c-span fans on the hill. my colleagues, when i go back today, they're going to say i saw you on c-span. >> you can get something like the history of grain elevators in pennsylvania or landmarks supreme court decisions. . >> i believe believe that we will when!