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African Americans Belonged to Separate Political Parties after Enslavement

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster
Edmund L Drago, Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina During Reconstruction (Fayetteville, University of Arkansas Press; March 1, 1999)
Edmund L Drago, Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina During Reconstruction (Fayetteville, University of Arkansas Press; March 1, 1999)

In my search for Beverly Vance (1899-1832), I came across Hurrah for Hampton! Black Red Shirts in South Carolina During Reconstruction by Edmund L. Drago in the Richland Library in 2005. I found the reference to Beverly.

Asbury Green was twelve years old and enslaved in Abbeville County, SC when the Civil War began. He was a sharecropper who voted Republican in the beginning, but he could not support his wife or five children during Reconstruction. He decided to change to the Democratic Party and wear the “red shirt.” Asbury felt this would afford him decent government and fair wages.

He testified before the SC Senate on December 29, 1876 in Columbia, SC at twenty-seven years old. On pages 71 and 72, he gave an account of who he met on Tuesday, the day of the election:

“We came down to the polls of a Monday night, before Tuesday, the day of the election, that we might be there all night and get up to the polls as soon as anybody and vote and get out of the way. We got breakfast a little while before day; I could not exactly say what time they ate; and then they all marched out two by two, locked arms, up to the polls. It was not so powerful long before day opened, and we walked up and voted, and by the time we got done voting Beverly Vance marched up there with his crowd, and he says, “Well, men, as soon as you get through, fall back and let us get in;” and I says as soon as we get through of course we will get out of the way.”

Well we got out of the way, and the boys says, “Well, now we got Hampton at the bottom, now we’ll ram Chamberlain on top and kill him dead,” jes so. He says, “Now, we’ll ram Chamberlain right in and kill Hampton dead, and keep him at the bottom, and we’ll hold him there; and I have got about seventy-five or a hundred coming up here.” They were all armed with great clubs. I said to him, “What do you colored men all want of clubs. I said to him, “We just marched up two by two with the white men when we voted, and no swearing and nothing of the sort, and I never saw such a peaceful election in all my life,”

Asbury was with Democrats who had voted on election day, and Beverly was with Republicans. They both exercised their right to vote but were members of different parties.

Sharpen the Saw

We do not know that there was no violence or intimidation according to Asbury’s testimony. We do know African Americans were on opposing sides. Have you documented your ancestors during Reconstruction? What party did they belong to? Let us know out on the Facebook Group.

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