Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Stories of the Ku Klux in Texas

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 20, 2016

A while back I posted about a relative of mine who served as a Confederate soldier during the war, and later became involved in the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. I’ve also posted about postwar racial strife in Texas in the area around Richmond, west of Houston (here and here). One of the very important strengths of the recent film, Free State of Jones, is that gives serious attention to the struggles of the Reconstruction era, instead of simply ending the story in 1865. That’s how people in the 1860s actually lived their lives, moving from one period to another, without the benefit of a tidy wrap-up of the plot when the soldiers came home from the war. One period of hardship transitioned into another.

With that in mind, I’d like to direct readers to a new series of posts over at This Cruel War, giving Freedmen’s accounts of Klan activity in Texas during the postwar years. Kudos to Eric for compiling and posting these.

_____

 

GeneralStarsGray

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9 Responses

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  1. Msb said, on October 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks for the info, Andy. And I liked that about Free State of Jones, too.

  2. Meg Groeling said, on October 20, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Eric has done a yeoman’s job all around. His is an interesting story, and that it has led to such a terrific blog series is even more proof that truth, no matter how uncomfortable, is freeing in its own right. Thanks for the nod his way!!

  3. J.B. Richman said, on October 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Very interesting stories. Sounds like the Klan in East Texas was the armed wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1860s. My Mother had a scare from the Klan in of all places Maine in the 1920s. That organization wasn’t nearly as violent as the original Klan. In Maine, the members of the Klan were anti-Catholic and anti-French Democrats. The Republican majority held them in contempt. She had a Cousin who married a French-Canadian. A very complicated story involving her broken family’s living arrangements; she was unknowingly living in a house of a Klanswoman! They knew that she was a Democrat, but the Klan thing was a surprise.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 22, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      “Sounds like the Klan in East Texas was the armed wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1860s.”

      During Reconstruction in the South that is, as Bill Maher would say, not wrong. Southern Democrats remained the political stronghold of segregation through the first half of the 20th century. That began to unravel with Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats in the late 1940s, and the Dems split wide open with LBJ and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s. At the same time, you had Barry Goldwater running in 1964 explicitly in opposition to civil rights legislation. Those things resulted in a complete realignment of the parties. It lead to George Wallace’s campaigns in 1968 and 1972, and the GOP capitalized on this with the Nixon campaign’s “Southern Strategy” in 1968, and have largely held sway in the South since then.

      • J.B. Richman said, on October 23, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        I was speaking of things as they were. The Democratic party in the 1920s was split between Northern city voters, often from Catholic ethnic groups, and more rural voters. The rural voters were split between Klan and Klan sympathizers on one hand and the the populists of the West and Midwest (and some in the South who leaned that way more than towards the Klan). William Jennings Bryan had led the Democrats to spectacular defeat in the preceding decades, which was partially reversed by Wilson. The Democrats were also split about the same way in the Reconstruction era. The Klan was not national in those days.

        Today, the Klan is basically an organization on the periphery of society, and in my opinion is associated with White prison gangs. Not the sort of people who can influence “polite” society. They can instigate terror attacks, like Dylan Roof’s.

        Barry Goldwater’s opposition to Civil Rights legislation was a part of his free enterprise philosophy, and not due to racial intolerance. From Wikipedia:

        “Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation and had supported the original senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that the act was 1) an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and 2) that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not to do business with whomever they chose.”
        [Numbers added by myself for clarity]

        In my opinion it was more the second listed item that caused his opposition. He had a record in Arizona of being sympathetic to Blacks.

        He was very much out of step with a large part of the Republican Party, particularly in the area of style, which contributed to his overwhelming defeat by Johnson.

        • Andy Hall said, on October 23, 2016 at 11:42 pm

          We are substantially in agreement. I frequently encounter heritage folks who say things like “the Democrats supported slavery!” and projecting that on the present-day party in 2016. Whether that is deliberate misrepresentation or simply reflects a profound ignorance of the political history on the United States, I cannot say.

          Regarding Goldwater, I agree about his approach, but his position ended up moving the party that had historically championed civil rights away from that position, and made it attractive to folks whose views on the matter were somewhat more visceral than his own.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Also note that during Reconstruction, there were a great many Klan-like vigilante groups comprised anywhere from a half dozen members to hundreds, all over the South, many of which had no official connection to the Klan that was founded in Tennessee. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them in practice, in their purpose or tactics, and for convenience’ sake they are sometimes rolled all together as “the Klan” rubric, even if that’s not strictly correct.

  4. woodrowfan said, on October 27, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Speaking of Ben Butler, is there a good biography of Butler you can recommend ?

    • Andy Hall said, on October 27, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      I don’t. But I’ve seen his haunted boots, so there’s that.


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