Nell Irvin Painter on White Solidarity

“…there are of course able counsel [in New Orleans], but their sympathies are with the accused and it should be remembered that the cases now pending here are against the leaders of society, against District and Parish Judges, prominent lawyers, large planters, well-known merchants, State officials high in position – In short the accused as a rule belong to and indeed in their various localities constitute the higher class. It is difficult to get prominent lawyers here to prosecute such men.” 12
Ultimately, loyalties between whites, especially of the same class, prevailed over any commitment to the legal rights of Negroes. This loyalty, rather than friendliness with individual Blacks, molded race relations in the post-Reconstruction South. The mass of Blacks could not rely upon protection from “the best people” as a class, for almost without exception, kindness across the color line stemmed from face-to-face relationship alone. It furnished no institutionalized guarantee of constitutional rights whatever. Nevertheless, every Black person who had been succored by a kind white knew the inviolable color line to be fiction.

  • 12- A. H. Leonard, U.S. attorney, to Charles Devens, U.S. attorney general, New Orleans, February 14, 1879, Record Group 60, Department of Justice, Source-Chronological Files, Louisiana, box 435, National Archives.
  • P.21, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3

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