After Slavery: Educator Resources

Exhibit Splash Image

8. A Conservative Realizes the Mistakes of Earlier Policies

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Five: Conservatives Respond to Emancipation in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

Some conservatives saw what was happening in 1867 and realized that their earlier intransigence had caused them to miss opportunities to shape the situation in their favor. In the excerpt below James Hemphill of Chester, South Carolina, explains to his brother in Alabama that as the Reconstruction Acts are being implemented and freedmen registered to vote and organized into the Republican party, he and men like him feel powerless and confused.

A Conservative Realizes the Mistakes of Earlier Policies

. . . A convention of the republican party has been held in Columbia to establish a platform which was quite radical. . . A few white persons were present but it was principally composed of negroes. They are organizing in the state, having lectures among them to disseminate the views of the party. One meeting has bene held here, and there is to be a . . . one tomorrow when I suppose speeches will be made. I have been invited out, but I do not know that I will attend. Nothing will be acceptable to them except perfect equality as to suffrage, office holding etc. . . If the colored people choose to support their own race they can elect them if they please, and adopt any measures, that they may deem best. Our affairs have been sadly mismanaged by the President and our own people.

We ought to have adopted the Constitutional amendment but deluded by the President, the DP, and our Editors and politicians, it was rejected, and for now has befallen us. If our people had gone into the measure unassumingly and resolutely determined to carry them out in good faith, it would have been far better for us... [now] the people are apathetic, uncertain what to do... I am disfranchised myself, but if I had a vote it would certainly be exercised in an effort to restore Government.

Source: James Hemphill [Chester] to Dear Brother [WR Hemphill, Camden, Alabama], August 2, 1867, Duke University Special Collections


Questions to Consider

  1. What does Hemphill blame Andrew Johnson for?

  2. What mistakes does Hemphill believe "our people" made during Presidential Reconstruction?

  3. What is Hemphill's response to black political mobilization?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Five