And of course blacks had 20john m langston freedom

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shed "the first blood" in the American Revolution. And, of course, blacks had20John M. Langston, Freedom and Citizenship (Washington, 1883), 99-100, 110; Leonard Bernstein, "The Par-ticipation of Negro Delegates in the Constitutional Convention of 1868 in North Carolina "Journal of Negro His-tory, 34 (Oct. 1949), 404; Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1865), 6; Prince Murrell andten others to Gen. Wager Swayne, Dec. 17, 1865, Unregistered Letters Received, ser. 9, Alabama Assistant Commis-sioner, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.21 Peter D. Klingman,Josiah Wazlls (Gainesville, 1976), 72-73; Dennett, South As It Is, 176; Sidney Andrews,The South since the W4rr (Boston, 1866), 125; Proceedings of the Republican Party of Louisiana (New Orleans,1865), 4-5.This content downloaded from 134.250.60.5 on Sat, 21 Jan 2017 23:41:22 UTCAll use subject to
874 The Journal of American Historyfought and died to save the Union. America, resolved anowas "now our country-made emphatically so by the blood of our brethren" in theUnion army.22Despite the insistent language of individual speeches, the conventions' resolu-tions and public addresses generally adopted a moderate tone, revealing both arealistic assessment of the political situation during Presidential Reconstruction andthe fact that political mobilization had proceeded more quickly in southern citiesthan in the Black Belt where most freedmen lived. Similarly, economic concernsfigured only marginally in the proceedings. The ferment rippling through thesouthern countryside found little echo at the state conventions of 1865 and 1866,a reflection of the paucity of Black Belt representation. Far different was the situa-tion in 1867 when, in the aftermath of the Reconstruction Act, a wave of politicalmobilization swept the rural South.23Like emancipation, the advent of black suffrage inspired freedmen with a millen-nial sense of living at the dawn of a new era. Former slaves now stood on an equalfooting with whites, a black speaker told a Savannah mass meeting, and before themlay "a field, too vast for contemplation." As in 1865 blacks found countless ways ofpursuing aspirations for autonomy and equality and of seizing the opportunity topress for further change. Strikes broke out during the spring of 1867 among blacklongshoremen in the South's major port cities and quickly spread to other workers,including Richmond, Virginia, coopers and Selma, Alabama, restaurant workers.Hundreds of South Carolina blacks refused to pay taxes to the existing state govern-ment, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to rescue chain gang prisoners at workon Mobile, Alabama's streets. Three blacks refused to leave a whites-only Richmondstreetcar, and crowds flocked to the scene shouting, "let's have our rights." In NewOrleans, groups commandeered segregated horse-drawn streetcars and drove themaround the city in triumph. By midsummer, integrated transportation had cometo these and other cities.24But in 1867 politics emerged as the principal focus of black aspirations. Itinerant

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