In the American South, Reconstruction occurred after the Civil War, and it attempted to restore the South back into the Union. Many historians have debated if Reconstruction was a success or a failure, but ultimately Reconstruction in the South was a failure. As a state that had seceded, North Carolina did not rejoin the Union until 1868. Rejoining the Union meant that North Carolina had to accept the Reconstruction Acts and ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Reconstruction Acts sparked controversy especially in Southern states. An extreme gap grew between the Republican and Democratic parties along with racial gaps between white Southerners and newly freed African Americans. William Woods Holden was an important historical actor during Reconstruction. His ability to govern North Carolina would be called into question and would ultimately lead to his downfall.
Many historians have explored William Woods Holden, the first governor of North Carolina to be impeached. Holden was the governor of North Carolina from 1868 to 1871, and during this time the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan, was especially prevalent and active in the counties of Alamance and Caswell. The Ku Klux Klan, during Reconstruction, has been a topic that many historians have studied, so the topic of Governor Holden and the Ku Klux Klan is extremely important, because the interactions between the two led to drastic changes in North Carolina. The actions Holden took against the violence of the Ku Klux Klan ultimately led to his impeachment as governor of North Carolina. Studying Governor Holden and the Ku Klux Klan is important in understanding the political and racial situation that North Carolinians experienced during Reconstruction. His impeachment signaled the downfall of the Republican Party in the state, which allowed for the Democratic Party to reestablish its rule. Governor Holden justified his actions by declaring Alamance and Caswell counties in a state of insurrection, which called for government intervention to protect the citizens of those counties.