STEPPING INTO FREEDOM : AN ANALYSIS OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION ERA by KATHLEEN S HOWE A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History University of South F l orida Aprill997 Major Professor : Laura F Edwards, Ph. D
Examining Committee: Graduate School University of South Florida Tampa F lorid a CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL Master s Thesis This is to certify that the Master s Thesis of KATHLEEN S HOWE with a major in History has been approved by the Examining Committee on l April 1997 as satisfactory for the thesis requirement for th e Master of Arts degree MeJllber : John Nf.' Belohlavek Ph .D. Mdmber : Kirsten Fischer Ph D
DEDICATION This study is dedicated to the African-American men and women whose story is told. Their courage vision and fortitude influenced the Reconstruction era in ways not fully recogni zed or appreciated Only with the passage of time has their contribution become more clear It is onl y fitting that the freedpeople of Hillsborough County receive recognition for their pivotal role in defining what emancipation would mean for them.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This thesis culminates almost three years of research and study Its frndings and anal y sis owe much to the support and encouragement I received from the faculty of the University of South Florida's Department of History. Their energy enthusiasm and expertise made the learning process rewarding Dr. Laura Edwards proved a va lu ed mentor. Her guidance and thoughtful critique of this project at every phase provided the needed spark to keep it going when the sources were so sparse. Her insights into the complexities of the Reconstruction Era helped me to better understand the motivations behind the actions of those studied I also owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. John Belohlavek for making clear the important connections between political and social history. The two when brought together provide a more powerful commentary that would be possible with eith e r alone Dr. Kirsten Fischer possesses and passes a l ong an enthus iasm for history that i s contagious Her helpful comments and insightful observations helped make this project a success Although I received much guidance in writing this study, any errors of fact or analysis remain so le l y the responsibility of the author. I also owe a specia l debt to Julius J. Gordon whose tireless efforts to chronicle Hillsborough County history provide a rich source of information for researchers. He ha s spent countle s s hours collec tin g and cata lo ging historical facts and making them avai lab le to others. His efforts provide an invaluable service to the community. I great l y appreciate his generosity My thanks to all.
TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT l1J CHAPTER l. INTRODUCTION CHAPTER2. TRANSITIONS IN THE FAMILY: HOUSEHOLD DEVELOPMENT 1 2 IN THE POSTWAR PERIOD Hous eho ld D eve lopment: New Families New Perspectives 1 3 Southern Social Hierarchies: The Struggle for Status 25 Conclusion 33 CHAPTER 3 THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT OF LABOR 35 "Experiments" In Labor : Who Would Control The Laborer ? 37 Flirting with Colonization: Schemes to Separate the Races 41 Forcing Labor From the Freedpeople 45 The Gendered Meanings of Labor 52 Acreage But No Mules 57 Conclu s ion 62 CHAPTER 4 THE POLITICS OF FREEDOM: AFRICAN AMERICANS STRUGGLES TO BE HEARD 65 A Clash of Visions 67 Votes For Freedom 75 A New Age: Practicing Politics in th e County 82 Conclusion 89 CHAPTER 5 THE BUSINESS OF CLIMBING WHEN EDUCATION IS THE LADDER 92 The Politics of Public Education 93 Meeting Educational Needs 100 Schools For Hillsborough Co un ty 1 03 Conclusion 112 CHA PTER 6. FINAL THOUGHTS 114
SOURCES CONSULTED APPENDICES APPENDIX 1 EDUCATION CERTIFICATION TEST 11 122 129 130
STEPPING INTO FREEDOM : AN ANALYSIS OF THE AFRlCANAMERlCAN COMMUNITY IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION ERA by KATHLEEN S HOWE An Abstract Of a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History University of South F l orida Aprill997 Major Professor: Laura F Edwards Ph. D lll
The end of the Civil War completed the process of emancipation and ushered in the Reconstruction era This period was characterized by dramatic change though it did not come easily Freedpeople sought autonomy while conservative southern whites tried to retain their control over society and northern whites sought reunification of the nation The challenge for Florida s African Americans during this period was to assert themselves in an economic social and political system that marginali zed them. This was especially difficult given the concerted efforts whites made to dominate the post-war social order. These efforts were evident in the state s Black Codes as well as less fonnal policies and practices They reflected the beliefs of many southern whites that blacks were inferior and in need of continued supervision. These entrenched belie fs made meaningful change in the South problematic Blacks on th e other hand refused to accept constraints on their freedom designed to set them apart from white citizens They knew that for freedom to have real significance, they must take an active part in shaping its meaning. These realizations motivated African-American resistance to the disadvantaged social, economic and political roles conservative whites envisioned for them Both blacks and whites had visions for the post-war society and di ffe rences in these set the stage for conflict. Conservative southern whites wanted blacks to be self supporting but still dependent on their fanner masters. Northern whites reali ze d black autonomy was necessary to undercut southern white influence yet also wanted to limit black independence They feared a mass migration of blacks northward would impede economic recov ery in the South and creat e an untenable social relief burden in northern states Freedpeople for their part sought autonomy but also insisted on the right to defme it for themselves The conflict this engendered was characterized b y daily resistance and a steady stream of low leve l confrontations that forced whites to accommodate to new realities of African-American freedom African-American resistance to white attempts to limit their autonomy took many fonns, and in turn elicited a range of responses from whites The ways in which freed peopl e fanned their IV
own households renegotiated new labo r relations struggled for education and wielded the vote challenged white dominance It is through an analysis of these areas that we are better able to understand Reconstruction. This study highlights developments in Hillsborough County then a rural frontier locale It expands our knowledge of Reconstruction in areas not characterized by a plantation economy. In Hillsborough County blacks represented only about 18-20 percent of the population during the Reconstruction era unlike North Florida where several counties were majority black. The smaller black population within Hillsborough County resulted in less direct competition between blacks and whites a lower level of violence and more daily interaction between the races Differences in the way Reconstruction unfolded in Hillsborough County illustrate that the character of communities influenced Reconstruction in ways previously ignored Because the African Americans of Hillsboroug h County left few written records of their journey into freedom their attitudes beliefs, and goals must be deduced from their actions Despite the lack of black-authored sources, federal government state and local records provide ample evidence of events and their motivations Census records reveal demographics and details on individuals Freedmen s Bureau records trace the progress of Reconstruction and white and black reactions to it. The local press provides valuable insight into the beliefs and fears of the white community A wealth of secondary literature also illustrates how the experiences in Hillsborough County were similar and different from the other areas in the South Abstract Majdlr Professor : Laura F Edwards Ph. D Assistant Professor Department of History Date Approved : __ I I v
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The end of the Civil War brought new realities to Southerners both black and white For blacks emancipation marked the beginning of freedom ; for whites, an end to uncontested hegemony Conservative whites who previously dominated the political scene would have to compete for power with white Unionists and those they once enslaved Union victory completed the process of emancipating blacks from slavery but freedom did not bring equality or rectify the severe deprivations freedpeople suffered under the defunct institution. Ex-slaves found themselves nominally free but still enmeshed in a social and political system that did not value them or accept th eir equality Many left their former homes with nothing but the clothes they wore while others were fortunate enough to salvage a few possessions. Regardless of w hat the y brought with them into freedom it was not enough ; abject poverty threatened to place African Americans back under white control. Despite this, blacks reveled in their new found status as they sought autonomy and the right to defme that concept for themsel ves. Meanwhile conservative whites often irritated at freedpeople s assertiveness tried to shape the new order to marginalize freedpeople .1 What emancipation ultimately meant for all was dramatic and irrevocable change The struggle between the groups altered southern society but the process and shape of change was highly contested Thi s is the story of some of those changes and how they affected life in Florida and Hillsborough County during the Reconstruction period of 1865 through 1877 1 The term s Conservative and R a dical are used extensively throughout thi s paper just as the y were during the Recon s truction period to distingui s h p o litical outlooks Conservative s generall y referred to D e mo c rats and Whigs of the South. Conservatives u se d th e t e rm Radical to identif y Unionists R e publican s, o r anyone they felt challenged their view of society
2 Historians have written much about southern history, but still have not fully addressed the dynamics of change or the extent of resistance and confrontation between blacks and whites as the former sought autonomy in the postwar period. Only by doing so can we really understand the choices blacks made and the motivations behind their actions. White contemporaries recognized their search for autonomy, but not its nature. They often assumed blacks wanted to emulate white middle-class norms and measured African Americans efforts accordingly. Historians perpetuated this v iew for many years leading to a string of reconstruction scholarship, epitomized by the Dunning S chool, which contributed to racial stereotypes and marginalized the role of freed people in reshaping the South .2 By the late 1960s historians began to reevaluate the tenets of the Dunning School. More recent scholarship acknowledges that African Americans sought autonomy and recognizes that they defmed it differently than did whites. This scholarship also accepts a broader definition of conflict that takes into account the important role of low-level daily resistance in shaping society By examining the choices blacks made in this light we see they not only res isted white effo rts to marginalize them but also forced whites to accommodate to their views Most reconstruction scholarship deals with cotton belt blacks rather than their counterparts residing in developin g areas like Hillsborough County then a small rural community in South Florida. These studies can mislead, implying we can understand the process of reconstruction solely by examining areas dominated by a plantation economy The gap in the literature reflects the difficulty of fmding African-American voices in the rural southern frontier. Their experiences are important, however for they validate fmdings elsewhere in some cases but also show that unique conditions in frontier settings sometimes influenced outcomes 2 For the Dunning School's contributions to r e construction studies in Florida, see William W Davis T he Civil War and Recons tmction in F l orida (Gainesville: University of Florida Press 196 4)
3 In some Florida counties large black populations accentuated white fears bringing determined efforts to control freedpeople Hillsborough County b y contrast was sparsely populated and underdeveloped. The entire population in 1860 was only 2 981 with blacks contributing 566 of that number. So while statewide African Americans made up about 44 percent of the populace and several northern counties had large black majorities Hillsborough County s black population was only about 1820 percent of the total throughout the Reconstruction era Also unlike North Florida where plantations were common and commercial crops predominated in South Florida cattle was king small farms and food crops dominated agricultural pursuits, and fewer whites had owned slaves.3 Hillsborough County during this period was still a developing area and the predominance of farming the lack of manufactures and worker shortages provided an environment of less direct competition between blacks and whites The smaller black population in the county after e mancipation also made this a community where it was possible to know virtually everyone else either personally or by reputation. This resulted in less overt violence toward blacks although white citi zens held the same paternalistic attitudes evident throughout the state The lower incidence of ov ert violence did not mean prejudice was unimportant in the daily li ves of freed people but it did allow Reconstruction to proceed more smoothly Thus a study centered on Hillsborough County makes it easier to gain an unobstructed view of routine psychological and verbal battles that accompanied change phenomena we can easily overlook in the face of high-profile violence. Physical violence and white atrocities are well documented but historians often assign them too much importance in explaining events. In fact, sensationalistic violence has often led historians to see these actions as the defining characteristic of Reconstruction In doing so, they miss the importanc e of low-level conflict that was an ever-present factor in the reconstruction process 3 U S Census Bureau Manu sc ript Census, 1860, Hill s borough County, Florida County whites owne d s lave s in about the s ame proportion (5%) a s in o ther areas of the South but the s mall white populatio n meant ther e were relati ve l y few former s lav e owners and even fewer who had owned man y s l aves
4 Where often we see confrontations simply as evidence of continued racial prejudice the y represent much more--the y are markers in the struggle for control. In Florida the Klan reportedly killed 222 blacks during the Reconstruction period .4 Much of this violence reflected white frustration at growing African-American independence. In this sense the backlash toward blacks reflects the victories they claimed in daily interactions with whites Organized violence by whites had been less necessary when African Americans were unable to influence the outcome of events Confrontation was inevitable since blacks refused to capitulate to white demands and whites refused to relinquish th e ir power without a fight. Most often though chang e unfolded through subtle daily interactions. To see the importance of such acts requires e x panding our view of conflict beyond that offered b y traditional political histories Control often was at the heart of disagreements and showed itse lf as an issue in labor disputes partisan political activities educational matters demands for access to courts the household and a host of other areas The freedpeople supposedly docile and pliant, were anything but that. The perplexed reactions and irritation of whites highlight previously unrecogni z ed lev e l s of confrontation and resistance in th e pos twar South Hillsborough also differed from northern Florida counties in that most of its slaves and la ter freedpeople lived in or very close to town In other areas the presence of large plantations meant man y blacks lived and worked away from population centers African Americans often lived within their own communities even when residing in predominantly white towns and cities however This was the case in Tampa where most black residents lived in an area called the Scrub.5 Within these 4 R a lph L Peek Lawle ss ness in Fl o rida : 1 8681 87 1 ,"Fl o rid a Hi s t o ric a l Quart e rly 4 0 (Oc t o ber 1961 ) : 1 6 4 1 8 1 T h e w ors t ar eas o f rac i a l v i o lence in F l o rid a w ere th e n o rth c e ntr a l and n o rth e rn co un ties of Alac h ua, Lafa ye tte S uwann ee, H amilt o n M adiso n an d Co lumbi a an d the We st Fl o rida co unties of J ac k so n and Calh o un. 1 53 death s took place in J ac k so n Co unty a l one. There are n o d oc um e nted c a s e s of Klan killin gs in Hill s b o r o ugh County during the Rec o n s tru ctio n p erio d 5 The boundarie s of th e Scrub were S c o tt Street on th e North Ca s s on the S o uth Central A v e nue o n the W es t and N ebras k a on the East acc o rding t o the 1886 Tampa Cit y Directory
5 .communities, blacks formed their own churches organized schoo ls, held political meetings and defmed their own interests Hillsborough County, then, provides an ideal location for study precisely because change occurred less through spectacular events than through dai l y interaction and continued low-level struggles. Differing visions for the postwar society set the stage for confrontation between black and white southerners Discourse between the blacks and whites often centered around the attempts of each to defme the role of African Americans in the new social order. Conservative white southerners wanted freedpeople to be economically self-supporting, but not too independent. Paternalistic views were evident and show these whites often thought they could and should specify the new status and role of African Americans in southern society. Blacks, on the other hand, were eager to defme their own place in society Their goals revolved around achieving independence and equality, which they insisted on interpreting for themselves. Blacks claimed for themselves the benefits of citizenship and the freedom to make decisions about what was in their own best interests. A clash of wills resulted From this the new South was born This was truly a case where two races occupied the same space but not the same reality--issues of class race, and gender informed perspectives and shaped daily interactions. 6 While these factors sometimes allowed a confluence of different groups momentarily when interests coincided they most often acted as centrifugal forces preventing any long-term solidarity. Recent scholarship speaks to these issues in the postwar South in ways that provide a deeper understanding of the forces at work 6 The concept of"race" is problematic and the subject of continuing hi sto riographical debate Whil e most scientists now agree there are no biological differences between blacks and whites the concept of rac e remain s powerful nonetheles s, particularly through its ability to s hape attitudes For analy sis of th e hi s t oriograp hical debate on the connection between slavery and r ac ism see Alden T. Vaughan, The Origins Debate : Slavery and Racism in Seventeenth-Century Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of Hi story and Biography 97 (July, 1989) 311-354. Although there i s no biological basis to race historical experiences s haped the perspective s of blacks and whites The se experiences did not create monolithic views or behavior based on "race ," however, for both class and gender inf orme d race in ways that make preclude general iza tions.
