1869 SHARECROPPERS' AGREEMENT -
Three former slaves sign to work land in
Alabama for one half the harvest.
Following the collapse of the slave
economy at the end of the Civil War, numerous freedmen in Southern
agriculture areas, lacking both capital and land, agreed to become either
hired laborers or farm tenants--many of the latter signed agreements to work
the land as sharecroppers, keeping one half to two thirds of the corn and
cotton crops for
themselves, and giving the remainder to the landowners.
LEGAL CASE IN TEXAS -
bizarre case beginning on February 26, 1866, two men hired three slaves from Henrietta Ames for
one year as of January 1, 1865, before the end of the Civil War. However, on
the 19th of June ("Juneteenth") of that year, Gen. Gordon Granger issued his
Gen. Orders No. 3, freeing all the slaves in Texas based upon President
Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The plaintiffs argued fraud
because Mrs. Ames represented “....said Negroes to be her property....but
were freed by the Proclamation....on the 1st of January, 1863....about June
of 1865 said Proclamation went into complete effect, and said Negroes had
the right to control their own time.” The plaintiffs, therefore, only had
the services of the slaves for six months instead of the full year
originally agreed upon. In an interesting legal defense, Mrs. Ames's
attorneys argued that President Lincoln had no lawful or constitutional
right to have issued such a proclamation!
THE ILL-FATED FREEDMAN'S SAVINGS AND TRUST COMPANY -
Important letter of Frederick Douglass -
Douglass as president writes to John A. J.
Creswell, the Bank's third and final commissioner, asking him to assume his new
duties and take over the assets of the company. The three commissioners,
Creswell, R.H.T. Leipold, and Robert Purvis, the only African American, actually
took charge of the bank's affairs on July 11. After three months as president,
Douglass had voted on July 1 to close the bank, stating in his 1881
autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, “I regarded the
institution as insolvent and irrecoverable, and that I could no longer ask my
people to deposit money in it.” The bank was officially closed the following day
owing to insolvency. Black depositors lost an estimated $3,000,000 in savings;
Douglass himself lost thousands of his own savings in an attempt to stabilize
the failing institution. The accompanying check for a mere twenty cents was part of the last of three
declared dividends (Sept. 1, 1880), under the administration of the
commissioners. However, as it was difficult to locate the many thousands
of depositors, some 40,000 dividends went unclaimed.
THE COLORED CONVENTION - On Jan. 13,
1869, a large group of African Americans met for one week to inquire into
the actual condition of the Negro race in the nation, and "to consider the
political and social problems which that race has to encounter as the result
of emancipation." A committee called on President Grant with their concerns,
and he responded with promises of full protection of the law and
his own personal guarantee.
BLACKS IN THE SOUTH CAROLINA
LEGISLATURE DURING RECONSTRUCTION - 2 3/8" x 4" card with
photographs of 63 members of the Legislature of South Carolina during
the period of Reconstruction --50 blacks and 13 whites. Some of the more
notable figures include Joseph Hayne Rainey, the first black seated in the
U.S. House of Representatives (1870), and William Whipper who helped found
the first African American law firm.
FREEDMEN IN THE SOUTH DISCUSSING POLITICS -
In a sketch from an original July 25, 1868 issue of Harper's Weekly, newly enfranchised former
slaves, who can now vote in local, state and federal elections under the
protection of Federal troops, are shown listening intently to a campaign
pitch from a black candidate for office.
REPUBLICAN PARTY COURTS BLACK VOTERS IN 1868 -
In a question-and-answer format, this rare 4-page campaign pamphlet
urges freedmen to vote for Gen. Grant for President. It explains that the
Republican Party emancipated "the colored man" and is "in favor of universal
freedom." "Elect them and your rights are ensured."
RECONSTRUCTION ERA (c. 1865-1877) - AFRICAN
AMERICANS VOTE FOR THE FIRST TIME! In March 1867, Congress
passed the Reconstruction Acts that divided the Southern states into five
military districts, each with a commander tasked to oversee new state
constitutions that allowed for enfranchisement of all adult males. The above
sketch from Harper's Weekly shows the "REGISTRATION OF COLORED
VOTERS" in Richmond, Va., while the more scarce and famous front page
illustration "THE FIRST VOTE" (right) shows freedmen, free blacks, and
Union soldiers proudly casting their ballots in the South.
Top of Page