tv Freedmen During Reconstruction CSPAN February 26, 2017 9:00am-10:16am EST
3. >> a panel of historians talks about what life was like for freedmen after the civil war and the overall successes and failures of reconstruction. they discussed educational opportunities, land redistribution, and voting rights as well as the politics behind these reconstruction measures. this panel was part of the annual lincoln forum's symposium. it is about an hour in 15 minutes. mr. williams: the title of this panel may be a little deceiving. it is -- if i can read it here. [laughter] mr. williams: voting rights for black freedmen. what went right and what wrong. it seems to be couched in the terms of voting rights. it is really about reconstruction.
i think you all know that and get it because what undermines the whole progressive effort to reconstruction is the lack of voting rights for those freed men and women. we will expand this beyond voting. we just could not get there is a nation with the 13th amendment, with the civil rights act of 1866. it did not give voting rights to the african-americans. and neither did the 14th amendment with its equal protection and due process. it took the 15th amendment. and of course that is not work either because of every effort by some to deny african-americans this great franchise of voting. why do you think people come to this country?
one of the things is the ability to choose their own representatives. we have a great panel. i don't say that every time we have a panel. [laughter] we have a great one today. joan waugh, a professor of history at ucla. what is so important -- impressing me is the groundbreaking work you do with the u.s. grant american hero, american myth. as i told her more than once, it has done so much to restore the reputation of a real hero, ulysses grant. next is douglas egerton, professor of history at lemoyne college in syracuse. he does not know it, although i tried to elude to it when i speak with him that he really has been a mentor to me an understanding about
reconstruction with the legal, political and cultural implications. he did that through his wonderful book "the brief, violent history of america's most repressive era." "thunder at the gates: the black civil war regiments that redeemed america." and edna green medford, executive member of the lincoln forum, chairman of the department and professor of history at howard university. co-author of "abraham lincoln and the emancipation proclamation reviews." so, before i ask each of them to make remarks, i have asked each to speak for three to five minutes and then i will give them some questions.
then we will open the floor for you. we hope there are many questions. but for many americans, reconstruction is still remembered if it is remembered at all as a period of racial anarchy, political failure and humiliation of the defeated south. it is probably there to say american's impressions of the era have been shaped, if only have consciously, by films such as "birth of a nation" and "gone with the wind," with their caricatures of yankee carpetbaggers and scalawags more than bite details knowledge of what happened in the south between 1865 and 1876 and the years that followed. it is sometimes inspiring but more often deeply shocking story
that reveals the nation at its best and worst, when newly freed slaves and idealists, both black and white, struggled heroically against white terrorism to reserve the rights the union armies had one on the battlefield. and that republican members of congress confirmed in the years after the war. i think we have to see reconstruction too not as bad policy doomed by corruption and incompetence, but by a forward looking program that was subverted by organized violence, domestic terrorism. the central question about reconstruction is usually, why did it fail as opposed to ended? it hints that the process was somehow flawed and contributed to its own passing. the first question from me to
professor waugh, did reconstruction fail? >> good morning. first of all i will pander to the audience for one second and tell you how much i have enjoyed attending my first lincoln forum, both as a presenter and is a member of the audience. you are terrific. [applause] i will say that reconstruction gets an 'f'great and it always itgets and "f" grade, and always has in terms of history books. first, it was awarded a grant by the loss causes dorians and then -- an f grade by the lost cause
historians, and then by the 1950's and 60's historians and it is still being awarded that great for the -- i think it is something we should talk about. i always tell my students, and i think we can flush it out, that reconstruction is a qualified success and a qualified failure. i mean it was a qualified failure in that it did not live up to the promise of equality that many african-americans expected at the end of the war and many white abolitionists wanted. it was a qualified success, and i may be a little outside the current consensus that the people living at the time, the majority of the northerners who voted on reconstruction issues, that the premier concern was
would the union stay together after this terrible war. the united states persisted. they consider that a great, magnificent achievement. we have to understand, even if we don't agree that it was, we have to understand that was an overwhelming consensus confirmed in the elections of 1868, 1872 and 1876. i will leave you with that for now, but also i want to tell you my favorite quote from -- it was originally not applied to reconstruction but i have applied it to reconstruction. that is by the novelist and social critic william howles. "what the american public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending." that is what appomattox provides
for generations to come. that is what we are discontented about an reconstruction. [applause] >> i think it begs the question on did the the civil war end at appomattox? i think if you read the good work of professor michael vornberg he wrote the book on the 13th amendment, he has the opinion that appomattox and not really end our civil war. so professor doug egerton, we talk about voting rights being denied to african-americans and people of color. what about any effect on voting rights in the north for example? mr. egerton: let me survey
-- start by echoing joan. we had dinner with president lincoln and that doesn't happen very often. also last night my friend catherine ward biggest geeks slowlyed me to speak which is not one of my skills. especially when you're given three minutes to answer a long question. i will probably talk fast. in my book i tried to write about black white, north, south, east, west, and you have conservatives like andrew johnson that don't use reconstruction. then you have white republicans using the term reconstruction. even the so-called radicals, when you asked what reconstruction is, they say it's a policy for the defeated confederacy. when you ask frederick douglas, it is a national policy. douglass says this is a war for national reclamation.
