Terrorized African-Americans Found Their Champion in Civil War Hero Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls, memorialized in a bust at Beaufort’s Tabernacle Baptist Church, was sent to work in Charleston at age 12 after he started defying the strictures of slavery. (Lisa Elmaleh) In 1874, Smalls won election to the U.S. House—where he used this desk—with 80 percent of the vote. In 1878, voter intimidation cut his share to 29 percent. (Lisa Elmaleh)
Smalls bought his ex-master’s mansion in Beaufort when it was put up for sale for back taxes in the 1860s. It remained in his family until 1953. (Lisa Elmaleh)
In recent years, a number of important books have chronicled the upheaval that followed the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867. That law, passed by a Congress that Republicans dominated, required the former Confederate states to adopt constitutions that recognized black citizenship, including the rights to vote and to sit on juries.
In response, Confederate veterans founded the Ku Klux Klan, with the former Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest as its national leader. Because Klansmen operated in their home counties, they knew which local black activists to target for intimidation or assassination.
READ: Terrorized African-Americans Found Their Champion in Civil War Hero Robert Smalls | History | Smithsonian

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