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A Second Redemption: The Democratic White Supremacy Campaign and Disfranchisement in North Carolina, 1898-1901

In the context of the Civil War and Reconstruction, it is often thought the white Southern Democrats, known as the “Redeemers” effectively ended the processes of Reconstruction through paramilitary activities, election fraud and manipulation, and general cries of “negro domination.”  With the political compromise that thrust Rutherford B. Hayes to the presidency in 1877, the South is generally considered to have been “Redeemed.”  The Republican-Populist fusion victories in North Carolina state politics in 1894, however, challenged the Democratic Party’s one-party rule.  To regain control of the state, Democrats in 1898 employed scare tactics similar to the Democrats of the 1870s, including the cries of “negro domination.”  This exhibit explores that 1898 Democratic campaign, often referred to as the White Supremacy Campaign, and describes how Democrats played on racial fears of whites to regain control of the state political apparatus.  It further discusses the parallels between Redemption in 1877 and the Democrats attempts to Redeem the state again in 1898, which in turn led to the passage of disfranchisement legislation.  It concludes that the White Supremacy Campaign and disfranchisement at the turn of the century offered Democrats a more effective mechanism for a second Redemption.  


Kelsey Griffin