A favorite means of evading

“These laws were unwisely urged by those whites who did not desire to accept the consequences of the war. To make the laws effective, it was thought necessary by their advocates to suppress the Negro voters; for, if they were allowed to vote, there were so many of them, and so many of the whites had been disfranchised because of participation in the war, that defeat was certain. Here is where the bitterness, which for a long time seemed to curse our country, had its origin. The Negroes and their friends were lined up on one side and their opponents on the other.

“The ‘Ku Klux Klan’ was a secret organization whose purpose was to frighten and intimidate Negroes and thus prevent their voting. It had branch organizations in the different Southern states during the reconstruction period. When the members went out on raids, they wore disguises; some had false heads with horns and long beards, some represented his satanic majesty, some wore long gowns, others wrapped themselves in sheets of different colors, and all sorts of hideous shapes and forms, with masks representing the heads of different animals, such as goats, cows 52 and mules. They proceeded on the principle of using mild means first, but when that failed, they did not hesitate to resort to harsher methods. The object seemed to be only to so frighten Negroes that they would not attempt to vote. But in carrying out this scheme they often met resistance, whereupon many outrages were perpetrated upon people who made a stand for their rights under the law of the land. In obstinate cases and toward the end of their careers “klans” would visit Negro cabins at night and terrify the inmates by whipping them, hanging them up by their thumbs, and sometimes killing them. Many Negroes who assumed to lead among their people were run from one county into another. Some were run out of their states, and even white men who led the Negroes in thickly settled Negro counties were driven out.

“The story was told of one case where a white man named Stephens, the recognized political leader of the Negroes as well as a few whites, in one of the states, was invited into one of the lower rooms of the courthouse of his county while a political meeting by his opponents was in progress above, and there told he must agree to leave the county and quit politics or be killed then and there. 53 He refused to do either, whereupon two physicians, with others who were present, tied him, laid him on a table and opened his jugular veins and bled him to death in buckets provided for the occasion. Meanwhile the stamping of feet and the yelling above, where the speaking was going on, was tremendous, being prearranged to deaden any outcry that he might make. It is said that Stephens’s last words before he was put on the table were a request that he might go to the window and take a final look at his home, which was only a few rods away. This was granted, and as he looked his wife passed out of the house and his children were playing in the yard. Stephens’s dead body was found by a Negro man who suspected something wrong and climbed to the window of the room in search for him.

“Such acts as these spread terror among the Negro population, as well as bad feeling, and dug a wide political pit between the Negro and the Democratic party which organized these methods of intimidation.6 The ‘Ku Klux Klan’ was finally annihilated by the strong hand of President Grant, who filled the South with sufficient militia to suppress it. the 54 arrests made by the militia was to have the prisoners released on habeas corpus by the native judges. To stop this the writ of habeas corpus was suspended by some of the provisional governors. One governor who did this was impeached by the Democratic party when it returned to power and he died broken hearted, without the removal of his disabilities. You can easily see from these facts how the political differences between the Negro and the Democratic party arose.”

Here my paper ended. When I had read it over to Dr. Newell, he rose and went over to his desk, saying,

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