During the Reconstruction, 1863-1877, one of the things that reactionary Southerners said they were fighting was Southern state governments becoming run by African Americans. What are some examples...

During the Reconstruction, 1863-1877, one of the things that reactionary Southerners said they were fighting was Southern state governments becoming run by African Americans. What are some examples of the racial breakdown in four or five Southern states, and what do the figures show relative to what was being said at the time? Were there African-American majorities?  In which states?  What does the data show?  

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Tables providing the population numbers of free persons and slaves in Southern states at the end of the Civil War in 1860 show that the fear reactionary Southerners had that the release of slaves would lead to Southern governments becoming run by African Americans was nothing but hype and fallacy. The entire population of slaves in 1860 was only 3,953,760 with a much larger total population across the country of 27,489,561 free persons. Adding the total population together, we see that the percentage of slaves held in all of American was only a mere 13% of US's total population. If we break things down state by state, we even further see just how illogical the Southerner's fear was of being overrun by African Americans.

Let's first look at the four states that held the highest slave populations. Only in one state was there a higher percentage of slaves than whites, and that state is South Carolina, having 402,406 slaves and 301,302 free persons, meaning that 57% of the state contained African Americans, a little more than half of the state's population. If anything, South Carolina could have rightly feared that half of the state's government officials would have become African Americans but certainly not a complete government takeover. Looking at the state with the next highest population of slaves, Georgia, we see that even Georgia only had a slave population of 48%; next, Louisiana had a slave population of 47%. The numbers continue to range from 45% all the way down to a mere 1%. Hence, unless the majority of the freed slave population all decided to move to one state, a state-government takeover by African Americans after the Civil War would have been far from likely.

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