In 1876, South Carolina and other southern states were hotbeds for racial and civil disturbances. With the Confederate South losing the Civil War to the Union Army, Reconstruction was threatened with the rise of riots sparked by white Democratic Party activists who wished to suppress the Black vote and upend the Republican Party.
South Carolina’s Republican-led state legislature was the target of White Democrats on this day in 1876 in Charleston, this after former Black Republicans revealed their defection to the other party. The Democrats were hoping to win back the state legislature and governor’s office, all while pushing against the trend of Blacks gaining elected office and political power under the banner of Reconstruction.
A meeting that evening grew tense as residents in the mostly Black Charleston gathered in protest. The White Democrats were armed and fired off a warning shot, perhaps not realizing that Black residents in the South were also well-equipped with arms. Riots raged across the region, with Blacks valiantly rallying in order to defend their right to vote and live free in the wake of the great war.
Gun violence did not occur as a resolution was struck between police and the political parties, but the freedmen were painted as lawless rebels by Southerners to gain favor from their neighbors to the North. It began an unraveling of the Republican rule in the state, and eventually, Reconstruction itself was ended the following year which stripped Blacks of their political gains and rights.
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