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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Michael Zak

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Michael Zak

Last Build Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2006 00:15:14 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Celebrating Juneteenth

Mon, 19 Jun 2006 00:15:14 -0600

It was in Texas where slavery finally ended. On June 19, 1865, U.S. troops commanded by General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston and brought some important news that the Democrats running the state had refused to tell their slaves, that they had been legally freed more than two years before by the Emancipation Proclamation. Granger's famous General Order Number 3 read: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."

General Granger then traveled around Texas to inform the African-Americans, still being held as slaves by their Democrat masters, that they were in fact free. Granger was a zealous advocate for full civil rights for African-Americans. Too zealous, it turned out, for President Andrew Johnson. On August 6, 1865, just seven weeks after his arrival, President Johnson relieved Granger from command in Texas. That same month, Johnson removed all African-Americans serving in the U.S. Army occupation forces.

Any officer in the U.S. Army who exerted himself too much in defense of African-Americans was out of a job. For this reason, Johnson dismissed the conscientious Phil Sheridan, who had sent General Granger to Galveston, from command in Texas and Louisiana. Sheridan's replacement was General Winfield Hancock, who then allowed white supremacist thugs a free hand. So impressed were former rebels with the performance of Hancock that he would receive the support of the Solid South when he became the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 1880.

President Andrew Johnson campaigned against ratification of the 14th Amendment and vetoed the Republicans' Civil Rights Act of 1866. It was he who quashed Republican attempts to provide "forty acres and a mule" to emancipated African-Americans. Andrew Johnson vetoed a bill to extend voting rights to African-Americans in the District of Columbia, saying he wanted a completely "white man's government." And in Johnson's racist mind, the civil rights hero Frederick Douglass was "a damned scoundrel."

Southern Democrats (the former Confederate rebels and President Johnson) exercised almost complete control over the post-Civil War South for two years after Appomattox. The Democrat state governments set up by the Andrew Johnson administration quickly reduced African-Americans to near slavery with the infamous "black codes." Not until March 1867, when they attained two-thirds majorities in Congress, were Republicans able to override Johnson's vetoes and enact their Reconstruction policies, beginning with the Reconstruction Act of 1867.

Unfortunately, the two-year delay before the onset of Republican Reconstruction had enabled the Democrats to strengthen their grip on power and on African-Americans in the South. As soon as they were back in power in the southern states, Democrats closed down most of the public school system that Republican administrations had established for African-Americans as well as poor whites. Democrat terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia denied African-Americans their right to vote. In the South, where dozens of African-Americans had held elective office while Republicans were in power at the state level, the restoration of Democrat rule meant the exclusion of African-Americans from politics for nearly a century.