6 keeping southern society in tunnoil and preventing political and social equality. A multi-valent analysis particularly suits this period in history since social tumult threw a wide variety of assumptions into question, not just in the black community but throughout the South. The generalized upheaval gave new public meaning to private actions and illuminates the complexities of southern society. The clash of wills cuts across issues of race, class and gender and allows us to better see the ways private actions intruded into and influenced the public realm. In doing so we clearly see the deficiencies of political histori es that minimiz e the importance of private actions. Instead we see federal and state policies were often reactions to individual and collective activities that challenged the status quo To fully understand the dynamics of change we must examine the black and white communities together to gain an understanding of either because first s lavery and then emancipation inevitably tied the two together whether they understood that or not. T he dail y contests that brought change to southern society did so not just for freed people but for all of so uthern society Whites who previously defmed their status in terms o f th e freedom their race enjoyed had to look to other means to maintain their po s ition. Poor whites found th e g ap b e tween th e m and black s narrowed since eco nomically th ey often differed little from black s. Whil e only about five percent of Florida's populace were slave owners before the Civil War, ther e was widespread belief among almost all whites that African Am e ricans were innatel y inferior. Non-slave o wning whites may have resented the economic advanta ge slaves g av e to their owners but they were not willing to undercut that advantage by welcoming emancipation. Poor whites w e re abl e to reconcile their s tatus when s lavery existed because whatever they might lack th ey had freedom With emancipation the wa g es of whiteness were less clear and less sec ure.7 7 For a full e r discussi o n o f the p syc h o l ogica l and eco nomic benefi ts whites receiv ed b ase d o n th e ir race see David R. Roedi ger, Wage s of Whiten ess: Race and th e Making of th e Am e rican Working C l ass (New York: Ver so, 1991 )
7 Conceptions of class took on new m eaning when freed people were added to the equation Among whites, class most often followed familiar patterns centered around economic status or occupation Thus the larger independent farmers, merchants and professionals provided the bulk of white community leadership In the emerging black community, economic status was less important a m easure than actions. The bl ack community drew its leaders from a variety of sources and it was not unusual fo r common laborers to be community leaders and activists In this sense, the black community represented a more egalitarian structure since it did not tie community leadership to economic status Gender conceptions, in both the public and private realms also served as an arena for daily conflict between black and white Blacks rejected the gender roles assigned them by whites and those prescribed roles became more clearly associated with class and race. African Americans did not adopt the middle class vision of how they could raise themselves socially nor did they accept t h e idea they should necessarily work for their former masters Freedpeople recognized that these prescriptions intended to make them a permanent underclass since whites never accepted the idea blacks could be their equals Instead, African Americans individually and as household members acted according to their own gend er beliefs. For freedpeople the struggle for autonomy manifested itself in a continuing battle for independent work relations and attempts to keep family members away from white control. These efforts elicited a wide range of white responses including the violence of night riders efforts to use vagrancy laws to compel labor, and private and public state ments disparaging blacks and their work ethic How black and white Floridians dealt with Reconstruction, howe ver, is only part of the story White northern attitudes brought South by Union soldiers the Freedmen's Bureau and carpetbaggers also played a role in shaping the new society In man y respects northern attitudes
8 blacks were not much different than southern views Ingrained feelings that African Americans were inferior resulted in continued discussion about colonization even after the war ended Although some northerners hoped Reconstruction would result in African-American assimilation into society this did not occur Further, officials instituted programs which sometimes benefitted the freedpeople but this was not the primary goal. Federal officials felt the only way to preserve the nation was to reshape the political economic and social landscape of the South Agents of the Freedmen s Bureau used the political s ystem to curb the power of southern elites the education system to shape the minds of the young and programs such as the Homestead Act of 1866 to create a more independent yeoman farmer class Freedmen s Bureau officers concentrated efforts on giving blacks the vote while disenfranchising former rebels. The federal government wanted to create a true two-party system in the South and needed to bring together white Republicans and blacks to form a political coalition capable of challenging the powerful Democratic party.8 It was not so much that the North was trying to ensure equality for blacks as it was using them to counterbalance Confederates. Although some federal initiatives provided unprecedented opportunities for exslaves programs often combined policies of democratization with policies of social and economic control. Bureau officials for instance forced freedpeople into labor contracts, but later also made it possible for African Americans to realize their desires to become independent farmers Blacks took advantage of the tangible benefits of Bureau programs yet did not rely on the Bureau to defme their freedom either. When necessary they resisted northerners just as vigorously as they fought against their former masters These reactions puzzled Freedmen s Bureau officials who like th eir southern counterparts did not understand what blacks sought in the postwar period For their part African Americans were 8 Armstead L. Robinson, "Beyond the R ealm o f Social Consensus : New Meaning s of Recon struct i o n f or American History ," Journal of American History 68 (Se pt 1981 ) : 278-279
9 not content to wait and hope federa l officials would force conservative southerners to accept them as citiz e ns Rather they took action themselves and in the process found new sources of political and personal power Identifying and examining the process of change in the postwar South is difficult since most African Americans were illiterate and few left personal records While this complicates analysis we can learn much by examining official documents, the press and the reactions of whites to what transpired These sources do more than just provide a chronology of events They provide insight into the attitudes belief systems and fears of their authors Government records provide a wealth of information through which we can reconstruct both the events and their impact. County records reflect blacks political commercial and lega l status and provide information about how they were treated relative to whites Federal records document demographic changes in the populace detail employment and educational patterns and provide evidence of how po l icies affected both blacks and white s. Records of various government departments such as the Freedmen s Bureau illuminate the evo l ution of policies concerning African Americans and document their progress.9 The Anny was involved in administration of the South after the federal government implemented military rule Its records provide va l uabl e information about activities at the local state and national levels Likewise, local records, both official and unofficial, provide insight into events and the participants motivations. Since few ex-slaves left written records we must infer their attitudes and beliefs largely from their actions. While this makes uncovering their story more difficult it a l so makes it more important since doing so challenges the presumption we can explain reconstruction using a single model or a typical participant. 9 The Freedmen's Bureau in Florida con s i s ted of the A ss i stant Commissioner and four staff officers in Tallaha sse e and 1 3 Sub-Assistant Commissioners l oca t e d through out the s t a te. B ureau officia l s also called o n Army offic e r s to provide local s upervision on behalf of the Bureau
10 Political historians often concentrate solely on the public sphere, positing top-down change as rel evan t and failing to consider pressures from below These analyses suggest blacks pla ye d only a peripheral role in shaping post-emancipation society and instead concentrate on activities of carpetbaggers and Unionists The resulting picture does not take into account the ways in which blacks formed their own communities, lobbied for change, and influ ence d the outcome of events As such they present a flawed and incomplete view of Reconstruction. Actions from below percolated upward eliciting public debate and public policy reactions Change occurred not through a series of political mandates or spectacular events but through constant renegotiation Men and women of both race s pushed the limits defmed by law and social convention. Nothing pre-ordained the fmal shape of reconstruction society--this process shap e d it. The very acts of creating independent households reorgani z ing family relations, participating in public political movements organizing militia companies and insisting on changes in labor relations were acts of defiance against the old social order. Rather than the traditional view of Reconstruction as something that happened to blacks we now see their imprint on that process. Restructuring our ideas about what constitutes resistance shifts the focus of study from public policy to the private actions, ideas and beliefs that stimulated change .10 The fact that the Reconstruction era failed to usher in long-term social and legal equality is not a reflection on African-American actions or abilities Rather it is an indictment of tho se who opposed that equality. The barriers African Americans faced limited their gains during th e era and perpetuated prejudices that still plague their descendants This study seeks to increase our 10 Since the 1 960s th ere has been increa se d recognition of the role and importance of black agency in the s haping of the New South Eric F oner, Reconstruction : America's Unfmished Revolution 1863-1877 (New York : Harper and Row 1988) and Jacqu e lin e Jones Labor of Love. Labor of Sorrow : Black Woman. Work and th e Family From S l avezy to the Present, (New York: Vintage Books 1995) provide outstanding examp l es of the ways in which reconceptualizing th e actions and motivations of African Americans s h e d s new light on development s in th e South.
understandin g of this turbulent and important era and to increase our appreciation o f th e s tru gg l es African Americans faced as the y s tepp e d into freedom 11
12 CHAPTER2 TRANSITIONS IN THE FAMILY : HOUSEHOLD DEVELOPMENT IN THE POSTWAR PERIOD The Reconstruction period represents a time when African-American households underwent their greatest period of redeftnition and separation from white control. Blacks struggled to locate and reunite with family members find independence from their former masters, and defme their relations both within th e family unit and with respect to whites Some of the ftercest battl es between blacks and whites were over the household The very act of forming families, deciding whether or not to marry f orma ll y controlling the actions of wives and children, and ftghting indenture law s fundamentally challenged the prevailing view elite whites he l d that they were the rightful regulating agents in society .11 In slavery white masters represented blacks in the public realm Slaves had no legal standing before the courts could not contract for themselves control their families or express political will within the bod y politic Emancipation changed this and offered freedpeople th e right t o form their own hous e holds and repres ent themse lv e s in the public arena Their attempts t o exercise th es e rights were not uncontested however as many whites still assumed their control over blacks was necessary to assure social order By simply refusing to accept existing laws and social conventions regarding domestic life howev e r blacks forced changes to the social and political system 11 Laura F Edward s Gend ered Strife and Confu s ion : The Politica l Culture ofReconstructi o n (Urbana : University of Illin o i s Press, forthcoming) 54-65 In h e r wo rk E d war d s introduce s new and co mp e llin g arguments regarding the politics of hou s ehold r e d efi nition durin g th e Reconstruction E ra I h ave a d op t ed thi s framewo r k for m y analysis ..
