Nell Irvin Painter on Black Solidarity

“Directly after the surrender,” explained a Mississippi white, “the negroes organized what they called freedman’s aid societies, which were understood to be purely charitable. In a little it began to be public and understood among the people that black people swore in the society to stand up to each other, and support each other – to support their color in all contests; and whenever a difficulty occurred in the country between a white man and a black man, the blacks invariably rallied en masse…”17 But Mississippi whites discounted the violent and racial character of their attacks on Blacks. When Blacks did not stand together, they ran the risk of individual victimization.

Despite all their efforts at self-protection, Blacks fell prey to nightriders, who picked them off one by one if they appeared concerned with the political well-being of their people. Leaders of Republican clubs stood out as especial targets of these terrorist, who also silenced or drove away white Republicans. Immediately after the war, white Republicans, mostly Northern but many Southern, worked with the Freedmen politically, but by the late 1860s, nightriding (or “bulldozing”, as it was called) had markedly thinned their ranks.

  • 17- James H. Rives, United States Senate, 42nd Congress, 2d session, Senate Report no. 41. Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States (Washington, 1872) XII: 723
  • P.10, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3

Nell Irvin Painter

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