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Wyatt Outlaw

African-American Republicans were key targets for the Ku Klux Klan; they embodied everything the Klan was against. These men more than threatened the racially defined hierarchies, they began to knock them down. Wyatt Outlaw, an African-American Republican, who aligned with the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Began his political career when he served as a delegate to a state freedman’s convention in 1866, and shortly after organized a Union League chapter. His chapter had substantial membership with an orientation toward community development and political power. Under his direction the league helped to establish a black school, an AME Zion Church and most significantly enabled Republicans to take control of Graham and the Alamance county government in 1868. Due to these accomplishments, Governor Holden appointed him to the state council of the Union League and to the post of town commissioner, not just one term but two. Being on the Union League state council, perhaps was the greatest threat saw by the Klan. The Klan sought after the Union League to completely destroy it. The Union League had effectively mobilized enfranchised black voters, more significantly they advanced the greater African-American struggle to reconstitute communities on a more stable and self-governing basis. (Hahn 2005, 273) The Klan saw the Union League as a vital core of the black community; most threatening to them was that they defied the racial hierarchy. Wyatt Outlaw, being a key actor in this league, represented that destruction of the racial hierarchies the Klan wanted to keep in place. When the Klan began to bother his followers he did not back down, he organized a small police patrol to defend Graham, but at the same time he discouraged individual blacks from arming themselves in order to prevent mass violence. His accomplishments, his political shrewdness, determination and ties to white Republicans put a target on his back for the Klan. Outlaw made the results of Reconstruction accessible to African-Americans, he was an adversary for the Republicans and he was building their power, not only in the county but in the state. This success was the exact thing the Klan feared, so on February 26th, 1870, the Klan brutally murdered him. They hung him in front of the courthouse, as a direct message and warning to his fellow Republicans, “Beware you guilty both white and black.” (Hahn 2005, 275) His murder was a spark that ignited the Kirk-Holden War, through his actions and ultimately his death he was on the forefront of suppressing the Klan.