bear in mind, we had lincoln's last speech at richmond. he said he believed voting rights was something to be earned. he got the 179,000 men in blue uniforms had earned that right. lincoln's modern critics are not impressed. ok. there are 4 million freed americans at that moment, half of whom are men. 200,000 is a small drop in the bucket. we will put that in a larger context. when lincoln says those words on the eve of his assassination black men can vote on an equal basis and only five doing when states. -- in five new england states. in new york, where i live, the quality that it is not impose on white. frederick douglas who owns a house in business in rochester
can vote, but his son is badly wounded at fort wagner cannot. in lincoln's illinois, no blacks can vote in indiana. of the 179,000 black men is served, 38,000 are born free and the north. i'm sure you have seen "glory." wonderful film the gets all serving wrong. ng wrong.s everythig you get the impression all the soldiers were runaway slaves. the largest contention is from pennsylvania. new york is number two. ohio was number three. these men are serving, fighting and dying and living in states that did not allow them to vote. they comes down to whether this is a success or a failure, if you're a black soldier going back to ohio, you never lose the right to vote. it is one of the things that reconstruction gets right. enfranchising black men across the north.
mr. williams: thank you very much. professor edna green medford, what was the reaction to what was going on after appomattox? was there anything positive about what was dreamed about or anticipated in the efforts to reconstruction or restoration/ ms. medford: i would like to -- i never remember to do that. i want to echo the sentiment of my fellow panelists. this is in the special audience you are. in the 21 years of this organization i have been here for 19. i always return because -- [applause] this is such a special place.
at the end of the war african-american expected full-service and should. -- full citizenship. it also meant all the rights that other americans had shared for all the years of the nation had existed. they expected to be of the control their own destinies. they expected economic independence. they wanted an education. they simply wanted to be allowed to exercise their american birthright. we all agree that reconstruction was tragic. it was tragic not because that's not necessarily because no one had a plan for the free people. there was a plan developed eventually, but it was because the kinds of accomplishments that occurred were not sustained.
it is easy to say that everything went wrong, but everything did not go wrong. there were many accomplishments during this period. one of the most important was after people got their freedom. they were able to at least attempt to reconstitute their families. there were so many people who have been separated during slavery. one of the first things they were attempting to do was find loved ones. they were not always successful. in many instances they were not successful. but they were at least trying to do that. men could now at least have the expectation of taking care of their families, of protecting their families. that expectation was not always realize because of violence and all the other things that happened of a negative sort during this period. there were some people who did get economic independence. they were able to do it by becoming subsistence farmers. they did not want to enter the commercial market because that
would make them beholden to white men. they were able to acquire a small piece of land. soldiers had bounties. they use those funds and they pooled resources with other african-americans and were able to purchase land. that is not the case for most african-americans, but it is true for a few of them depending on what part of the country they lived in. education was extremely important and possible at this time. as a consequence of a great deal of effort by the freedmen's bureau, the american missionary association, other organizations, and largely by the freed people themselves, schools were established. not just elementary and secondary schools, but schools of higher learning as well. we know some of those early schools that called themselves colleges were really not. they were normal schools to train teachers, but i was extremely important.
at least one of them, howard university -- had to give that plug. i do want to go back to work on monday. howard was established as a university. it also had a divinity school, a law school, a medical school, almost from the very beginning. people realized there were some african-americans who were ready to get that level of education. most were not because they had been denied literacy while they were enslaved, but there were a few who had been freeborn. some enslaved people within able to get an education who were ready for this advance in education. mr. williams: thank you very much. does anyone as to make a comment on, speed by your fellow panelists? joan, i think it is true that
reconstruction dominated grants presidency. unlike many, he knew it brought liberation not occupation, and empowered or should have empowered african-americans in states where they were a majority or a large minority. so can you comment on what role you see president grant in the whole issue of reconstruction and the progressive philosophy that it was intended to provide or give? do i have three minutes for this? mr. williams: yes, you do. >> yes, i can comment. richard current, a historian said this about grant. he was commander-in-chief during the reconstruction phase of a continuing civil war.
i remind the audience and emphasize it's important to know, think, to put this in your pipe and smoke it that after the chaotic few months after appomattox the confederate army disbanded. the confederate states of america was gone and there was nothing to replace it. the majority of enslaved people were still not officially free, and in many states their owners tried to tell them they were not free. this was a period -- it is really dramatic and fascinating. the fate of african-americans themselves, slaves in the south, as well as southern whites remained in the hands of the politicians in washington, d.c.