13 In examining African American choices in household formation structure and definition we see what the y v alued Foremost in importance was independence from white control. African American s defmitions of family and community reflect this White reactions to these choices illuminate different visions of postwar society between northerners and southerners and the freedpeople While southern whites retained their ability to dictate the infrastructure of society blacks showed that this power had limits Household formation and family roles also show us that blacks and whites shared different gender constructions These gender roles informed by both race and class considerations became a major point of contention African American s resistance to the roles assigned them by whites help us to understand the differences and to see how black actions within the household and the public realm shaped African-American families and communities. Household Development: New Families New Perspectives After the war, Hillsborough County blacks gathered their kin around them, as did freedpeople throughout the South For those ex-slaves separated from relatives, reuniting families proved a major challenge Before emancipation slave owners might have sold blacks family members to masters outside the local area while other slaves escaped or were transported deeper into Rebel controlled territory to forestall their liberation by federal troops. The drive to unite with family was not a product of emancipation however Rather it was played out countless times even before the Civil War began. Such was the case in Hillsborough County when the local newspaper ran an advertisement in 1858 for a 26-year old runaway slave named Pierce who was probably heading for Columbus Georgia to join his wife ." After the Civil War attempts to reunite families accelerated Throughout the North and South, family members advertised for information about loved ones. In 1867 Ann Wells was still seeking information about her daughter, Maria Adeline formerly a slave
14 of Dr. Lively [who] was taken from Tampa during the war by some colored people and carried to Key West. When last heard from she was in Apalachicola Florida. "12 Unrelenting prejudice and persecution helped forge, strengthen and broaden the AfricanAmerican community s sense offamily and mutual support. Black families maintained contemporary visions of males as heads-of-household yet did not mirror the patterns of the middleclass white community.13 Rather th ey more closel y approximated poor white households Th e poor of both races were more distinctly committed to a communally based experience that valued cooperation over individualism Among these families poverty made women s contributions to the famil y economy critical while a lso narrowing the gap in economic power between men and women Although the poor of both races suffered from middle-class presumptions that they were inherently la zy, blacks a l so had to contend with the b elief they were unredeemable. For blacks these realities resulted in hou se hold relation s distinctl y different from middle-class whites African American families sometimes took in orphaned children after the war and raised them as their own In 1880 two black families in Hillsborough County listed orphans among household members. Other households included grandparents and young nieces and nephews who could contribute only marginally to the eco nomic pow e r of the family unit.14 This indicat es freedpeople already possesse d s trong commitment to community and a fluid notion of" family." They mobilized these ties to assist those less fortunate in freedom than themselves particularly the most vulnerable-the y oung and the o ld In doing so they kept many blacks away from white control. In this sense 12 Flo rid a Peninsular (Tampa), April 24 1858 December 7, 1 867. Other s t o rie s of efforts to reunit e families are foun d in Ira Berlin, S t even F Miller, and Leslie S. Rowland Afro Am e rican F amili es in the Tran s iti on from S l avery to Freedom," Radical History Review 42 (Fall, 1988) : I 03-106. 1 3 T h e term middl ecl ass did not mean the s ame thing in the North and So uth In fact th e so uth e rn white middl e-c lass, espec i a lly in rural area s like Hill s b o rough County were probably n o t too much b e tter off than the po o r Because of thi s middle-class in the rural South i s more a socia l than e conomic category 14 Manu s cript Census Hill s borough County Florida, 187 0, 1880 ; Fo n er, Recon s truction, 84
15 household formation in and of itself represented an act of resistance to old social structures that tried to keep blacks in a dependent status to white guardians 1 5 Acts of charity within the black community also transcended family and further indicate a strong emphasis on mutual support. Cyrus Charles a local African-American farmer took in an aged freedman from Manatee County He cared for him as long as he could then appealed to County Commissioners for help They turned down his plea since the white community unlike Charles felt no financial obligation toward freedpeople from other communities Whites in Hillsborough County howev e r did tak e some responsibility for ex-slaves from the local area When Lavina, a destitute freedwoman petitioned the Commission in 1868 she received $10 the same as a poor white women had earlier rec e ived_l6 The magnanimity of this act is hard to determine however since state officials considered it the county s responsibility to tend to the indigent. It was not untill872 that th e legislature actually passed laws mandating local financial support of indig e nts Governor Marvin expected few to need assistance noting that in a country where subsistence was so easily obtained there should be none so destitute as to requir e public charity."17 When blacks constituted their households ba s ed on kin and community ties the implication s went far be yo nd family. Households may seem the embodiment of the private sphere but in reality it is where private and public spheres meet. Households created by marriage were the foundation of social organization. They cmmected the individual and the state defmed members roles and responsibilities and provided both protection and identity. The household served as the primary political unit within the South where it pro v ided stability reinforced patriarch y and ch a llenged white 15 Jones Labor ofL ove. Labor of Sorrow 99 105-109 16 Hill s borough County CoronUssion, Minutes of th e Co unty Commission ofHills b o r o ugh County. Flo rida, Apri l 15, 1 867, March 3, 186 8 Co mmis s i o n Book B, 4 6, 63, Hill sborough Co unt y, F l o rida Archives. 17 Quoted in Derrell Roberts Social Legis l ation in Reconstruction Florida ," Florida Historical Quarterly 43 (Ap ril 196 5): 357.
16 control of freedpeople In forming independent households and exercising the rights that came from that institution, African Americans wrested control of their private lives away from whites. Independent households allowed black patriarchs to represent their dependents in the public realm and to make decisions about the character of employment for wives and children thus limiting whites ability to make these decisions. This was new, for previously male slaves had no say in any public aspect of their families lives Freedpeople s actions might not have seemed confrontational in this situation ; still the fact that African Americans insisted on the black males right to decide for their families undercut white control and served as a powerful means of resistance 18 While slavery existed it served as a powerful force in maintaining racial hierarchies within the South where slaves had no rights of citizenship and their white masters represented them in public matters Since slaves were not citizens there was no direct linkage between them and the state. The white head of household who claimed them as dependents provided this cormection Elite whites did not view this as a system they had created so much as a reflection of the natural order. After emancipation whites told themselves and anyone else who would listen that blacks were incapable of self governance--slavery was a necessary condition for an inferior" race. Despite the rhetoric about blacks abilities, issues of control were at the heart of white concerns. This underscored concerns by whites over both the fact and form of black households For this reason the development of the black household reflects a deeper reorganization of socia l political, and economic structures in the South. At times different views led to violence, but most often black resistance merely elicited white complaints .1 9 1 8 E dward s G e nd e red Strife 43-46 1 9 Ibid 6 -7. Gendered Strife and Confusion provides a new paradigm for analyzing the ways black household d e velopment reflected deeper social change s influencing Southern society
17 In Hillsborough County most African Americans quickly formed households independent of white control. Within five years of emancipation there were seventy-one black headed households which included nuclear and extended families, as well as single-person households .20 Not all blacks left white households right away, however. Forty-two adults and thirty children still resided with whites in 1870 By 1880 th e number of black households grew to 178 of the county s 1182 Of these ninety were male-headed nuclear families, a household pattern established soon after the war Among the other eighty-eight non-nuclear black household s there were twenty-three extended families thirt
18 male head of household the informal unions of slavery did not challenge pre-war social and political hierarchies The proscription against legal marriage for slaves was more complex than just an attempt to prevent bonded servants from forming family units Law and custom recognized a husband s right to control his family and tu1der slavery a master wanted no competition for power. Since slaves could not become household heads the master exercised these responsibilities in his stead--becoming the head of household not only for his own family but also for the slaves he owned This assured singular control over slaves and prevented black men from challenging the right of whites to make decisions about their "wive s or children.2 3 Despite lack of legal recognition for slave marriages, both the white and slave conununities recognized the legitimacy of many such unions. Slaves often conducted their marriage ceremonies after work in the presence of friends and family when the bride and groom would jump the broom ." Before emancipation elders of the First Baptist Church of Tampa which included both blacks and whites, expelled Franklin Branch's slave George for living improperly with a woman as his wife ." Since the law did not recogni ze this union as legal, it is clear the legitimacy of the marriage lay within the social mores of the conununity. Church officials instructed him to provide evidence of his marriage but after repeated requests went tu1answered, the church withdrew its fellowship. Within weeks George provided proof "evidencing to the church that he is married and the congregation welcomed him back. Whites held the decision-making power within the church and so it was the very group which denied the legality of the marriage that demanded proof of its legitimacy 24 23 Ibid., 132 ; E dward s, Gendered Strife and Confusion 7, 37. 24 Herbert Gutman The Black Family in S lavery and Freedom. 1750-19 25 (New York: Pantheon Book s, 19 76), 274-275 discusses common s lav e marriage ritual s as does th e Fed era l Writer's Project, The Florida Negro Papers Slave Days in Florida ", Box 4, Folders 7 16, Univer s ity of South F lorid a Special Coll ections; First Baptist C hur c h of Tampa. Minutes Book, Jul y 28 1 86 1 18 August 1861, First Baptist Church of Tampa, Florida The n ature of thi s proof is unknown, but may have included testimonials from
19 Marriage among slaves was problematic under the best of circumstances because the availability of suitable spouses was often limited It probably posed a particularly difficult problem in Hillsborough County since most slave owning families held few slaves. In 1850 25 percent of adult slaves lived with owners who did not have another adult slave of the opposite sex By 1860 the number had grown to 39 percent meaning many slaves had to look beyond their own place of residence for spouses Even when there was a greater number of slaves residing in a single location th e ir numbers and ages suggests limited opportunities for marriage The high incidence of" abroad marriages this necessitated also influenced gender conceptions among slaves Frequent separations reinforced slave women s tendency toward self-reliance. As Historian Deborah White argues selfreliance contributed to adaptive techniques of intradependence between slave women 25 It was these uncertainties and mutual dependencies of slavery that also expanded the bondspeople s defmition of family to include distantly related or unrelated persons and created a more communal attitude among s laves As already noted these family patterns carried over after the end of slavery helping to give the new black community an increased sense of cooperation and mutual aid_26 Once emancipation came legal marriage became important to both so cial and political polic y since it created households Without formal marriages black women could legally enter contracts on their own behalf control their own earnings and become independent economic agents This would have upset a social system which did not assume women should have these rights At the same time others in th e corrununity who recognized th e legitimacy of th e union ; Julia F Smith, Slavery and Plantation Growt h i n Antebe llum Florida. 1821-18 60 (Ga inesville : University of Florida Pre ss, 1973 ), 48; E ugene D Gen ovese, Roll Jordan Roll : The World th e S l aves Made (New York : Random Hou se, 1 976) 450-458 2s U S Census Bureau Hill sborough Count y Manu sc ript Census 1 850 and 18 60 (Slave Sc hedul es); Deborah G White, Female Slaves: Sex Roles and Status in the Antebellum Plantation South ," Journal of Family Hi s tory 8 (Fall 1983) : 255-258 ; Also see Federal Writer s Project The F l orida Negro Papers Slave C u s toms and Anecdotes, Box 4 Folders 46 in University of South Florida Special Collections for detail s on eve nts in F l o rida 2 6 Edwards Gendered Strife 54-56.
