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Book Displays: Equal Justice Initiative 2022: Dec

Virtual displays based on the annual A History of Racial Injustice calendar.

December's Topic - Southern "Redemption"

Square white memorial

Calendar photo caption: In 1891, New Orleans's white-dominated city government erected this monument to the 1874 "Battle of Liberty Place," a violent attempted coup in which the White League paramilitary group forcibly removed the elected governor from power. This monument was finally removed in 2017, but hundreds of similar monuments remain across the region. (Library of Congress)

Calendar Text

After the Civil War, former Confederate leaders began a "Redemption" movement to restore white supremacy in the South. "Redeemers" - white businessmen and wealthy planters who had enslaved Black people - sought to regain political power, bar Black people from exercising their civil rights, and re-establish racial hierarchy.

"The social equality of the races is a settled impossibility," Virginia governor and former Confederate general James L. Kemper declared in 1874. "Any organized attempt on the part of the weaker and relatively diminished race to dominate the domestic governments, is the wildest chimera of political insanity."

In 1869, Tennessee became the first state to replace its multiracial Reconstruction government with an all-white legislature that immediately repealed a statute that had outlawed racial discrimination in railroad travel and amended the state constitution to prohibit racial integration in public schools.

Redeemers used violence to seize political control. In 1874, a white mob attacked Black voters in Eufaula, Alabama, killing at least six and injuring as many as 80. Black voter turnout fell from 1,200 in 1874 to 10 in 1876.

By the time Reconstruction ended in 1877, all 11 former Confederate states were led by Redeemer governments determined to restore white supremacy. The withdrawal of federal troops meant wholesale political and legal abandonment for Black American, who were left unprotected against brutality and racial terrorism during the "era of second slavery" orchestrated by the Southern Redemption movement.