and elections. this tennis game back and forth is fascinating. to me it has always been one of the most exciting periods in american history. as far as grant was concerned, last night and yesterday i heard a lot of people say, well, he of course including mr. williams say he was utterly unprepared for the presidency. what president is? you know the most prepared president -- i am going on a rant. i need to stop. [laughter] the most prepared president in american history was james buchanan. excellent job, james. [laughter] how could you not be prepared? you are a senior commander in the union army, taking in general by the end it was identified as winning the war for the united states and tasked
with not only fighting and developing strategy, but dealing with politicians from washington and policy that changed from one day to another in your occupation of various territories. you dealt with issues of emancipation. he knew it would not be easy and he was also commander-in-chief during reconstruction, overseeing military reconstruction. he brought to his presidency eight or nine months of being the interim secretary of war in a comic opera situation where stanton was removed. the reputation of grant as president has been deeply influenced by the loss causes story ends who found him a dictator, a caesar as he was called by the democrats of that day, and an utterly incompetent and stupid. the view now since the 1960's is
that he did not do enough. if we can read the volumes of the u.s. grant papers now presided over by the brilliant john marrslick in his crew in mississippi, how great is that, he struggled. no president elected to the office doesn't feel that he is walking into -- to use a 20th century term -- the helicopter propeller. you are bloodied, in pieces, but you learn in your job. i would argue u.s. grant did learn on the job. he did have a hard task. a hard task facing the people who believed in bringing civil rights and voting rights to african-americans in the south.
he had to face the fact that beyond emancipation there was no agreement on what could be done in terms of civil rights and voting rights. the goals of reconstruction was to figure that out. the premier goal of reconstruction was to reunite the united states. how could you do that incorporating reunion, restoration, reconciliation? had to deal with embittered white southerners who were still the majority of the population and still have the power. this was a very difficult task that grant had before him when he was elected president in 1868. he tried to enforce the 14th and
especially the 15th amendments. he passed laws that made the election of 1872, which used the federal government coming down in southern states where the kkk was suppressing the vote as we like to say and putting the force of the federal government hide breaking up the kkk and allowing the freest and fairest election that can be imagined or possible in 1872. a quickly broke down. but he himself believed that african-americans, once given the suffrage, you could not take it away from them and he should not. he kept with that for the rest of his -- he tried to put it in the policy the rest of his presidency. it is such a complicated story. i have already got over my three minutes. mr. williams: yes you have.
[laughter] in my court the buzzer would have rung. but this is a court of equity. we try to be totally fair. so, moving to another subject -- we will come back to grant because he is such an important and telling figure. but doug, what about the factor of their being this war in the west on real native americans, now called american indians, versus the troops that were required for reconstruction duty in the south? what affect does this have on either one theater or the other? mr. egerton: it had a huge impact. historians tend to put. puritization on american history.
they all overlap. one of the main sources i used were for freedmen bureau reports. i would look at black counties on the eve of elections. officers in the south were saying please don't send soldiers out west. we can't have free and fair elections in alabama unless we have more soldiers. little bighorn happens in 1876, reconstruction is not yet over. that is one of the things that hurts reconstruction. they need a military presence in the south. part of it is the war is over and soldiers want to go home. they want to go back to their farms, businesses, families and wives. they mustered out in the army becomes disproportionately black because a lot of these former slaves.
they stay in the army but they stay out west. we are all told in gradeschool one of the deals made by hayes in 1876 is the white house demands the withdraw the federal army. but it is symbolic. in june of 1876 they are 2800 soldiers in all of the south. there are more cops in philadelphia announced in the south in 1876. they demand a symbolic gesture that the federal government is walking away from black soldiers and black southerners. it is the wars in the dakotas that her reconstruction. the soldiers are needed down there to enforce voting rights in alabama, mississippi, and not
out in the west. that really hurts reconstruction a lot. mr. williams: thank you very much. and for edna, whether in these significant economic gains achieved by former slaves, freedmen and women during this helter-skelter period of reconstruction? historians have always argued the system is sharecropping had to be implemented because there was no money in the south at the end of the war. to a large extent that is true. sharecropping to not have to be the institution, the economic institution that was established however. to some extent african-americans are supportive of sharecropping only because it allows them to work the land without someone
standing over them with a lash. the land is actually being rented for a share of the crop. the problem with sharecropping was that landowners who may have also been supplying tools and animals and the housing and ran the local store did not keep records that were fair to the people who were sharecropping on their land. people could never get an even break. despite that fact that the majority of people were sharecroppers, certainly in the deep south, there were parts of the country where there was not tobacco production or cotton production or sugar production. where people work in a diversified economy before the end of slavery and had to deal with that diversified economy when slavery ended. it is in those areas that people are as close to being economically independent as
possible. some are actually able to acquire land because he had a free black population of people before the war who had been able to acquire some amount of land. they are subdividing their acreage and selling to these folks and becoming independent farmers. these are people who are in areas where they are cutting wood, or oystering or fishing. it depends on what part of the country one is in. there is some economic advancement, but for the majority of african-americans it does not exist. to me that is the true tragedy of reconstruction, that the country had an opportunity perhaps to redistribute land. certainly african-americans expected the 40 acres and a mule. there were some people who didn't get that temporarily and south carolina, the coastal areas of south carolina and georgia.
