Even though huge steps in obtaining civil rights had been achieved through the 13th and the 14th Amendments, the staunch and steadfast resistance of the southern Democratic States to those measures continued; they simply Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led the slaughter of African Americans at fort pillow ignored the constitutional Amendments and the federal laws. Congress therefore imposed requirements that before the former Confederate States could be readmitted into the United States; they must first approve both the 13th and 14th Amendments, 172 and then must create new state constitutions that guaranteed equal civil rights for black Americans.
As a result of those requirements, Alabama rewrote its constitution in 1867; in 1868, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas rewrote their constitutions; and in 1870, Tennessee and Virginia became the last of the former Confederate States to rewrite their State constitutions. However, the votes to ratify these new constitutions granting civil rights to black Americans were met with massive resistance and widespread riots and attacks by Democrats throughout those States. The southern states were required to recognize civil rights before being readmitted to the United States democrats attacked African Americans to prevent them from voting.
For example, in 1868 in Mississippi, Democrats and the Klan attacked blacks on their way to vote for the new constitution, and the Republican officials administering those elections were similarly attacked. Former State Governor William Sharkey – appointed by Democratic President Andrew Johnson – led an armed band that attacked and threatened election officials. Order was not restored until federal troops arrived to quell what one official committee described as the Democrats’ “reign of terror.”
As a result of the events in Mississippi, the congressional Committee on Reconstruction convened extensive hearings. For those who have heard so little of this part of American history – or especially of this part of African American political history – the hearings provided what today a citizen might consider shocking information. Consider, for example, the testimony of election worker Robert Flournoy, given before the Committee on December 15, 1868:
Q: How long have you resided in Mississippi?
A. Twelve years. I was born in Georgia.
Q. What means have you had within the last year of knowing the sentiment of the people of Mississippi concerning the constitution that was framed by the convention?
A. I canvassed a large portion of the State in favor of the adoption and ratification of the constitution. . . . Of course I made it my business to ascertain the sentiment of the people from what I could judge in the general expressions of approval or disapproval of remarks made; and I took it upon myself to converse freely with the people. I am a considerable sort of congressional hearings on the bloody attacks by democrats’ Negro man and talk with the Negroes wherever I go. I have never met in all my interaction with the Negroes of Mississippi but one single Negro, who professed to be a Democrat and that, was in the town of Oxford. He was a waiter in a hotel, and he informed me that he was a Democrat. I tried to convert him and failed, and left him a Democrat.