After Slavery: Educator Resources

Exhibit Splash Image

3. An Unnamed Black Organizer Reports on the Reception for Republican Speakers among Freedpeople in South Carolina

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Two: Freed Slaves Mobilize in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

Here is another, more brief report to Schenck from one of the black "organizers" touring the South on behalf of the Republican Party. South Carolina, the location this report came from, was one of two former slave states with a black majority at the time of emancipation (the other being Mississippi). The 'league' alluded to below is a reference to the Union (or 'Loyal') Leagues, which served as the organizational vehicles for grassroots Republican organization across the South. Though Republican officials intended these Leagues to mainly serve as electoral machines that would bring out black and white unionist voters at election time, in many places the Leagues took on a life of their own—serving as hubs for labor organizing, as networks for organizing self-defense, and as schools for the political education of freed men and women. While Reconstruction had been overthrown in Georgia by 1874, South Carolina's Republican state government would be the last among the former slave states to fall to white, conservative 'Redemption,' after a violent and bitterly fought election in 1876.

An Unnamed Black Organizer Reports on the Reception for Republican Speakers among Freedpeople in South Carolina

A colored speaker and organizer in South Carolina writes from Charleston under date of August 2d [1867] as follows:

Yours of the 24th ultimo containing check for $50, came to hand in due time. I have been traveling for some time in this State and have addressed large meetings in 18 or 20 districts. Have organized the league in ten districts. The greatest interest exists among the colored men everywhere. They are wide awake. When any person known to be in sympathy with the Republican party and the North, goes into a neighborhood to speak, the Freedmen flock in crowds to hear him. It was a good move, sending speakers here. More are needed. In my next I will give a more extended report.

Source: Robert C. Schenck Papers, Miami University Archives, Ohio


Questions to Consider

  1. How can we account for the assertion that black Carolinians manifested "the greatest interest" in the outdoor mass meetings that began to be organized by the Republicans across the state in 1867? What does this organizer mean when he asserts that the "colored men" were "wide awake"?

  2. The organizer mentions the enthusiasm of black men but not women in relation to the meetings. How might we explain this: is it an oversight on his part or do you suspect that it reflected the actual composition of the mass meetings?

  3. According to this document, there is an eager constituency for Republican politics in the immediate post-emancipation period. How might the party attempt to follow up this success in organizing meetings?

  4. The report notes the need for more speakers to tour the state. Where might the Republicans look to for individuals who could carry out this work effectively?

  5. How do you think South Carolina's white population responded to these developments among freedpeople at this time?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Two