but that land was taken away from them when the original owners returned to the area and were pardoned by johnson. the only thing i can see that would have really insured economic independence would have been finding a way to make sure these free people got the land they had been cultivating their entire lives. mr. williams: did the homestead act like it supported in 1862, lincoln supported in 1862, it was on the table during the buchanan administration but never was passed. it did pass in the lincoln administration. did that help at all? ms. medford: it helped to some extent but most people don't benefit from that. mr. williams: doug, you heard me say that reconstruction's problems began with what was arguably the worst decision that abraham lincoln made as president.
he dropped from his 1864 reelection hannibal hamlin, the capable and conscientious vice president and replaced him with andrew johnson, the unionist democrat from tennessee. fearing defeat i think is one of the reasons in the november election that lincoln writes the blind memorandum that he has his cabinet signed once it is sealed. he hoped to sure up support among northern democrats. and win the trust of voters in the seceded states. that's one of the reasons i think he went along with it. we are not quite sure how machiavellian lincoln was with replacing him with johnson. it is argued among many historians. but what about that decision to have johnson become the vice president and eventually the president of the united states? mr. egerton: one of the great unanswerable questions is how things could have been different if lincoln had not gone to the
theater on good friday. historians play this odd game a conference bars. [laughter] the 10 greatest presidents, the 10 worst presidents. there was a debate on facebook about which president you would want to have your back in a bar fight. andrew jackson won that because you like to shoot things. back to the main point. i think for most historians it is not that he was the only man for the job, it is that andrew johnson was the absolute worst man for the job. you can look at all this really bad policy and his animosity he had towards black americans. the meetings with frederick douglass are infamous. after douglass leaves, johnson turns his secretary in says i know negros like that, but he did not use that term. he was a really bad guy.
he actually wins the worst president over buchanan because he squanders it. look at the second president johnson. the mourning nation and pushes for civil rights. what is surprising is a large number of northerners and southerners who said and 1865 it is over. james long street writes editorials saying we are a conquered people. we fought, we lost, they won, and now we need to accept whatever rules they impose on us and move ahead. you have ultimate photographs. charleston is burned, richmond is burned.
the south has lost hundreds of thousands of young men. this is a chance to really start fixing things. it will be easy, of course not. but he is digging in his heels and he says to people he appoints when congress is out of session, these military governors of the south. in florida they say it's a white man's world. the only important battle fought in florida -- where the 54th and 55th fought and bled and died. they have been collaborators with the confederacy. policy was going about your business. governor perry of south carolina says and for me from time to time what is happening in south carolina.
not here are the rules, but for me from time to time. we will never know how things might've been different. but was it she said about her husband? once abe digs those big heels in, there is no power on earth they can change him. when lincoln meets with frederick douglass are talking about soldiers and unequal pay for black soldiers. lincoln says i move slowly, but no one can ever accuse me of moving in the wrong direction. johnson's crime is that he squanders this moment in which things really could've been different. what i found so depressing about writing the book and reconstruction is the battles are fought again in the 1950's, 1960's and people pay for their lives again in our lifetime. because it was not done right the first time. i think things would been very different had they not gone to
ford's theatre. mr. williams: we heard from a good friend who is a county judge in baltimore county that president grant's hands were tied by the united states supreme court in 1875. they issued their opinion in u.s. versus cruickshank, saying the federal courts do not have jurisdiction to enforce the kkk act. it took away from the commander-in-chief and chief magistrate the tools he needed to enforce what we are speaking about, that is civil liberties and the right of citizenship which certainly is not just freedom, but the rights that are attended to freedom. do you agree with that? that was the reason that in the second term or at least towards the second term of the grant
administration he was inhibited on the enforcement of the civil rights legislation? ms. waugh: yes. [laughter] mr. williams: that is what life my lawyers but i never get it. i never get one word answers. ms. waugh: i think that was certainly a big turning point. another big turning point with the election of 1874 and which for the first time since before the war grant had to deal with the democratic controlled congress. and northern people were withdrawing their support for the kind of reconstruction envisioned by congress in 1868. bringing u.s. grant to the presidency.