20 without marriage fathers would not be legally responsible for supporting their children The state would have to provide in the absence of a willing father or able mother. With poverty among black families almost axiomatic this presented a significant concern to whites, who already believed blacks would not support themselves?7 The logic used by whites also provides insight into legalistic notions blacks did not share. Whites assumed formal marriages were necessary to create legal obligations, while blacks saw informal marriages as sufficient to claim rights attendant with that sta tu s This struggle found its way to southern l egis latures in the form of marriage statutes but black resistance showed that actions much less attitudes could not always be legislat e d Based on racial stereotypes and social myths many whites believed blacks nature unsuited to the stable, monogamous relationships whites thought necessary if households were to effectively serve as the basis for hierarchical relations within society. Southern whites relied on false anecdotal evi dence heavily tainted by the exploitative conditions imposed by slavery Their ideas sprang from views of black s as inherentl y less capable of "civilized" living than whites. Middle-class whites misunderstood the racial context of black gender roles which did not penalize pre-marital sex among slaves or ruin the marital prospects of an unwed mother.2 8 This distinctl y white middle-class view persisted after emancipation despite evidence that many former slaves remained within the families forme d during their bondage A Freedmen s Bureau official reflected northern views on the issue observing the principle of fidelity in the marriage relation is necessarily of slow growth among th ese people who from force of circumstances and common custom, have so long b een taught to 27 Edwards, Gendered Strife and Confusion 36-37 43-44 28 The views of poor whites toward pre-marital s e x more closely approximated the view s of blacks than middle-class whites.
21 disregard it."29 Southern whites concern conversely lay less with the existence of black families per se than with ensuring former owners would not remain responsible for supporting ex-slaves in the event black males abrogated financial responsibility for their kin.30 When whites did judge blacks as living up to their expectations, they generally attributed it to something other than the blacks themselves. Often they credited their own messages of propriety or the church. A Freedmen's Bureau official believed "colored preachers as well as colored instructors in the schools are of great advantage. Marriages under the law of the State and baptisms have had a good effect in advancing and civilizing their condition ."31 It never seemed to occur to whites that black s own desires, beliefs and actions accounted for strong black families. In 1866 the Florida legislature passed a law requiring all colored inhabitants of this State claiming to be living together in the relation of husband and wife, and who have not been joined as such, ... within nine months ... to appear before some person legally authorized to perform the marriage ceremony and be regularly joined in the holy bonds of matrimony. The marriage ceremony would legitimize the couple s offspring retroactively. The state could penalize non-compliance through charges of adultery or fornication a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of$1,000 and/or three months in jail. Legislators were so intent on insuring legal marriage contracts existed that the law also threatened a $1, 000 ftne and/or six months in jail for anyone falsely claiming the ability to conduct legal marriages.32 29 J. Sprague to 0 0. Howard, October 14, 1867 Annual Report Florida Assistant Commissioner Bureau of Refugee s, Freedmen and Abandoned Land s, Letter s Sent, Department ofFlorida Volwne 2 ( h ereafter r efe rred to as LSDF) 30 E dward s, Gendered Strife and Confusion, 44. 31 J. Sprague to 0. 0. Howard, December 31, 186 6, LSDF, Volwne 2. 32 An Act to Establish and Enfo rce the Marriage Relation between Perso n s of Color," January 12, 1 866, in L aws of Florida: 1865-1866 (Tallahassee, Office of th e Floridian: 1866).
22 Historians have documented numerous formal postwar marriages among ex-slaves through missionary and Freedmen s Bureau reports that express the writers' approval and relief when blacks embraced marriage. What is more difficult to discern is the typicality of that response For many s lav es coercion was not necessary. As one freedman said "the marriage covenant is at the foundation of all our rights In slavery we could not have legalised marriage : now we have it. "3 3 The law notwithstanding the incidence of black s formalizing their family relationships appears to have been uneven. While many did formalize their marriages others, such as the African Americans in Hillsborough County did not. Between the years 1866 and 1872, only six black couples married within the county. During the same general timeframe census records document about fifty black married couples living within the county .34 This indicates whites could control the legislative process but not black behavior Compliance rates such as those in Hillsborough County concerned state officials, but apparently not local whites. The low prosecution rate in a community where so many black couples met the le gal criteria for adultery suggests officials singled out only those not meeting l ega l responsibilities to support their families When white politicians reali ze d the law was not creating a rush to the courthouse Florida s Governor David Walker recommended the legislatur e extend the October 1866 marriage deadline Lawmakers shared his concern but found a different solution. In December 1866 the legi slature automatically legalized unions between those who have lived together as husband and wife and have before the world recognized each other as husband and wife as if the marriage had been solemnized 33 Gutman, The Black Family 27 1 426-431; Berlin eta!. Afro-American Families ," 97. 34 1870 census data does not include the family relationships between hou s ehold members. An analysis of the common surnames, adult ages, sexes, and the presence of children does allow an estimate of the number of adults living in a marriage relationship however
23 by a proper officer legally authorized to do so." This same law extended parental responsibility toward offspring by legitimizing children and making them heirs of their parents 35 Despite the law, it wasn't until Richard Runnels married Easter Clay on Christmas Day in 18 69 that Hillsborough County registered its first lega l black marriage. It is unclear why Hillsborough County blacks declined to formally many, a lthough their response was likely more typical than previously supposed.36 By failing to register marriages, blacks made it clear they did not feel the need for state sanc tion of their marriages The fact that so many blacks felt no compulsion to many indicates the y saw the need for legal marriages much differently than their white counterparts They would formalize the union when and if they felt it necessary This may also be another case where the relatively sparse black population evoked fewer white attempts at control. At the very least it suggests that community-based le gitimacy protected the parties. Despite clear evidence that blacks were n ot universally formalizing their marriages one Freedmen s Bureau official reported by 1869 marriages under the laws of the state ... have had a good effect in advancing and civilizing their condition."37 This official was writing from North Florida where the plantation economy and high number of blacks likel y made officials more concerned that formal marriages took place The diff e rence in reactions betw een North and South Florida illustrate that southern whites were not a monolithic group and therefor e did not always react in similar ways toward African Americans When blacks formally married they did so for reasons of their own. Blacks recognized the institution affor ded them formal rights with respect to their family members. Heirs could inherit 35 An Act Legalizing the Marriage of Persons of Co l o r," December 24, 1866 Laws of Florida 1865-1866. 36 Florida Genea l ogical Society Marri a ge Records Hill s b oro ugh County. Flori da : 1866-1 90 I Book 3, Tampa Publi c Library Hi sto rian s frequently e mpha size ex-s lav es marriage s to illu strate black s were n o l ess moral o r co mmitted to m o nogam y than whites Researchers s u c h as Herbert Gutman erre d in u s in g white middle class va lue judgments to pro ve their point. For blacks, however lack of formal marriages did not equat e to immorality nor did it indicate less commitment to family life 37 J. Sprague to 0. 0. Howard, January 31, 1869, LSDF Volume 2.
24 estates male heads of households could better control the labor of family memb ers and marriage afforded parents legal rights over their children for the first time In essence marriage created both l egal hou seholds and parents.38 This became vital to African Americans trying to achieve independence. If African Americans parental rights were not established, whites could use vagrancy and indenture laws to split families and continue to exploit the labor of children Instead freedpeople challenged whites in court to gain custody of their children throughout Reconstruction This activit y was rar e in Hillsborough County however where the only recorded case involved a twelve year-o ld boy indentured after the courts declared his mother dead When the father who r es ided in Tallahassee learned of his son s fate h e successfully petitioned the Freedmen s Bureau to set aside th e indenture 39 The fact that whites in Hillsborough County did not routinely challenge black males contr o l over their wives and children within the county may explain why formal marriage was not a high priority. Although whites were anxious for bl acks to marry th ey had definite ideas about who they should wed Before emancipation whites concerned themselves with some forms of race mixing but while s lavery existe d the most common form of miscegenation--white men having children with s laves--di d not challenge the le ga l status of children Once slavery ended whites became more concerned over intimate relations betwe en the races With slavery no longer providing a clear social division racial mixing became more of a threat to white supremacy. Attempts to solidify control ove r sexua l behavior manifested themselves in le gislation prohibiting white women from marrying blacks who were defmed as "every person who shall have one-eighth or more ofNegro blood."40 38 Edwards Gendered Strife and Confu s ion 37 39 Me Henry to Wo od, May 7,1866, LSDF, Vo lwn e I 4 0 An Act to Punish Vagrants and Vagabond s," January 12, 1866 Chapter 1 467 Law s ofFlorida 1 86 5-18 66; An Act to Establish and Enforce the Marriag e Relation Between Perso n s of Co lor ," Chapt e r 1 ,469, Laws ofFlorida 1865-1 866. The law m a de no mention of white men's sexual r e lation s with bl ack
25 Efforts to prevent racial mixing b el ied the era s intensifying white ideology about the purity of women by assuming that the absence of prohibitions encouraged illicit sexual relations between black men and white women Again, issues of class race and gender converged for pure women were also elite white women in the eyes of many While white southerners lauded the virtues of southern ladies they felt poor whites lacked virtue This required state intervention to control behavior which might otherwise erode social boundaries by creating a society of mulattos .41 The intervention of the state in deciding who could marry represented a postwar trend of increased state intrusion into the household Pre vio u s l y the hous e hold provided the primary means of control over its individual members ; after the war the state increasingly became involved in establishing and enforcing social standards.42 This probably also reflects attempts to bring the state' s power to bear in the on-going battle between black s and whites over familia l control. This proved less than effective, however since blacks particularl y in Hillsborough County, were not cowed by the threat of l ega l intervention Southern Social Hierarchies : The Struggle for Status Southern society rested on a hierarchy that divided persons and assigned s tatu s based on race class and gender -a lthough this was not an uncontested system. At the apex of this social system was th e landed white male. His status both created and affirmed his power Below him at various intermediate le vels were less affluent white males White women derived their status from male wo men Further white women who manied black men forfeit th eir right to testify in court cases again s t w hite s. 41 Martha Hodes The Sexualization of Rec o n s truction Politics: White Women and Black M e n in the So uth J o urnal of Sexual History 3 (1993) : 402-403 42 Bordaglio, Reconstructing the Hou se h o ld 1 2 4-126 188
26 relatives since they generally had no public role or basis for power in their own right. Even while filling no public political role they did wield power based on their associations with men and their role within the private sphere. These women accepted notions of white supremacy and their own subordination as women despite the fact that it limited their freedom Emancipation also threatened once unquestioned precepts of white male supremacy Freedom enabled black men to head households and blurred an important distinction between them and poor whites Emancipation did not make blacks equal to poor whites but it did narrow the gap to the chagrin of the latter.43 This may account for the increase in racism after the war Formerly paternalistic whites became even more strident in denouncing what they said was innate black inferiority Some poor whites, having the most to lose by blurred class lines became the rank and file of the Ku Klux Klan. Race became a more important divider to them once free status no longer provided a barrier. Whites also felt threatened by the daily expressions of independence in blacks public and private behavior. Often unable to limit these expressions legally action under the auspices of organizations like the Klan signaled attempts to coerce compliance While terror was undoubtedly effective in modifying some blacks behavior the fact that whites had to repeat it shows its limits Emancipation also threatened the rule of white elites who considered themselves benevolent fathers of their households. As historian Dorothy Sterling points out any changes that spelled freedom for ex-slaves were reminders of defeat for their former owners ." Whites often blamed northern intervention for retarding the progress of an acceptable postwar social order. For them 43 Stephanie McCurry The Two Fac es of Republicanism: Gend e r and Pro -Slavery Politi cs in Antebellum South Carolina ," Journ a l of American Hi s tory 78 (March 1992 ): 1246
27 only a white-dominated patriarchal network could preserve social and political stability.44 This was not just the reactionary rhetoric of the cotton belt South, but the view of many. In Hillsborough County the press told whites If our people and the blacks had been left alone, on their emancipation to arrange and settle their future social, and mutual interest relations, by this time instead of their being a wandering unsettled roving dissipated thieving vagabond suffering race as many of them now are almost every man of them would by this time have had a settled comfortable home for himself and farnily.45 The reality that blacks established families settled into work relationships and generally lived quietly within their communities belie s this view, particularly in Hillsborough County. The county offered wages higher than other locale s and the census reveals very few idle blacks Despite objective evidence to the contrary, the press regaled a receptive white populace with proof of the inherent inferiority of African Americans and suggested disaster if blacks moved out of their "natural" roles. The fact that this public description was taken as truth des pite evidence to the contrary, suggests deep-seated antipathy by whites at their inability to mold blacks in the image they had so carefully crafted for them. Middle-class whites had a vision of what race class and gender meant for society and tried to impose it on blacks African Americans, conversely reject e d tenets that placed them at the bottom of the social structure and instead pursued their own visions It is not enough to look only at how each group viewed itself because how they viewed others often formed the basis of conflict. The confluence of gender with race and clas s conceptions helps explain both the form of southern house hold r e lations and private and public reactions to them. White beliefs about gender roles developed from their understandin g of" natural affinities Many believe d the sexes were different 44 Dorothy Sterling, ed. We Are Your Sisters : Black Women in the Nin etee nth Ce ntury (New Y o rk : W W N o rton, 1984 ), 332; Peter W Bordaglio, Reconstructing the H o usehold : Families Sex and th e Law in the Nineteenth-Century South (Ch ape l Hill : Uni vers ity of North Caro lin a Press 1995) 27 45 Florida Penins ular July 28, 1866.
