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Abraham Galloway

"Galloway was the kind of man whose biting sense of humor and sharp eye for hypocrisy inspired senate conservatives to steer away from a direct argument with him. Few of his fellow senators had ever been compelled to confront a black man as an equal, much less a black man as fearless and battle-tested as Galloway.” (Cecelski 2012, 205) Abraham Galloway was a fiery and extremely influential African-American Republican, the kind of Republican and African-American, the Democratic Party and the Klan was fearful of. He was elected in 1868 to represent New Hanover and Brunswick counties. He was one of three black senators and seventeen black representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly that was dominated by Republicans in 1868 (Cecelski  2012, 204) He was put on the ballot for the third district’s candidate for presidential elector, which made him the first African-American male in North Carolina history to appear on a statewide ballot. This historical achievement became a source of pride as well as hope for African-American voters going to the polls for the first time. After the election of 1868, him and other Republican leaders declared in a letter to the black voters that the election confirmed, “we are men, and a part of the body politic.” (Cecelski 2012, 204). Galloway played an integral part in the senate leadership and was recognized as being the Republican’s liaison to North Carolina’s African-American voters.

He was threatenend with assassination with each step he took, due to his political beliefs and his actions. While he dealt with the Klan in Wilmington, they inflicted the same terror there as they did in the Piedmont counties. He understood the importance of armed self-defense, and how crucial it was to political survival. A local militia organized by blacks to defend themselves elected Galloway as their commander. They were organized under state law and his militia was called the 1st Regiment, North Carolina Defense Militia. Governor Holden commissioned him a lieutenant colonel as well as its commanding officer. If anyone understood that a constitution was only as strong as the military power available to defend it, it was former slaves and black army veterans. (Cecelski 2012, 204) Being a veteran and an African-American he knew the importance of defending himself and his fellow citizens against the widespread Klan violence. As the debates began over increasing the strength of Governor Holden’s militia to combat the rapid Ku Klux Klan, terrorism in the North Carolina piedmont. Galloway commanded the floor, he lost his patience, and he could not tolerate white legislators who defended the Klan.  As conservative senators continually defended the Klan as a necessary evil for opposing black criminality and assuring order, Galloway jumped out of his seat. (Cecelski 2012, 206) To him and many other Republican officials this was absurd and they could not understand how the Democratic Party could continue, “to justify the deeds and outrages of this miserable and contemptible organization!” (Cecelski 2012, 206) He refused to let the Democratic Party give more power to murderers that spread their terror all over the state. This violence the Ku Klux Klan carried out, where to stop the repercussions, Galloway worked for. His political career he focused on the most fundamental rights of freedman and women. He voted for the 14th and 15th amendments, extending citizenship to former slaves and affirming their right to due process and equal protection under the law. During the Klan violence equal protection under the law did not exist, horrific violence was carried out and the law did not punish the Klan or protect their victims. Their right to vote, no matter their race, color or former servitude, was being violated as well. As violence was used to ensure they did not vote, or voted for the opposing party. Galloway passionately supported many measures to restrict the Ku Klux Klan. A key measure he backed was the bill to create a state militia to combat the Klan’s white terrorism (Shoffner Act). Galloway made his support for Governor Holden’s attempts to stop the Ku Klux Klan in the piedmont, very clear. He saw these acts of violence, as atrocities and he knew their constitution and legislation could only protect them so much. During and after Governor Holden's impeachment, Galloway and other fellow African American Republican representatives created broadsides and poltical propaganda such as the, Address to the Colored People of North Carolina and Read and Circulate!,warning the citizens of the danger the Democratic Party would bring. Galloway and his colleagues knew the evils of the Democratic Party and they would contiune to take rights away as long as they were in power. Galloway embodied a willingness to make common cause across the color line. He embodied the spirit of democracy and black radicalism that encompassed the Reconstruction south. Everything he embodied, the Klan fought to destroy. With the ensuing Klan violence and many threats against his life, he found within himself the will to carry out the vision of racial justice and political equality, that the Klan, the Democratic Party and the rest of the world could not yet fathom, a vision that would far out cede the failed attempts of Reconstruction. (Cecelski 2012, 209)