The Origins of African American PoliticsInclusion, rather than separation, was the objective of early African American polit-ical activity. The greatest political activity by African Americans occurred in areasoccupied by Union forces during the war. In 1865 and 1866, African Americansthroughout the South organized scores of mass meetings, parades, and petitions thatdemanded civil equality and the right to vote. In the cities, the growing web of churchesand fraternal societies helped bolster early efforts at political organization. Hundreds of African American delegates, selected by local meetings orchurches, attended statewide political conventions held throughout the South in 1865and 1866. Previously, free African Americans, as well as black ministers, artisans, andveterans of the Union army, tended to dominate these proceedings, setting a pat-tern that would hold throughout Reconstruction. Convention debates sometimesreflected the tensions within African American communities, such as friction betweenpoorer former slaves and better-off free black people, or between lighter- and darker-skinned African Americans. But most of these state gatherings concentrated onpassing resolutions on issues that united all African Americans. The central con-cerns were suffrage and equality before the law. As the delegates to an Alabamaconvention asserted in 1867: “We claim exactly the same rights, privileges and immu-nities as are enjoyed by white men—we ask nothing more and will be content withnothing less. . . . The law no longer knows white nor black, but simply men, and con-sequently we are entitled to ride in public conveyances, hold office, sit on juriesand do everything else which we have in the past been prevented from doing solelyon the ground of color.”SharecroppingLabor system that evolvedduring and after Reconstruction wherebylandowners furnished laborers with ahouse, farm animals, and tools andadvanced credit in exchange for a shareof the laborers’ crop.In this excerpt, freed slaves and freeblacks took part in resolutions andaddressed the U.S. Congress over the lenient Reconstruction policiespursued by President Johnson.In one word, the only salvation for usbesides the power of the Government, is in the possession of the ballot. Give us this,and we will protect ourselves. We are “sheepin the midst of wolves,” and nothing but themilitary arm of the Government prevents usand all the truly loyal white men from beingdriven back from the land of our birth.In this excerpt, Reuben Gouldin andD. Kunkle of Virginia finalized a typicalsharecropping contract in early 1867. Memo of contract for cropping on the sharesthis year entered into this 1stday of January1867 between D. Kunkle and ReubenGouldin as follows. Gouldin is to work him-self and furnish the necessary labour to putin at least say twenty-five acres each corn,wheat and oats, and cultivate the same insuch fields on the place upon which heresides as Kunkle may designate . . .