It is important to understand Tourgee’s background in order to fully grasp why he was so passionate about African Americans obtaining civil rights and wrote so extensively on it. He was born in Williamsfield, OH in 1838 where the town was in the midst of an evangelical upheaval when Tourgee was born. One of the tenets of this religious movement was abolition. Thus, even as a very young person Tourgee “lamented the ‘crying sin’ of slavery” (Item 233). Tourgee developed a feeling of admiration for abolitionists who would face public disgrace by promoting this idea. These sentiments would pervade Tourgee’s life.
After a successful high school career he would go on to the University of Rochester. Though he was a dedicated student his studies were put on hold because of financial constraints and later the Civil War. Tourgee served a short first term of service because he injured. He was honorably discharged and went to work on his rehabilitation. After gaining back his ability to walk, Tourgee reenlisted in the Union cause. During this stint in the Civil War he was stationed in Kentucky and Tennessee and had the opportunity to meet slaves for the first time. This was one of the experiences that had the most impact on him because he interacted with them on a daily basis and developed personal relationships with them. Tourgee already believed that African Americans deserved freedom and civil liberties so meeting these
slaves in person truly solidified his perspective.
Though his time reenlisted in the Civil War he found rewarding and important work, ultimately his illness was too debilitating for him to remain in the war. With the observations of the south still fresh in his mind, Tourgee decided that he wanted to move there with his wife, Emma, on a permanent basis. He was interested in “aiding the transition from a slave society to a free one” in the south and had also been told by doctors that the more temperate climate would be better for his illness (Item 233). Thus, Albion and Emma moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.
During his time in North Carolina he became incredibly involved in politics where he was elected to the North Carolina Congressional Convention on the strength of the black electorate. He also worked on the local levels to help African Americans to get property or found
schools in order to gain education. Tourgee was an avid writer of both political nonfiction as well as fiction, which was taken from his personal experiences. Through his writing he was able to express his somewhat radical views about African American advancement. He eventually became the Superior Court Justice and through his six year term he made many controversial decisions, especially regarding the punishments of white men for crimes against African Americans. His radical verdicts often put him in danger but he was not
afraid to speak up for his beliefs even in the face of the violent organization, the Klu Klux Khan. They had threatened him on many occasions but he continued to work towards equality for African Americans. In all of Tourgee’s work in the South, whether professionally, merely in helping black communities or writing he was an influential advocate for rights of African Americans in many realms.