i do think -- i hate to be the one -- our ideas about racial progress and equity were not there in the 19th century. 19th century people were racists. we can call them that. white people, most white people. the thing is edna touched on the most important factor to northern whites was free labor. they wanted african-americans in the south and the free people to have security in their person and security and the ability to move and sell their free labor. it was so simplistic and they did not really want to know the details, but once they were reassured to themselves that was what was going on republicans voted for that.
the reason that it seems to me that abraham lincoln -- i don't know how much he had to do with the selection of andrew johnson -- was the wartime governor of tennessee. he was not a ridiculous choice. abraham lincoln did not know he was going to be assassinated while watching a comedy at ford's theater. the thing that he was concerned about was that he did see in the future establishing the republican party as the national party. he saw andrew johnson and the renaming of the republican party for the 1864 election to the union party as a way to do that. he knew the loyal slaveholding states of tennessee, missouri, kentucky, maryland would be a problem for the republican party
in the postwar era. we don't have to agree with his decisions. there is no person on earth that things andrew johnson is a good president, i don't think in this room anyway. if we put ourselves in the shoes of the people living in the past, we can understand at least their reasoning. that's all i have. [laughter] mr. williams: thank you. absolutely. please do. ms. medford: to what extent does this decision of the republican party to support voting rights in the south for african-americans based on the idea that this is the group that is going to help the republican party? ms. waugh: you are exactly right. african-americans comprise 80% of the republicans in the south
during the period. they made every effort to secure that vote. it is one of the few times in a history that perfectly melded policy, power and idealism. it had mixed result obviously. mr. williams: doug? mr. egerton: politicians can do the right things for the wrong reasons. i agree with you both. lincoln got the votes in what is now west virginia. he is running against two democrats. the south is not having an election that year. grant loses new york in 1868. thanks to the reconstruction act he carries both carolinas. i find it amazing the working former slaves in alabama can vote before working-class black men in syracuse.
the lightbulb goes on. grant understands how the electoral college works. south carolina and mississippi have a black majority. if black man can vote across the south they would be a lot in the electoral college. what does grant say? let's make quick work of the 15th amendment. black men are going to make it happen. blackman got him elected in 1868. now he was to get black hotel across the north as well. he will hold onto those votes in mississippi and south carolina. ms. waugh: i have to ask you a question. did new york try and rescind its vote on the 15th amendment? mr. egerton: they finally give in, but in 1860 -- this goes back to 1821 when they have a new constitution and slavery still exists in new york until 1827. they have a referendum in 1860 to get rid of this.
moderate republicans in new york band together with democrats in voting it down. lincoln carries new york. but the ballot referendum which is going to enfranchise blacks in your prayers goes down. though same voters over lincoln and then he gets black rights in new york state. in 1867 the integrate public schools so they are kind of moving in the right direction. ms. waugh: the story of the 14th and 15th amendment is very much like the film you saw "lincoln," with the passage of the 13th amendment's. they would not have been passed in any other era. it was made possible by the tremendous revolution of freeing 4 million enslaved people. what do they call it?
a sausage making factory. there were lots of shady deals done. the 14th and 15th amendments only passed because southern requirements of the former confederate states, they had to accept it before they could come into the union. it was hard to get a lot of northern states to get to that magic number. mr. williams: edna, you mentioned appropriately the rights of citizenship. that is more than just freedom. the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to serve in the military. in the right to a free education, too. what about this literacy issue and the quest for knowledge and to be a will to read and write that occurred during this period? ms. medford: at the end of the war 70% of the african american population of the south was illiterate because people were
not allowed -- there were laws against teaching enslaved people to read and write. some people were able to acquire literacy anyway despite those laws. but african-americans from the very beginning understood that if they were going to be able to maintain their freedom they would have to be able to read and write. if they would become full-fledged american citizens they would have to be educated. it is not that they thought that they had to be better than anyone else, because of her certainly a lot of white men and women who were not educated or literate either because there was no public school system in the south before the civil war. certainly people fresh out of slavery understood that an education would help them to advance. i think in the past we put too much attention on the idea that african americans want to learn to read because they want to read the bible.
yes, some people did. but it is much more than that. it is about being able to read contracts and know what you are signing. it is about being able to just move forward in american society. what they do is at great sacrifice establish these schools. it is not just the freedmen's bureau, or the benevolent organizations in the north. it is not just the missionaries to come down and take african-americans to read and write while the war is going on. it is african-americans themselves who take their meager earnings and a fine teachers. they pay the teachers' salaries. they purchase books for their children and themselves. you have adult of these classes as well at night. and they build these schools where they find appropriate facilities to house these schools. it is really an african-american
population that understands something as fundamental as being able to read had been denied to them and they have to acquire that in any way they could. mr. williams: any other comments from the panel before we open the floor to questions? please get behind the microphone, ladies and gentlemen, so we can refer to you. it is almost q and a time. one last question for you, edna. were all the free men and women victims despite all the violence they encounter during this period? ms. medford: where they all victims? mr. williams: victimization on how they were treated? ms. medford: the violence was phenomenal. right after the war had ended he had the clan rising, but wasn't it individuals.