28 endowed by their Creator with biologically-defmed characteristics that separated the two and made their union complementary According to a contributor to the local newspaper "Man is the creature of interest and ambition ; his nature leads him forth into the struggle and bustle of the world ... but a woman's whole life is a history of affectio n The h eart and home are her world ." With these defining characteristics man was the natural head of the household, while woman' s role was to nurture and support her husband and children This role required women to remain in the private sphere where their work was deemed indispensable to the proper functioning of the home. The female role was a vital one in both the present and the future for it is the mild influence and gentle reproof which keeps her child in later years from the paths of sin and vice." This represented a continuation of" Republican Motherhood which made its appearance after the Revolutionary War and lost little strength over the years It was, however, a concept limited to white elites Representative of this many southern white men still held a romantic vision of their women. According to the same press report southern white women had been "more fiery and e nthusiastic in the cause [war] than the men who actually did battl e for it." These paragons of v irtue "wore homespun, and made it themselves Men greatfully acknowledged that women accepted homely fare and the sacrifice of every tender indulgence, so dear to their sex ." In return their patriarchs revered and protected them, but only if they were the right race and class Gender conceptions did not just defme women s roles, however. White male southerners connected a sense o f manhood with their ability to operate in the public realm to control and protect their dependents This had once been almost exclusively a white purview in the South and many resented black men who gained these same privileges and insisted on exercising the m .4 6 4 6 Florida Peninsu lar, July 27 1867 September I 1866 ; Bordaglio R e constructing the Hou s e h old 26 27 For a discussion of th e concept of Re pu b l ican Motherhood, see L ind a K. Kerber Women of th e Repub li c : Int ellect & Id eo l ogy in Revolutionary America (C hap e l Hill : University of North Carolina Press 1986) 283-286
29 Always ready to dispense advice elite whites had a definite vision of what black gender roles should be as well. In a lecture series entitled Be a Man ," General Clinton Fisk head of the Freedmen's Bureau in Tennessee told freedmen husbands must provide for their families Your wives will not love you if you do not provide bread and clothes for them ." For women he recommended they not think of getting married until you know how to knit and sew to mend clothes and bake good bread, to keep a nice clean house and cultivate a garden and to read and write ."47 These prescriptions matched what whites believed true for themselves ; what differed was their vision of blacks roles Fisk and other whites believed tha t all freedpeople s s hould support their dependents by working hard for whites The woman s role, unlike that of her white counterparts was to center on work in other women's homes Whites did not understand black household arrangementsor at lea s t did not like their ramifications They routinel y criticized male household heads for poor lead e rship of their families and recommended state interv e ntion This rhetoric became particularl y harsh as black women l e ft the employ of whites and began laboring within their own homes Whites defmed housework as integral to the nature of women and so did not view it as "real" work. To them black women keepin g hou s e were lazy. Since they did not view these women worthy of the same gender roles as their wives, the y labeled this behavior deviant. Some even suggested that the state should force black w omen back to their proper workplace One white southerner captured the feelings of many when he wrot e officials to observe that these idle wome n are bad examples to those at work. Are the y not in some sort vagrants as they are living without employment-and mainly without an y v isible means of support-and i f so are they not amenable to the vagrant act ? The y certainl y should be."4 8 Whil e white males recognized the vital role of work within the household for their own wives, they saw black 4 7 Quoted in S t e rling, We Are Y o u r S i ste r s, 319 48 Berlin eta!., Afro-American Families in Transiti on, 113.
30 women primarily in their capacity as laborers and only secondarily as household members .49 Whites by assuming that laziness explained alternative labor patterns failed to see these changes for the powerful form of resistance they were. Despite white's ideas black women were far more interested in nurturing their own children than thos e of their white employers. This dynamic existed throughout the South In Hillsborough County 50 percent of black women reported their occupation as keeping house in 1870 White s may have been even more alarmed when this figure incr ease d to 64 percent by 18 80. If so their concern would have been based on beliefs black women served different role s than whites, for no one seemed to complain about the 98 percent of adult white women who claimed no occupation outside the home. 5 Despite white critici s m the fact that, over time more black women chose work within their own households suggests African-Americans determination to follow their own paths White m e n were not the only ones critical of black women' s b e havior. Elite women seemed particularly distressed at chan ges e mancipation brought. Many had deluded themse lves into b elieving that as slaves their house servants had been happy or at least satisfied with their status. Former mistresses believed blacks had valued serving in white household s which provided them food and shelter but littl e to nurture the soul or ease the longing for freedom. White mistresses often felt close to black servants precisel y because hierarchies of race and class pr ese nted impenetrable barri ers to real closeness Once slavery no longer separated the two sides the speed with which ex s laves d eserte d whites homes dismayed the latter. African Americans asserted their indep endence b y leaving when poorly paid or mistreated. Those who stayed often made a point of res i sting whites d emands that they e xhibit previous signs of deference. The private writings of elite white women show how their paternalism turned to disdain as they characterized their former s laves as ungrateful 4 9 Jone s, L abor of Love 5960, 63 s o Hillsboroug h County Manuscript Censu s, 1 870 and 1 880.
31 The string of white complaints over insolent black servants and workers attests to the psychological battle of will s White grievance s may also have reflected irritation over the fact that their forme r slaves although poor often had mor e freedom than their former mistresse s since social concepti o n s of virtue strictly circumscribed elite women' s behavior 5 1 Unable to afford experienced help, many elite wome n throughout the South had to attend more to their own household s for the first tim e in their live s So did elite wome n in Hills borough County. Although few whites in the county had owned se ver a l slaves there w ere close to 120 slave holders at the end of the war and the county's wealthiest citi zens had house servants 5 2 In an int e resting paradox many of the white women who sought to reform black women, clung firml y to beliefs they w ere inhe rentl y inferior and thus unredeemable. Whites wanted black s to adher e to proper standards but this would n e ver make them equal in whites e yes. Pre s criptive literature o f the da y told women they s hould a dhere to principles of delicac y and household m a stery since thi s would e levate them to the l evel of the middle class Des pite this s outhern white women sa w bla ck s b e st s uited to their previous roles as manual laborers or household h elp. It i s int e restin g that whit e women, whil e advoca ting middle-clas s s tandards balked whe n African American s a dopted these very s tandard s themselves. Whe n freedwome n conducted themselves as whites s u gg e sted, e lites mos t o ft e n accuse d th e m of" playing the lady --in the ir eye s black women would never b e ladie s 5 3 While e lit e women mourned the los s of household help, poor whit e m e n and women had o ther conce rns Sl avery pro v ided them with th e sure c e rtainty that no matter how bad things wer e, the ir V irgini a Ingraham B urr ed., The S e c r e t Eye : T h e JoW11a l o f Ella G e rtru d e C lant o n T h o m a s 1 8 4 81 889 (C h ape l Hill: U ni ve r sity o f North Caro lin a Pre ss, 1 990) : I 0 50-51 ; Jo n es, Labo r of L ove 50. Burr, T h e S e c ret E ye I 0 37 4 9, 53-55 ; Hills b o r o u g h Co unty M an u s c ript Ce n sus, 1 8 5 0 S l ave S c h e dul es. J o n es Lab o r o f L ove 586 0 ; Fo n e r R eco n s tructio n 85 86
32 status as free citizens gave them more in common with their elite white neighbors than with enslaved blacks. Despite economic differences, poor white males shared with their richer counterparts the fact both could claim dependents (even if the claim was potential), a privilege bas ed on race and gender. Poor whites previously benefitted by society's exclusionary boundaries that defined blacks as the absolute bottom of the hierarchy. This was based on the idea of"providential relations and "particularistic rights." Under these concepts, all humans had some rights, but which ones, depended on their particular role in society. This idea had always penalized blacks for their race. 5 4 With emancipation, economic factors became more important to status since now blacks too had dependents and were, at least nominally, free citizens. It was blacks' insistence on autonomy that brought about change and forced elites whites for the frrst time into the role of reacting to rather than directing events. Class issues were never absent of gender conceptions any more than gen der conceptions could shed the influence of class. In the wake of the war white ideology about the purity of elite southern women intensified. This is perhaps most vividly seen in the actions of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan itself boasted a membership that crossed class lines although its leadership was generally drawn from elites. One of its stated goals was the protection ofwomanhood but womanhood worth protecting was very class conscious and racially aware. The Klan presumed lower-class women to be more depraved, requiring stricter controls over their behavior. Testimony taken at the Congressional hearings to investigate Klan activities illustrates these gender conceptions as the Klan sometimes subjected poor white women and black males who allegedly crossed racial lines of sexual impropriety to vicious attacks. 5 5 54 McCurry, Gender and Pro-Slavery Politics ," 1250, 1 261 ; Edwards Gendered Strif e and Confusion, 158 55 Hodes Sexualization of Reconstruction Politics ," 405-410, 417
33 Conclusion African Americans formation of independent households was a key event in transferring power from whites to the freedpeople themselves. In doing so blacks embraced the legal mechanisms for controlling their own families The institution that created households was marriage but even here blacks adopted a different vision than did whites Whites felt it imperative to link black families to the prevailing social system through the marriage institution and to codify black responsibilities to family members. It is no coincidence that marriage laws also legitimized children born during slavery. On the other hand African Americans saw in marriage not just obligations but also rights. 56 Even so, many African Americans chose not to formally marry. This was apparently most common when there were fewer attempts by whites to interfere with blacks household prerogatives. It also illustrates the fact that community acceptance of a marriage relationship was more important to freedpeople than legalistic rituals The ways in which African Americans formed their households reflected their priorities and conceptions of family. By looking at who they included in their families we see that they placed a high priority on protecting the most vulnerable members of their community--the young and old--from further white control. African-American s conceptions of race class and gender shaped family structures and show just how differently blacks conceived these issues than whites. Freedpeople refused to accept white visions of the black role in the postwar South. Black men insisted on deciding family issues and many women removed themselves from waged labor. Through the household African-American heads of households had control over family members for the first time. This control would prove 56 E dwards in Gendered Strife argues that legislator s so ught to stress marit a l obligations to African Americans but to limit th e rights black s would gain from that in s tituti o n
v ital in altering labor relation s hips and improving educational levels within the African-American community. 34
35 CHAPTER3 THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT OF LABOR Emancipation marked the beginning of a new relation ship between black emp lo yees and their boss es. During s lav ery, whites maintained virtually complete control over bondspeople s labor and lives. With emancipation whites lo s t that level of control, but tried to recreate it through new labor laws in the immediate postwar period Many Florida whites believed blacks incapable of working except under compulsion and expressed scepticism about a free lab or system At the same time their belief in the inherent inferiority and laziness of African Americans fed fears they would have to support the ex-s laves. Not only would white farmers crops rot in the fie ld s so they thought but the state s already depleted treasury would som e how have to support over 60 ,000 newl y freed s la ves nearly one half the state s population These fears were the impetus for mea s ures to control black labor. Through them lawmaker s hoped to reinstate labor relationships approximating the control whites wie lded during slavery The state's first postwar Governor William Marvin articulated a common view among white southerners that freedpeople with the assistance of their former masters, might become the best free agricultura l peasantry in the world. "5 7 Bureau policies state la ws and commonly held beliefs that black s must remain tied to agricultura l pursuits worked together to stifle African Americans ability to gain more favorable l abor relationships Plan s to manage black lab or had far-reaching ramific ations for that control implied domination of African Americans personal lives. Thus, labor became a key fac tor for African Americans in defining and achieving personal autonomy s? Joe M Richard so n "The F l o rida B l ack Co d es," Florida Hi s torical Quarterly 4 7 (A pril 19 69) : 3 71.
