Reconstruction in North Carolina

Following the war, President Andrew Johnson began reconstruction of the South, while Southern states (including North Carolina) began to pass "Black Codes." These laws restricted the freedom of former slaves.

Secret societies, including the Ku Klux Klan, formed to terrorize blacks. The Klan quickly spread to North Carolina.

In 1866, Congress passed the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting full citizenship to blacks. The amendment made the Federal government responsible for protection of equal rights under the law to all American citizens.

In 1867, Congress temporarily placed most of the South under military rule. In North Carolina, William W. Holden was appointed as provisional governor, and many Confederates were pardoned and even elected to Congress. Congress, however, refused to seat these delegates on the grounds that they had been disloyal to the Union and freedmen were being mistreated (via the "Black Codes").

Former Confederate states wrote new constitutions. They were required to ratify the 14th Amendment, in order to regain their seats in Congress. North Carolina ratified the 14th Amendment on July 4, 1868 and was readmitted to the Union.

In 1869, Congress passed the 15th Amendment, prohibiting any state from denying a citizen the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. North Carolina ratified the 15th Amendment on March 5, 1869.

William W. Holden headed the new North Carolina Republican Party, which included freedmen, carpetbaggers, and native whites. The Republicans controlled the state convention of 1868 that drafted a more democratic constitution. They also controlled the new state government, and Holden was elected governor. During this period, North Carolina sent 13 African American delegates to the state constitutional convention in 1867. Unfortunately, the "new order" did not last long.

Opponents used the issue of "white supremacy" and violence to regain control of state government. The Klan used violence to suppress the Republican vote in 1870.

Controlling the 1871 legislature, Democrats impeached Holden and removed him from office (the first governor in American history to suffer such a fate). The Republican Party won the governorship in 1872, but failed to win control of the state convention of 1875 that revised the constitution for Democratic advantage. In 1876, the Democratic Party established white supremacy in state government and used fraud to remain in power.

It took generations of activism and new Civil Rights laws passed in the mid-1960s for the South to even begin to overcome the legacy of slavery. That struggle continues today.

Source: Reconstruction in North Carolina
“War's End and Reconstruction.” North Carolina Historic Sites.

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