people who were not a part of organizations burning churches, schoolhouses, black businesses. that is happening all over the south. there is serious victimization, but african-americans do not succumb to that. they still continue to form businesses when they are in position to do that. they still have these -- they don't leave the south. they leave rural areas for cities first and then they move from the south to the west. they are going to places like nicodemus, kansas. they form all black towns in kansas. in some parts of texas. and not going north until the great migration starting in 1914 to 1915. even though there is victimization they try to stay when they are to work it out. it does come to a point that they realize they are never going to be able to advance in
the south. some do leave whole congregations of people leaving go west where they eventually come to the north. they are doing everything they can to try to control their lives, to try to control their destinies. mr. williams: any comments? mr. egerton: there is no safe place. the north is safer than the south, but philadelphia in 1871, kato, a black schoolteacher who single handedly integrates streetcars in philadelphia is assassinated on election day in front of a giant crowd and the white jury lets the assassin go. this is the city of brotherly love. robert smalls is keeping data. he gives a speech in which he says 53,000 black activists nationwide have been targeted
for assassination and eliminated. he says 53,000. people are writing to him, feeding him information. think of that number. that is bigger than the casualty rate at gettysburg. they are being victimized but not just in the south. mr. williams: let's begin with a question. melissa? >> as a fellow central new yorker i attended a conference in rochester on frederick douglass. i believe they never address it and i don't know if it actually is a topic or not, but did frederick douglass have any role in reconstruction under johnson and grant? mr. egerton: i can answer that. i should say here everything i know about frederick douglass --
my wife is writing a book this spring. hi honey. [laughter] mr. egerton: it is called "women in the world of frederick douglass." he and johnson are bitter enemies immediately. he admires grant but he decides it's better to be an activist where he is and not be part of the political system. even in central new york it is complicated. as popular as he is in rochester he could not have been elected to congress. he would have to be in the south to do that and get one of the black belt counties. he sees grant as an ally and johnson as an enemy. he always remains just an activist. he believes his pen and voice are his weapons.
ms. waugh: he is a great campaigner in 1872 for grant. ms. medford: but his agitation is the most important thing he had. that was his role in society. he is the leader of black america, undisputed in this part of the 19th century. he is there to agitate. he is there to bail out white men who let the freedmen's bank go down the tubes. he tries to say that any puts his own money to the bank. he is still not able to save it because they made such a mess of it. it was not african-americans who were responsible for that failure, but the white men put in charge of that bank. >> thank you very much. mr. williams: thank you. >> what effect if any did the death of thaddeus stevens have on the outcome of reconstruction?
mr. williams: joan? ms. waugh: thank you. i think that actually thaddeus stevens, upon hearing andrew jackson was not impeached from the senate trial said the country has gone to the dogs and then he died. he was so disgusted. his day had passed by then. he was being superseded by moderate republicans already in 1868. the feeling was that radical republicans were a fading presence on the scene. his death confirmed it. mr. williams: anyone else? mr. egerton: he has a great land reform bill. johnson does not have to veto it because it never comes out of committee. it is even too radical for other so-called radical republicans.
in many ways his job is to be the voice of real progressive reform, but he is out there by himself. ms. waugh: is he the bernie of his era? mr. egerton: i am not going there. >> after listening to yesterday's talk on reconstruction in today's panel i think i will write a book. "don't do the war unless you know i do make the piece." -- unless you know how to make the peace." it seems like there is zero preparation planning the end of a war. unit commanders in the field writing their own terms of surrender. you would have expected lincoln would've been sending that. in reconstruction, was there no planning for what was going to happen after this? we said the states cannot leave never planning how to bring them back in.
was there no commission, no committee, wasn't anyone trying to figure this out? mr. williams: edna you can start. ms. medford: lincoln suggested as early as 1863 what reconstruction should look like. and believing that southerners had never officially left the union, he was very mild and conciliatory with his plans. it required only 10% of the population of people eligible to vote in 1860 two declare allegiance to the union. then that state could come back into the union. but in terms of what happens after that, how do you heal the wounds that occurred during the war? what do you do about the freed people? he was not very clear about that. certainly we know he was already talking about voting rights for certain groups of african-americans by the time of his assassination. he is talking about a very limited number of men.
