Reconstruction Era

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Why did the authors of "The Late Convention of Colored Men" believe the federal government had to protect the newly freed slaves from white Southerners?

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The authors believed that the federal government had to protect the freed slaves because there was nothing preventing the white Southerners from creating laws that disfavored them. Although they were thankful to the president and the federal government for freeing the slaves, the authors were worried that such freedom may be short-lived if the same people who previously promoted the slave trade were left in charge. They wanted the government to empower the freed slaves by giving them the right to vote. The authors believed that the only way to guarantee equality and end discrimination for the freed slaves was to allow them to choose their own leaders. The authors believed that if they could have a person who truly supported freed slaves in a leadership position, then they could avoid unfair legislation from the white Southerners.

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The authors of "The Late Convention of Colored Men" believed the federal government had to protect the newly freed slaves from white Southerners because they feared they would be put into a situation similar to, or worse than, slavery. They also feared retribution by white Southerners because of their support of the Union army during the Civil War.

The authors make a plea to the federal government for protection, and they bring forth the point that they were quick to provide assistance to the Union in many ways during the war. They make the argument that they answered the call when the federal government needed assistance, and now they are hoping the same will be provided to them. The authors also state that, in addition to providing them a military governor, giving African American men the power to vote would also provide protection.

The authors of "The Late Convention of Colored Men" did have a valid point, as the end of Reconstruction in the South brought about the introduction of poll taxes, literacy tests, sharecropping, black codes, and tenant farming, all of which were designed to limit the ability of African Americans to improve their social or economic standing.

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As with your previous question, this one appears to be taken from For the Record, edited by Shi and Mayer.  My answer comes from the excerpt of the New York Times article that is listed as “From The Late Convention of Colored Men” in that compilation of primary sources.

According to the authors of this message, there were two main reasons why the freed blacks needed protection.  First, the African Americans point out a number of times that they helped the Union very much during the Civil War.  They say that the Union called on them for help and that they responded eagerly.  Second, they argue that President Johnson’s Reconstruction program has given power back to whites who are not truly loyal to the Union.  They say that these whites have loyalty to the federal government that is only “lip deep.”  They argue that the whites will, as soon as they can, make laws that will make the situation of African Americans as bad as it was under slavery.  The whites will do this because they hate the blacks for having helped the Union.

All in all, the African Americans who wrote the message say, they are like “sheep in the midst of wolves.”  They have no way to protect themselves from the white Southerners.  They say they need and deserve protection since they are being persecuted for having helped the North.

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