36 In the postwar period throughout the South, blacks had to accept continuing dependent relationships brought about by their status as wage earners and labor ers still tied to white employers This did not create an African-American workforce that meekly submitted to white control however. Freedpeople did not share middle-class white views about what their new role should be nor did they passively accept laws designed to keep them in service to whites. Their labor patterns like their household patterns, more closely approximated poor white families than middle-class white ones. Yet the experiences of slavery made them more vulnerable than poor whites to controlling efforts by employers and landlords. The economic choices blacks made for themselves and their families during the period reflect adaptations made necessary by the fact whites still dominated the economic arena. These choices determined the type and amount of influence whites maintained over African Americans At stake was who would decide what categories of work blacks would perform which family members would remain in the workforce and in what capacity when blacks could change emp l oyment, and how their economic success would be measured These crucial questions remained contested throughout Reconstruction as both sides insisted on their exclusive right to decide Ex-slaves resistance did not generally manifest itself in violent conflict but rather in their refusal to sign clearly unfavorable contracts, their willingness to complain to authorities when landowners cheated them, and widespread efforts to become independent farmers. These actions resulted in an evolving labor system that eventually afforded blacks more control over their own economic and socia l destinies. The shape of the contest highlights visions freedpeople held of their place in the new South and illuminates the fact that whites did not understand or appreciate that African Americans economic goals often differed from their own. 5 8 The relatively small African-American population within Hillsborough County again provides an excellent view of ongoing labor changes during Reconstruction The predominance of small 58 Foner Reconstruction in America 208
37 farms, food crops and worker shortages provided an environment with less direct competition between blacks and whites for jobs Despite these favorable conditions there was still a significant amount of criticism of both black laborers and their efforts This suggests whites tied complaints less to actual events than to their perceptions of how black actions affected the existing hierarchy Experiments In Labor : Who Would Control The Laborer? Some white southerners felt that freeing slaves would prove a failed experiment. Their belief in the inability of blacks to govern their own lives remained strong and as one U.S. Army commander reported there were "a large nwnber of old slave holders ... who still ... hope that the state may get back into the Union with so loose guarantees upon that subject [slavery]-that the institution may be revived b y State laws at some future opportunity ."59 In the meantime emancipation was a reality-but one whites felt they could s hape and control. Just as whites tried to dictate household relations through marriage laws, they tried to shape economic relations through labor laws. Race-based legis lation represented conservative white efforts to defme the economic role of African Americans in postwar southern society. This was particularl y onerous since Florida courts sometimes heavil y fined convicted freemen and hired out their time. Freedmen' s Bureau officials at the local levels complained about this practice After a black man was fmed $40 and had his labor sold a Bureau official asked his superiors if judges are justified in selling a freedman's labor for this man will only get $4.00 per month while h e could work for $20 .00 in gold and in a month or two pa y his debts ."60 s9 J. Foster to G Forsyth, September 20, 1 865, LSDF. 60 W Vance toT. Osborn, May I 1866 F lorida Assi stant Corrunissioner, RG 393, Part I U S Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920 Part I Department and District of F lorida, 1 865-1869, Letters Received, Box #3, National Archives, Washington D C Hereafter referred to as LRDF
38 Florida's Black Codes criminalized vagrancy in an effort to force blacks back to the plantations of their bondage Under the vagrancy law every able-bodied person who has no visible means of living and shall not be employed at some labor to support himself or herself or shall be leading an idJe immoral or profligate course of life, shall be deemed a vagrant, and may be arrested." This law did not distinguish between white and black ostensibly holding them to the same legal requirements and penalties However, enforcement was more strict for blacks whom white elites assumed were naturally idJe immoral or profligate." The law reflected white elite fears about free black workers and as historian Eric Foner argues aimed at "resurrectin g as nearly as p ossib le the old order with regard to black l a bor. Since slavery was now illegal, whites substituted state power where once the master s power reigned 61 The desire to control black labor was rooted in elite white farmers need for a lar ge labor force S l avery had provided that but in its absence something else had to substitute North F lorida agric ultural efforts centered o n cotton and tobacco crops which required intensive year-ro und labor. Because of this, landowners wanted contracts with th e lab o r force to insure it s continued availability particular l y since there were labor shortages throughout the state. Labor was so scarce that farmers frequently tried to lure away eac h others workers One Bureau official complained : not one h our of a day would pass but planters came to me to so licit any interference ... on the ground that the Negroes did not appreciate th e binding form of a contract and believed the y were at liberty to work for the e mplo yer who offered the highest wages regardJess of havin g ente r ed into a contract previously .62 The Bureau's primary interest was stable labor conditions and this meant trying to force both freedpeople and whites to stick to contracts Forcing a defmed class of workers into contracted 6 1 Foner, Unfinished R e volution, 210 ; An Act to Puru s h vagrants and Vagabond s, January 1 2 1 866 An Act Rel ativ e to the Contracts of Persons of Co lor January 1866 Law s of F l o rida 1865-1866 ; Richardson F l orida Black Codes 365. 62 T Osborn to 0 0. Howard, February 186 6, LSD F 2 1 8-225
39 agricultural labor also set them apart by creating artificial lines between blacks and poor white farmers who also worked for elites but under less restrictive agreements Labor contracts may have appealed to a broad cross section of the white populace since they met landed whites need for a large workforce while simultaneously providing poor whites some protection from competition by limiting black mobility Landed elites also thought blacks believed freedom meant not having to work for a living and felt their fears confirmed when newly emancipated slaves wandered the countryside" after emancipation But whites misinterpreted these actions One characteristic of slavery was limited black mobility Because of this newly emancipated slaves wanted to test the bounds of their freedom by moving about. Some searched for family members separated from them by slavery Others just wanted to leave the site of their bondage. As one ex-slave expressed the imperative toward movement "ifl stay here I'll never know I'm free ."63 Still others believed whites might try toreenslave them and so decided to move at the earliest opportunity Officials of the Freedmen s Bureau also noted and misperceived these movements One official said blacks wandered about the county not realizing that they were a free people Accustomed to masters they have no faculty for managing for themse l ves ."64 To the contrary African Americans moved about precisely because they did know they were free Whatever freedpeople s individual reasons for traveling the practice soon gave way to more settled patterns as blacks returned to work for whites on plantations and in the state s towns and cities There were few other options for them Whites did not consider self employment for African Americans to be legitimate so those not employed by whites were vulnerable to legal sanctions 63 Jones, L abor o f L o ve 5 1 ; F oner Unfinis h e d R evolutio n 7 9 -81. 64 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard December 31, 1866, LSDF.
40 Many whites in Hillsborough County also had doubts about blacks moving into a less controlled labor market. The local newspaper editor lauded military edicts forcing blacks back to plantations under threat of arrest. Praising federal and state efforts to control the mobility and labor of blacks the writer saw no contradiction in using these methods against free citizens Instead, he opined that "the results of this year's experiment confirm the forebodings of planters who distrust the reliability of black labor." Another newspaper article expressed common white southern sentiments in dismissing the idea that blacks were whites equal in the workforce The author argued against labor policies that threw the whole bl ack race into direct and aggressive competition with th e laboring classes of the whites through analogy: The horse hired for a day may be fed or not fed groomed or not groomed when returned to the stable. The horse owned by us and for which we have paid a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars is an object both of pride and solicitude His grooming, stabling and feeding are cared for. If sick, he is doctored and cured if possible--when at work it is the owners interest that he not b e over tasked The attainment of political equality b y the Negro will revolutionize all this It will be as if our horses were given the right of intruding into our parlors or brought directly into competition with human labor no lon ger aiding it but a s rivals .65 The analogy expressed a recurring theme--that blacks were not on th e same level of humanity as whites The horse had no business being in the parlor or placing himself into competition with human labor ." Fears about the consequences of unfettered black laborers even brought suggestions th at the state should look elsewhere for more pliant workers and that state legislators should send agents to Europe or China to provide for the immigrat ion of the new class oflaborers ."66 Southern whites were not the only ones to believe control of black labor was necessary Northerners feared a mass exodus of unemployed ex-slaves to their states would overwhelm public we lfar e programs and were generally unenthusiastic about vast l y increasing their states black 65 Florida Peninsular July 28 18 66; August 4, 1866. 66 Ibid ., November 3 1866.
41 populations. Race and clas s conceptions were also important in shaping the attitudes of northerners When Union representatives went South as part of the Freedmen s Bureau they brought with them views of property and propriety that defmed the ex-slaves as an unfortunate but unworth y poor. By this time, northern reform efforts had crystallized in a view of the working poor as responsible for their own condition They could resolve their problems only by adopting white middle-class values As Genera l Rufus Saxton First Assistant Commissioner in charge of Bureau operations in Georgia South Carolina and Florida, expressed it: laboring is ennobling to the character and if right l y directed brings the laborer all the comforts and luxuries oflife .'>67 Unwilling to pro vide economic relief to the millions of newly freed slaves northerners were adamant in their belief that blacks mus t work hard at what they knew--agriculture--and must not be a burden to the northern or south ern states Flirting with Colonization : Schemes to Separate the Race s Concern about the economic consequences of black movement northward pr e -dated the war. It provided the rationale for early plans to phase in emancipation and internal and external colonization schemes. When the war s end brought immediate emancipation, anxieties resurfac e d and linked both white northerners and white southerners in attempts to ensure ex-slaves remained employed in agriculture. When desires for gradual emancipation were overcome by wartime exigen cie s officials abandoned plans to transport a large nwnber of blacks out of the country Even so ideas about colonization remained--the destinations were just less ambitious It seems not t o have occurred to many elite whites that blacks considered themselves Americans however oppressed and would not 67 Quoted in Paul A. Cimba l a Making Good Yankees: The Freedmen s Bureau and Educat i o n In Reconstruction Georgia I 865I 870, in African -Am erican Life. 1861-1900 : The Freedmen s Bureau an d B l ack Freedo m (New York : Garland Publishers, I 994) 61.
42 want to emigrate. This is yet another way whites continued to make distinctions between black and white citizenship Florida was the scene of colonization plans in the immediate postwar period .68 In December of 1865 Freedmen s Bureau head 0 0. Howard received a letter from the Assistant Freedmen s Bureau Commissioner of Virginia In it the official predicted that the exhausted condition of the s tate will not allow for the employment even at starvation rates of the entire [black] laboring population The result will be that the best hands only will find employment leaving a lar g e class of inferior laborers dependent on Go vernme nt or charity." Further he lamented, ther e are at prese nt some eight or ten thousand colored soldiers ... who were enlisted in this state If these are mustered out and returned to their homes the difficulty will be greatly increase." His solution took into account that there is in the state of Florida a larg e area of highly fertile land in possession of the Governmenl." He proposed 500 000 acres of government land be set aside and that the Freedmen of Virginia to the number of not less than 50 000 be invited to emigrate to there ." This would not be a charity program however for the government would initiall y "provide [freedmen] with the necessary farm stocks farming utensils seeds, medical supplies rations Etc and then would hold a lien on all crops raised by the freedmen allowing them such as may be neces sary for th e ir support until payment at cash price is made for all [supplies provided]. The emigrants would receive title to the lands they settled provided they repaid the government's expenses within three years .69 Perhaps in response to this the earlier letter Howard indicated he had for some tim e had under consideration the matter of Florida settlements ." He believed the president would authori ze th e project but if not, intend e d to discuss it with m e mbers of Congress by putting the subject before the 68 George R. Bentley Colonel Tho mp so n s 'Tour of Tropica l Florida'," Tequest a, 1 0 (1951): 3 69 0 Brown t o 0 0 H o ward, 1 8 December 1 865, RG 105 Mi crofi lm M742, R oll I National Arc hi ves, Wa s hingt o n D C ; Bentley, Co l o n e l Thompson's Tour, p 3-4
43 Freedmen's Committee. He also directed Colone l Osborn, then the Freedmen s Bureau s Assistant Commissioner for Florida to review reports on public lands that could be made available for co l onization.70 In response Colone l Osborn submitted a plan fo r th e proposed colonization of free dp eople to So uth Florida. He recommended the government purchase of Florida that portion of the territory South of 28 degrees of la titude which will include the counties of Hillsborough, Brevard, Manatee Monroe Dade and Polk." This land would be held exclusively for the use of blacks and whites woul d be prohibited from living there Once this was done "the land will be organized as a territory and given a colonial form of government. Osborn said the territory had been surveyed and consists of about 21, 600 square miles ; exclusive of rivers lakes and swamps there are 14,400 s quare miles or about 9,000,000 acres of land fit for settlement." This he wrote, would pro vi d e e nough land for each black head-of-household to receive 80 acres. Osborn predicted the gove rnm e n t could settle 115 ,000 families there. He saw benefits to the plan and noted that "if the government is made wholesome and firm I do not think the colony would be burdensome o r ex pensive to the United States The revenue from such a co l ony, when developed will be great."7 1 When Colonel John Sprague replaced Colonel Osborn as the Assistant Commissio ner for Florida he too rev i ewed plans for makin g South Florida a black colony. He suggested that all land South of28-30 degrees should b e surveyed and laid out in 40 acre lot s ." Onc e a deci sio n was made to proceed with resettlement agents of the Bureau and the milit ary would dir ect emigrants to goo d locations and provide "general supervision over their industry and conduct. These plans went beyond just co l onizing the n ew l y freed blacks in the South and suggested a solution to th e problem of starving blacks in the North According to Sprague blacks from the North would thrive in Florida s ince the eastern and western coasts abound with fish and oysters, the interior is full of game and 70 0. 0 Howard to Hunt, December 1 8, 1 865 LRDF M 742 Roll 71 T. O s born to 0. 0 Howard January I 1866 LSDF, Vo lum e I.