we do know once the door was open there was no it is stop it. there would've been universal suffrage for african-americans. in terms of economically, he indicates he would not mind seeing a period of apprenticeship where africans americans who were enslaved and slaveholders could find their way, worked their way to a new relationship. there was going to be some period in which african-americans would not be truly free. they would still be dependent on the very people who had held them enslaved. he said if they attempt to be further in the direction of unfreedom, he would move in. had he lived in a new that mild conciliatory plan and former
confederates had been attempted to take away the rights that african-americans had received and freedom, i don't know if you would have been willing to go to war again. he was tired of it and the nation was tired of it. i'm not so sure he would then that different. mr. williams: doug or joan? any other comments? ms. waugh: how can you plan for what you don't know is going to happen? from the very beginning, 1861 to 1865, it was so transformative that it was hard to plan. lincoln had a plan. radical republicans opposed his plan. we do know this was a contentious time. unlike now. [laughter] mr. williams: right. ms. waugh: i can't wait for your question.
mr. williams: nothing provocative. >> can you describe the role of custer's seventh cavalry in suppressing the klan and the deep south? second quick question, you mentioned the seal islands. -- the sea islands. the blacks towards the end of the civil war established their own country with their own constitution. can you tell us something about that? mr. williams: doug, do you want to start with the seventh cavalry? the gary owen group. mr. egerton: i wanted to get with the klan and the seal -- and the sea islands. the klan is writing around with their robes in hoods. and then the klan act passes.
and then the klan act passes. grant does declare martial law and crushes the klan. and it decentralized this the klan and drives them underground. yet to get 25 guys in white robes and burn crosses. you just get your cousin or a guy that was your sergeant during the war and you wait outside the home of the local black activists and you shoot him in the morning and ride away. that because very hard to combat. in some cases there is not even a death. i have a story in my book. there is no modern ballots in the 19th century. they had tickets. the black activists have the tickets. about six guys ride to his house. not wearing hoods. they say give us the tickets
or we will shoot you and kill your wife. the guy hands them over. the next day there are no ballots in that county for republicans. they get zero votes. the guys learned early on that you don't to have a big organization to crush democracy and voting rights. you just need a couple of people and it makes it hard to go after. in terms of the islands, where the u.s. army and navy arrive in 1862, whites had already fled inland. they arrived to find the blacks already moved into the big house. it was africans initially who knew how to produce rice in the first place. they are running the operation. these kind of rehearsals for reconstruction in which they are talking about land reform and distribution. lincoln -- we don't really know
what's going to happen. at one point he says something like 40 acre sounds about right for a piece of land. the whole 40 acres and a mule is not a complete fantasy if you look at what pops out of his head. who knows if it is serious policy or not. and johnson overturns all of that and hands literally land back to guys who have been gone for years. to me one of the saddest parts with some of the land had been controlled by planters who are now dead. people who have been working the land want that land. instead they have auctions for the northern capitalists who buy the land. not justnd themselves for confederates but wealthy people from new jersey who want a nice estate. what is wrong with
reconstruction is a lot of shared blame. ms. medford: some of that control of the land occurs when the war is going on. he had the emancipated working the land, but people come from the north. the land is up for auction. they get access to the land. they had people working on government farms as well. the experiment is not a great one. certainly sherman's field order, special order 15 declaring the area for 30 miles back from the ocean and then from southern south carolina down to northern florida as land that is to be given to african-americans. white men are not supposed to live on that land. that was an interesting approach, but it was not maintained. it was given back to the original owners. ms. waugh: the three r's. restore, rebuild, reunite.
we have not mentioned the economy. how was the south supposed to get back on its feet if cotton could not be picked? all these things come into play in terms of the way lincoln was thinking and the way his successors were thinking, as well as protecting african-americans in their person and their voting rights. mr. williams: michelle? >> an open-ended question. could you comment on the role, influence or voice of the veterans of the civil war in terms of reconstruction either on behalf of african-americans, against african-americans? those were the folks that fought the war and sometimes you see soldiers accounts of they realize firsthand how awful slavery has been or meeting people for the first time. where are the veterans voices in the story? mr. williams: very good question. who wants to go first? [laughter]
ms. waugh: i want to say something. i see a room full of hungry people. with all the respect. mr. williams: we are not done yet. ms. waugh: i think one of the most fascinating stories of reconstruction as was suggested is the development of black leadership, which would later be called the talented tenth. in the vanguard where the black veterans who fought in the war and settled in the south. they could read and write. they ran for office. they held all the lower offices that we don't hear about. we hear about the senators and the congressmen in the congress in 1868 and 1872, only don't -- but we don't hear about the sheriffs. they were -- in the great masses of veterans, white veterans in the north, i think they were proud of their role in
