Credo for black (and white): All politics is biblical

“For black political leaders, the Bible — the one book with which they could assume familiarity among their largely illiterate constituents — served as a point of reference for understanding public events.

“When in 1870 North Carolina’s House impeached Gov. [W.W.] Holden, 17 black legislators issued an address that began: ‘Know ye that since the time that Haman conspired to destroy all the Jews who dwelt in the Persian Dominions… no wickedness hath been devised that will bear any comparison with some of the measures proposed by the dominant party in the present General Assembly.’ ”

— From “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (1988)

“Following the [1965 vote against the poll tax], Sam Ervin was asked why he routinely offered amendments to civil rights bills that he knew would not succeed. He replied with a biblical injunction from Exodus 32:2 ‘Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.’ ”

— From “Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965” by Keith M. Finley (2008)

When whites sought to gerrymander black voters

“In some states in the early years… Redeemers [Southern Democrats after Reconstruction] gerrymandered black strength into restricted areas and conceded certain offices to blacks in return for other offices for whites ….

“In North Carolina, the Redeemers created the ‘Black Second’ Congressional District to absorb a great portion of black votes in the state. In 1888 the Black Second elected the state’s first Negro Congressman, Henry Cheatham.”

— From “A Rage for Order: Black/White Relations in the American South since Emancipation” by Joel Williamson (1986)

The high cost of refusing to educate blacks

“Gov. Jonathan Worth, elected in 1865, had earlier in his career steered to passage the bill establishing public education in North Carolina, but he now persuaded the legislature to abolish the state school system altogether…. The governor feared that if white children were educated at public expense, ‘we will be required to educate the negroes in like manner.’

“To avoid having to expend public monies on black education, Worth and his legislature authorized localities to establish tax-supported private academies, risking, as one ally warned, ‘the entire alienation of the poorer class’ of whites, and destroying the South’s only extensive system of public education.”

— From “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (1988)

Antilynching bill: Step toward Reconstruction II?

“[North Carolina’s Josiah] Bailey became the first Southern senator to outline what he perceived as a dangerous aspect of the [1937] antilynching measure…. To him, it  represented the vanguard of a much larger movement aimed at dismantling Southern society.

” ‘I fear it, I dread it, I fight it, I argue against it because I know the moment it goes through the very men who put it forward will almost be compelled to go ahead with the old Civil Rights Act [of 1875]….

“Reconstruction all over again…. will destroy the South.’ ”

— From “Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965” by Keith M. Finley (2008)

The Civil Rights Act of 1875, passed in the waning days of the last biracial Congress of the 19th century, was not enforced, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883. It contained many provisions — such as guaranteed access to public accommodations — that eventually were included in 1960s legislation.

A medieval cure for antebellum nostalgia

“[Some former slaveholders] sought to ‘drown our troubles in a sea of gaiety,’ reviving the aristocratic social life of the antebellum years as if nothing had changed.

“Tournaments straight out of  ‘Ivanhoe,’ complete with knights adorned with lances and plumed helmets and ladies competing to be crowned Queen of Love and Beauty, made an incongruous reappearance  — although in one North Carolina community, the cult of medieval nobility waned after blacks organized a Tournament Association of their own.”

— From “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (1988)

Wilmington church displayed racial schism

“The ownership of church property provoked bitter controversy [during Reconstruction]. A case in point: the Front Street Methodist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina,  whose congregation before the war numbered about 1,400, two-thirds of them black.

“When Union soldiers occupied the city early in 1865, the black members informed Rev. L. S. Burkhead ‘that they did not require his services any longer… he being a rebel,’ and proceeded to elect a black minister in his place. Gen. John M. Schofield, emulating Solomon, ordered that the spiritual day be divided equally between the races, each with a minister of its own choosing. The conflict continued into 1866, with Rev. Burkhead preaching in the old manner (although a few blacks, he complained, ostentatiously attempted to sit downstairs during his sermons).

“Eventually, the white minority regained control, and most of the blacks left to form an independent congregation.”

— From “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (1988)