44 the range is unlimited for cattle and hogs." City-dwelling blacks from the North would probabl y have taken little comfort from predictions that the palmetto and pine trees can soon be converted into comfortable huts ." In true military fashion Sprague was only awaiting permission to implem e nt his plan and reported to General Howard that "my determination is to induce all freedmen to locate South of the line mentioned and preparations will be made at the proper time to advance troops from St Augustine and Tampa Bay into the interior t o meet the objective in view.'>n B efore the colonization plan could gain momentum and national political support, the idea was abandoned There i s no way to know whether colonization plans would have been adopted had the Freedmen s Bureau existed longer. Colonization met the needs of many w hite s who felt blacks could not or should not live among whites. On the oth e r hand, black s were an important force in maintainin g Republican control in southern states and provided vital labor to rebuild the southern e conom y As much as so m e whites mig ht hav e liked to see black s shipped away, colonization probabl y never would have been en d orse d as a n ationa l policy. Even if such a policy had been adopted, blacks would have resisted leaving their homes and the federal gove rnment did not have the troops or likely the will to enforce such a policy. It i s unlikely that ex-slaves even knew of Bureau ideas to colonize them into areas such as South Florida Certainly this program would n ot have benefitt e d them While it would have removed them from the prejudice of a society tha t lar ge l y disliked their presence, it would have relega ted them to poverty and governme nt guardianship that only would have arrested their p o litical educational and social ambitions Fortunately, the se plans n ever fully m ate ri alized Removing African Ame ricans from white-d ominate d s ociety was not the answer. 72 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard December 3 1 1 866 LSDF Vo lum e 2
45 Forcing Labor From the Freedpeople With colonization plans abandoned F lorida Freedmen s Bureau officials came to believe it best that ex-s laves remain on their old plantations and farms. The Assistant Commissioner for Florida told his superiors stringent laws were necessary to control the idle and profligate male and female to be found loitering about the cities county towns and comer groceries in th e interior. L abor would be forced on the freedpeople and if necessary their children would be bound to such p e rsons as will take car e of them and learn them the habits of industry "73 Since control and not freedom of choice was th e motivator of Bureau labor policies, its officials were unwillin g to see if noncompulsory labor worked The results insured whites continued to dominate the new economic order To overcome reluctance on the part of ex -slav es to sign labor contracts in 1865 the Bureau said that where no fom1al contract existed it would assume one did and allow the freedpeopl e 1/4 of the crops .74 This effectually negated an y choice workers had to eschew contracts and work as indep e ndent laborers As a fwther means of control, one official requested that his superiors order e mplo ye rs to provide workers with documentation in order that all who are not provided with such c e rtificates ma y be arrested as vagrants and worked for the public good "75 F l orida Bureau officials obliged him and notified General 0 0 Howard that this class [freedpeople] will be required to file such papers as they may have regarding their history character and conduct. Freedmen s Bureau o ffi ces stored these reports so prospective emp lo yers could make inquiries and obtain reliable 1866 73 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard, Oc t ober 14, 1 867 Annu al Report LSDF ; Flori d a Penin s ular, July 28 74 Lette r t o Judges of Probate, December 23 1865 LSDF. 15 J. Bartholfto J. Chiles Octo ber 1 3, 1865, LRDF Box I
46 information" on potential employees.7 6 It does not take much to imagine the coercive effects of such an order. Since there was a legal requirement for employment the threat of a bad report provided a powerful means of social and economic control. Such reports also provided a means of blacklisting those who agitated for better conditions Under the labor law s provisions all contracts with blacks had to be in writing and once signed, severe penalties faced blacks who broke them 77 Here too the law made distinctions between black and white parties to contracts Failure of blacks to abide by the terms of a contract was a criminal offense punishable by incarceration or court-ordered forced labor. The law went so far as to penali ze a black worker "if he shall refuse or neglect to perform the stipulations of his contract b y willful disobedience of orders wanton impudence or disrespect to his employer." If the white party to the contract reneged it was a civil matter and a jury of whites decided the amount of monetary damages due .7 8 Although southern whites and the Freedmen s Bureau supported contracts as mutually advantageous to white employers and freedpeople the advantage lay squarely with the landowner. He gained laborers services throughout the season even if a failed crop put their wages below subsistence levels Additionally landowners often sold price-inflated goods to workers on credit against their share of the crop keeping freedpeople in debt as a means of control. Wherever labor contracts did appear in Florida the terms were severe. The hours were long-generally sunrise to sunset on week days and a half-day on Saturdays Contracts also demanded proper behavior, provisions that applied only to free dpeople Penalties for noncompliance 76 J. Sprague to 0. 0 Howard, December 31, 1866, Annual Report, LSDF, Volume 2 77 An Act in Relation to Contract of Persons of Col o r January, 1866, Laws of F lorida, 1866. If the contract called for workers to get a portion of the crop, their share generally ranged from 1/4 to 1/3, depending on th e number of workers on the same contract and the materials and supplies provided b y the employer 78 Joe M. Richardson, "The Freedmen's Bureau and Negro Labor in Florida" F lorida Historical Quarterly 39 (October 1960 ): 174
47 increased freedpeople s vulnerability and provided increased opportunities for cheating them. R e presentative contracts show that bosses paid blacks at the end of the employment period generally one year If the laborers did not work hard disobe yed the employer or his representative or l e ft their place of employment without p e rmission the landowner could summarily discharge the worker Contracts s tipulated that in this e vent employers did not have to pay laborers for past work.79 Since bosse s often paid employees months after they completed the work, they sometimes used this provi s ion to cheat contract workers Labor contracts were vague as to what constituted worker violations allowing white farmers to define and assess breaches arbitrarily This became a major s ourc e of contention between contracting partie s Cheating was widespread and continu e d complaints b y freedpeople resulted in an 1867 Bureau order that contracts contain procedures for mediating disagreements The parties would submit complaints to binding arbitration by a thr ee-p e rson board consisting of a Bureau Sub-Assistant Commissioner o r Special Agent and one r e pr ese ntative selected b y each si d e t o the dis pute.8 0 Northern and southern whites shared a belief they mus t control black labor but had fundam e ntall y different s trate gies for achieving their goals. Each harbored suspicions that the other s ide was int e ntionally thwartin g its plans. Landed southern whites believed themselves the rig ht fu l guardians offreedpeople and interpreted Freedme n s Bureau's actions as int erference. They saw themselves as "the only true friends of the poor deluded Negro" and decried the meddling of Bureau "wolves in sheep s clothing whose object has ever been the fleec e and not the flock."81 For their 79 F lorida Ass i stant Commiss i o ner B ur ea u o f Refugees, Freedme n and Abandon e d Lands. S t atio n R eports. F l o rida. Reconstruction Labor Contracts, RG 393, Part I National Archive s, Washington D .C. 80 F l ori d a A ss i st ant Commissione r Burea u of Refugees Freedme n and Abandon e d Lands Headquarters Assistant Commissioner District of F lorid a Circu lars, January 15, 1 867 RG I 05, Box 7; J. Sprague t o 0 0 Howar d Annual Report LSDF. 8 1 F l orida Penins ular July 28, 1866.
48 part Bureau officials claimed southern whites made groundless complaints about freedpeople Writing about the white people of nearby Hernando County, a Freedmen's Bureau official observed that: although the people complain that they [African-Americans] are not doing anything they think the freedmen ought to do much better but I am inclined to think it would be hard pleasing them as they would never be satisfied ... nothing would satisfy them but the old system in which they could use force and compel them to work at their pleasure There is more fault with the white man who employ them than the freedmen .82 This was not the first time a Bureau official reported that labor problems were not entirely the fault of freedpeople Still this official felt the situation would stabilize that "time will remedy this as soon as his labor is found indispensable to the prosperity of the state "8 3 African Americans were not willing to wait for whites--northern or southern--to recognize their value as workers. Instead they took matters into their own hands. Bureau representatives reported that despite vagrancy laws and the threat of punishment, "the unfaithful employer cannot obtain the freedmen' s Jabor.. .. The freedmen begin to understand their rights and where instances have occurred of the nonfulfillment of contracts or neglect in the payment of wages or an indifference to their wants, the efforts to obtain laborers or to make engagements have been hopeless ."84 While whites thought they could manipulate both labor legislation and the Freedmen's Bureau to maintain complete control over ex-slaves they were wrong. African Americans recognized they could successfully withdraw their labor in the face of abuses 82 W Vance to C Garrabee, May 31, 1867 ; W Vance to A Jack so n July 31, 1867, Bureau of Refugees F reedmen and Abandoned Lands Florida As s istant Commi ss ioner Unentered Lett e r s and Rep o rts 1865-1868 Hereafte r referred to a s ULAR 8 3 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard December 31, 1866 LSDF 84 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard March 3 1 186 7 LSDF
49 African Americans actions did affect whites since their presence was necessary in laborintensive agriculture pursuits Their unwillingness to e ndure mistreatment forced change since whites could not prosper without them. Over time African Americans forced modifications to the prevailing contract system that brought them increased autonomy. Blacks did this by moving contract labor away from the repressive labor practices favored by white landowners and toward more equitable arrangements Their efforts resulted in a wider variety of compensatory methods that increased freedperson s control over their own labor Working for a share of the crop declined after 1868, while other contractual forms became more common. Among these new employment arrangements were standing wages, sharing time standing rent and wages in kind. 85 These variations reflected black workers' constant renegotiation of the labor relationship and attempts to gain a measure of independence from white supervision They also reflected the desire of black farmers to control the amount of their labor that went to benefit white bosses Fixed sums paid in rent or farm products meant that black workers and their families could produce as much or as little over the amount owed to the employer as they wanted This provided a much greater degree of freedom of choice for the worker It also allowed the male household head to control the productivity of his dependents and conformed to family economy concepts prevalent in the era. Sharing time required employees to toil under the watchful eye of their employers for only part of the week and left workers free on other days to pursue their own economic agenda without ss Jerrell Shofner Nor i s it Over Yet: Florida in the Era of Reconstruction 1863-1877 (Gainesville: University of Florida, 1974) : 132-134; Ralph Shlomowitz Th e Origin s of Southern Sharecropping Journal of Agricultural History 53 (July 1 979): 561-562, 580 Shlomowitz defines standing wages as a fixed amount paid per month but often disbursed months in arrears ; s haring time as the use of rent-fre e land in return for laboring for a white farmer for a fixe d number of days per week; standing rent as an agreed upon amount of farm products paid by the freedmen for the use of land; wages in kind involved the employer s paying freedmen a s tat e d amount offarm products a s wages.