emancipation as the republican party would have on their banners until the election of 1900. we are the party that saved the union. made freedom national. but as far as civil rights, most of them were not particularly notable in pushing for that. ms. medford: in terms of acquisition of land, these are the guys who have the money because they had the bounties. they come in and are able to purchase the land. they are an example of people who are sharecropping, people who can't do any better. the purpose they serve partially is to show people as possible to be economically independent. these are the leaders in the south when the war is over. i think we can't overemphasize their role in helping make the transition to true freedom or to the extent that people are allowed to be free. mr. williams: there is 1510 identifiable people of color
officed state and local in the south and most are ex-military. these are the guys who have expertise, most of them were free before the war. they are literate. they are the ones who move into political power. northern white soldiers never really don't get on the progressive bandwagon. mcclellan says in black and -- mcclellanarmed, says in black men are armed, white men will desert in droves. it is the way soldiers who get on the bandwagon first. they realize -- i found soldiers saying if i'm going to die, i could use some help. while mcclellan is never really accustomed to black men with
guns, the common soldiers do pretty quickly realize they can use all the help they can get. o homey get the g sooner, fine by them. mr. williams: thank you. yes? >> mr. medford, i'm glad you mentioned howard university's creation. i think people don't realize it's a living part of reconstruction today because every year when the congress debates education appropriation they point out that howard university and howard university hospital is the only university that has its own line in the federal appropriation. ms. medford: there are two. >> how long has howard had that appropriation? how has it kept it? also howard was a hotbed of the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's. whatever opposition to the
university run into when the southern chairman of the appropriations and rules committee -- they were beside themselves. ms. medford: i believe howard has had the appropriation since 1928 if i'm not mistaken. it has a percentage of howard's budget that comes from that appropriation, it has been dwindling and getting lower. we appreciate that appropriation. howard has had a unique history, having been founded in 1867 under the leadership of paul howard, a union general. who believed initially that the freed people needed ministers. but his attitude about that we -- quickly changed and a group of men help them found howard
believed that other free people would also benefit from teachers. then within months they decided, well, why not a law school in a medical school. it became a university very quickly. yes, and the 1950's howard was instrumental in the fight for the civil rights in its law school. charles hamilton houston trained people like thurgood marshall and others who led the struggle, to fight in the court for desegregation of schools. and howard professors, psychologists, and historians were also a part of that whole effort. how we have been able to keep the appropriation, only god knows. [laughter] but i pray that we do keep it because it is very necessary and
it is helpful to our students. we do have a student population. some of whom have difficulty paying for college. we are fairly expensive, but we would be even more so without that appropriation. so, we hope it continues for a long time. mr. williams: thank you. we will take this at the last question. >> grant had some ideas about using the dominican republic. can you help us understand? what was that plan? ms. waugh: he had a plan -- the question is about santo domingo as it was called then. grant devised a plan very much like the plan that lincoln talked about during the war to resettle african-americans who wanted to go and live in a place
for there was no violence and they could live in some kind of fairy world of peace and democracy. it failed largely due to the efforts of charles sumner. that was the whole idea that floundered and failed. thank you. mr. williams: thank you very much, panel. are there any closing comments you care to make? let's recognize again our panel. joan waugh, doug edgerton, and edna greene medford. [applause] you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> which presidents were america's greatest leaders? c-span recently asked 91 presidential historians to rate
our 43 presidents in 10 areas of leadership. top billing this year with to the president who preserved the union, abraham lincoln. he has held the top spot for all three c-span historian surveys. three other top vote getters continue to hold positions. george washington, franken roosevelt and theodore roosevelt. dwight eisenhower, who served 1961 makes his first appearance in the c-span top five this year. rounding out the historians; top 10 choices, harry truman, thomas jefferson, john f. kennedy and ronald reagan. lyndon johnson jumps up one spot to return to the top year. the pity gains you can. he is right that lasted all three c-span surveys. there is bad news for andrew jackson as well. our seventh president that is overall rating dropping this year from number 13 to number 18.
by the survey had good news for outgoing president barack obama. on his first time on the list, he was placed at number 12 overall. george w. bush moved three spots up to 33 overall with big gains in public persuasion and relations with congress. how did our historians rate your favorite president? who were the leaders and leaders in each of the 10 categories? you can find all this and more on her website, c-span.org. >> american history tv, pulitzer prize-winning historian gordon would let's of the social and economic backgrounds of the founding fathers and explores the origins of their values. he talked about the founders thought some proper aristocratic behavior and leadership. , he sits downtalk with a conversation to discuss what inspired him to study the founders. how scholarship on the revolutionary period has evolved and what he thinks people
misunderstand about the founders and their personalities. this hour and 45 minute event was a part of a series on the founders hosted by the society of the four arts in palm beach, florida. >> i am so energized by all your enthusiasm about the four arts founders program. thank you for coming. now, today's speaker dr. gordon wood is considered the foremost expert on the american revolution. period. i'm not going to read off all the long list of the books and publications he's written or the awards and medals and honors he's received, but all of you go home and google him for a mind blowing experience. i just want to mention a few things that he and i discussed. after receiving his suma cum