What practice was used by Republican politicians in the elections of 1866,1868,1872 and 1876 to draw public attention to Southern violence against African- Americans?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Republican leadership sought to bring attention to the plight of African- Americans in the South.  Reconstruction had brought with it a desire for Republicans to illuminate the condition of those who were former slaves.  This became the practice that Republican politicians utilized in the elections of 1866 and those that followed.  

The Republican position on Reconstruction of the Union was one in which Southern leadership was viewed as needing to be supplanted by Northern, Republican beliefs. Southern civilian governments were perceived to be extensions of the former slaveowning leadership.  The practice of ensuring that leadership in the South would not resemble those attitudes and practices that dominated the region took on many forms. Republicans who favored a type of hardline and radical position of Reconstruction was one way in which ensuing the South would follow Northern example was accomplished.  Passing strict legislation to this end was another practice that Republic politicians used in the advocacy to the electorate.  One distinct result from such legislative and politicking practice was the passage of the Enforcement Acts.  These Acts were designed to improve the social and political of African- Americans in the South. They sought to reduce the power of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, and ensure that racial equality in the region could be achieved. The advocacy of such acts on the campaign trail became one practice that politicians used in the elections within the Reconstruction period.

This approach dovetailed with politicians' approach to directly communicate with voters about the difficulty that African- Americans faced in the South.  Republicans used the campaign trail to make their case.  Republicans recognized that there was a rising tide of Southern resentment that was emerging as a response to initiatives such as the Freedmen's Bureau.  The rise of the Black Codes as well as intense anger regarding Northern, Republican presence and ideas in the South was rapidly becoming a reality. Violence and intimidation of both African- Americans and Southern Republicans were becoming quite common.  The practice of publicizing such realities became a tactic that the Republicans used on the campaign trail in their advocacy with voters.  Republicans made clear that the voter understood the level of violence in the South against these groups.  Detailing situations such as when Southerners would declare that "Black man didn't tip his hat so I shot him" became part of the approach taken to ensure that public support for the Republican candidate appealed to a potential voter's moral sensibility.    Republican politicians used the federal government as an approach to response to such sentiments.  The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as well as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments represented how Republicans were able to use the practice of employing the federal government to ensure that national unity and goals were present.  Republicans who campaigned to the electorate did not hesitate in suggesting that their ability to use the federal government to pass legislation to enforce their will in the South was a distinct reality.  This represented a distinct practice that Republicans used to ensure that the public's attention was directed at the African- American predicament during the elections of the Reconstruction Era.

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