50 superv1s10n. These new labor relations represented a compromise between planters desires for a controlled workforce and black workers insistence on increased independence .86 Blacks continued to confront bosses who cheated them and were quick to report grievances to local Bureau officials. Blacks working in proximity to Freedmen' s Bureau offices were in the best position to resist whites but there were never enough agents available to improve the syste m significantly Even when agents sympathized with blacks their own doubts about the ex-slaves work ethic made them reluctant to side with blacks against their employers. As it was, the lega l system durin g Reconstruction limited black options, while reinforcing white privilege Labor contracts however, were not universal throughout the South or even in the state of Florida By the Freedmen's Bureau own accounting, in 1867 there were few contracts and little in the way of coercion against black laborers in Hillsborou g h County. The dearth of contract s there is consistent with the economic and social s ituation found in South Florida Noncontractual l abor relations genera ll y satisfie d whites in Hillsborough County, because of the lack of plant ations and preval e nce of food crops The crops cultivated in the county generall y did not require the intensity of labor needed on plantations and cattle provided a primary source of income. Before the war cattle exports predominantly to Cuba, never exceeded 4 000 but by 1872 the number grew to over 21,000 Agricultural crops also influenced labor relations ln Hillsborough County farmers primarily grew com pea s, and sweet potatoes and, only to a lesser extent, cotton oats, and tobacco.87 Since most crops did not r equire year-round attention landowners did not want to contract with laborer s for an entire year They could not keep laborers gainfully employed for that long and did not want to provide rations during s lack times in the growing season. As such, it benefited landowner s to hire 86 Jones Labor of Love, 52 ,57, 6 1 87 Sunland Tribune (Tampa) July 2 1877 ; U.S Census Bureau Eighth Census of the United States Cl 860) Agriculture (Washi ngton: GPO, 1 864), 18-19
51 workers as needed on a wage basis This arrangement also benefitted black farm workers Although the market generally set compensation under both systems, the fact that blacks were not bound contractually enabled them to change emplo ye rs bas e d on wages offered Within the county, isolation from plantation farming, coupled with acute labor shortages and increased wag es probabl y accounts for the infr e quency of labor contracts 88 Despit e state law and Bureau polic y officials apparently made no effort to force blacks into contractual arrangements, s u gge sting that both white f armers and Bureau officials were satisfied with the labor situa tion In 1870 Hillsborough Co unty s black men were still commonly employed in agriculture Whil e a few may have labored und e r contracts most either rent ed land that was alr e ady under cultivation worked as wage laborers or took advantage of the Hom estea d program Census figur es s how farm labor provided sixty percent of employment opportunities for black males Despite the predominanc e of agricultural labor in th e po s twar period w hite s were quick to s u ggest th e freedpeople were inappropriately movin g away from their n a tive el eme nt"-the fields T his probabl y r e flects concern th at increasin g black independenc e would threat e n w hit es own ability t o fmd farm labor e rs. This concern was misplac e d in Hillsborough County where non-farm labor played only a lesser role Whites did correctly assess the fact that black s were be co min g more independent. B y 1880 agrarian pursuits still dominated the male work world but census data al so show an incr ease in the number of adult males who i d e ntified thems e l ves as farmers r a th e r than farm laborer s. It is 88 R. Comba t o E. Woo druff January 25 1 867; R. Comba to C. Garra bee, December 3 1 1867, LRDF, Box 3 Hillsborough County's African-American w orke r s again see m to have benefitted from the county's rural se tting and differing work conditions By July 1 867 wages were higher than in other areas of the state. There were l abor s h o rtages throughout the s t ate, but the s par se popu l atio n in South F l orida accentua t e d the problem While som e his torian s report ave r age m onthly wages in the sta l e of around $12 f or male workers, reports from Fort Brooke indicate l ocal wages were $ 1 .50 p e r day for day workers and $25 to $30 per m o nth for o thers. By December 1 867 Army reports indica t e monthly wages were as high as $25 to $40 Labor s hortage s in South Florida allowed black s to demand and r eceive higher wages through the thre at of moving from one job to anoth e r a practic e made easier by the lack of contracts in the local area
52 unknown how eve r, whether they were homestead ers or still working for whites under some form of tenancy or wage agreement. Even if the y did not yet own their own land they may have rented acreage where they could farm more independentl y While the trend toward more independent working and living arrangements increased some blacks continued to live with their employers, although the numbers had decreased from 1870 In 1870, thirty-nine black adults and twenty-two children lived with white families A decade lat er only 2 1 black adults and 11 black children still lived with their e mplo ye rs .89 The Gendered Meanings of Labor Labor was a highly gendered issue both in the way it was viewed and the how it w a s practiced In turn race was fundan1ental to these gender constructions. Under the Freedmen s Bure a u administration labor polici es further reinforced the sexual division of labor. Labor relations in the postwar p erio d retained the re mnants of s lave labor categorizations that mirrored the unequal compensation practices pr eva lent throughout the nation Employers paid annual wages based on a scale approximating $140-$150 for frrst-class hands ," and $120 -$13 0 for second-class hands.'>90 Children received only a fraction of th ese rates These practices minlicked those in the North and in southern factories that paid men and women diff e rently without regard to ability or contribution to the production process 89 Manu sc ript Census, Hillsborough County F l orida, 1870 1880 Adult female s still made up the large st group of household se rvants although their nwnbers too were s hrinking Children continued to work as s ervants but now r epresented o nl y ab o ut half of the s ervant workforce Persons included in these nwnber s were those with oc cupations listed T h ose res iding with whites as a consequence of old age or coincident to their parent's employment were not inclu ded 90 Wage scales recounted by Joe Richardson in The Free dm e n's Bureau and Negro Lab o r in Florida ," 1 70171 suggests "second class hand s probably referred to women o r men not considered in their prime as workers while first class hands were me n only; J. Fos t er t o 0 0 Howard Oc t ober I 1866 in American State Papers CASP), Senate Execut i ve Docwnents 6 (39-2) 1 2 76,43.
53 Freedmen s Bureau practices also supported common conceptions of gender Early on the Bureau realized that allowing adults to sign group contracts gave land owners the opportunity and means to cheat entire groups for the alleged failings of only a few workers In response the Bureau insisted that black workers sign contracts as individuals or as household heads acting as representatives of their families. The Bureau thus acknowledged the prevailing vision of the family economy and the male's right to oversee the economic pursuits offamily members.9 1 Such practices had a strong legal basis in coverture which afforded married women few independent rights. Men routinely contracted on behalf of their wives and were assumed the rightful arbiter of the economic role of family members This arrangement still allowed for group contracts albeit within families, a situation that landowners could still exploit. Laws governing vagrancy also provide insight into the convergence of race and gender concep tions. Vagrancy laws, as noted earlier required every able-bodied person to support himself or herself Although seemingly paradoxical in a society where women' s place was in the home, this measure shows that gende r roles contained a racial component. In practice only black women were subject to the sanctions for vagrancy. Despite the economic turmoil in the South after the war no group suggested or advocated white women' s role as wage earners In contrast however neither law nor public policy accepted the role of black women as workers solely within their own homes. Race based gender constructions were clear in both northern and southern white reactions to black women's withdrawal from the outside labor force. Assistant Commissioner Sprague noted with concern that the freedmen are adverse to their women and children going into the field as common laborers and desir e them to attend to the housework as they express it, like white folks >92 Whites attrib uted the new phenom ena of black women keeping house as a misplaced attempt to emulate 9 1 Jones, Labor of Love 54, 62 63 ; Fo n e r Unfinished Revolution 87 92 J. Sprague to 0. 0. Howard December 31, 1867, LSDF Volume 2.
54 white middle-class values proof of blacks laziness or the inability of African-American men to properly control their women. But blacks did not soon forget the exploitation inherent in slavery That experience provided the impetus for women to remain away from direct supervision b y whites In Hillsborough County, white women overwhelmingly engaged in keeping house As discussed earlier, in 1870 98 percent of them listed no commercial work outside the home. Only fourteen of the 515 adult white women in the county listed any occupation Among the employed six worked on their fathers farms as dairy maids and one was an elderly women running a boarding house. That means only seven adult white women in the county worked outside the home for a non-family member. Significantly just one of these seven women carne from a household with a father in residence suggesting only strict economic need overcame social expectations of dome s ticity 93 In contrast to whites only 50 percent of black women were keeping house in 1870 Keeping house Wldoubtedly included a variety of tasks that generated money and included helpin g their hus bands in the fields whenever necessary T hese activities often provided hidden income throu g h the sale or barter of products such as produce eggs, milk, or homemade goods Even if not earning wages, freedwomen contributed signi ficantl y to the family economy throu g h their own household e ndeavors and b y providing services and products that the ir families would otherwise have to purchase. These contributions were crucial t o the family' s s urvival but were made in ways that simultaneously allowed them to provid e needed services for their families Thus, black women' s conce ption of gender role s took on meaning within the context of the family. Government record s do not shed lig ht on this hidd e n economy" but it existed as an important f actor in the family economy nonetheless Since the economy in Hillsborou g h County at that time was highly dependent on bart e r 93 Manuscript Census Hills borough Co unty F l orida 1 870 ; Jone s, Labor of Lov e, 63 Hills bor ough Co unt y p a tt erns s upport hi sto rian J acq ueline Jones' fmdings that thr o ughout the So uth about 98 percen t of white women worke d within th e h o m e while for black a dult wom e n the figur e h ove r ed around s i xty perc e nt.
the food and goods produced by women were valuable for trade .94 Historian Jacqueline Jones also argues that women who kept house to a large extent still did engage in agricultural production but under circumstances that provided protection against direct supervision by whites Freedwomen could now labor "on behalf of their own families and kin within the protected sphere of household and cormmmity."95 55 Whites failed to understand that the social circumstances and legacy of slavery gave labor different meanings for African Americans For black women, the meaning was deeply influenced by their de sires to nurture their families and maintain their own households They often still assisted their husbands in the fields, but in ways that strengthened the family economic unit, instead of contributing directly to white employers profits Many probably left it to their husbands to decide but th e fact most considered themselves properly working within the home indicates that within black families both men and women generally agreed on their roles and were willing to defy white wishes. Their success in this is indicated b y the fact that between 1870 and 1880 the percentage of black adult women keeping house or with no outside employment increased from 50 to 64 percent.96 Despite the small number of blacks living in the county, identifiable patterns in labor suggest significant changes occurred during Reconstruction Between 1870 and 1880 there was a move toward more independent employment for both men and women and an increased incidence of women laborers working within their own homes. Both trends allowed blacks to increase their independence and reflected an improved ability ofma1e household heads to control their families' public and private lives In 1880 the most common occupation for adult black women was still "Keeping House demonstrating that both women and their husbands continued to value the 9 4 Ibid., 74; Florida Peninsular, February 15, 1868 9s Jones, Labor or Love, 58-65, 74, 78 96 Hillsborough County Manuscript Census, 1870 and 1 880.
56 presence of freedwomen in the home. By removing themselves from the wage-earning labor force women registered their own views on the importance of their role in nurturing the family When economics did dictate the need for their wages, freedwomen created economic niches that enabled earnings without sacrificing care of their families or submitting themselves to the supervision of whites A new occupation appearing in the 1880 census--laundress--illustrates this. Eleven female adults and one child reported this occupation, which allowed them to earn money while maintaining independence from white households by doing the work in their own homes.9 7 The incidence of women and children (both male and female) in agriculture decreased by 1880, although sons often worked in the fields with their fathers Farm labor still r e mained the singl e largest job classification for male children under the age of eighteen 98 As in 1870 there was a strong likelihood that women's labor included field work on their families farm, particularly during planting and harvesting times It i s also probable many more of the county s black women engaged in paid farm labor seasonall y than the census suggests Because many freedwomen only participated in agricultur e periodically they did not consider it their primary job and would not have report e d it to c e nsus takers Jacquelin e Jones also has argue d that black women were less likely to list farm work as an occupation because it served as a reminder o f their forced agricultural labor during slavery .99 In his studies Eric Foner found a correlation between the labor r e lation ships of men and the work status of their wives. He suggests that where men worked for wages, their wives most often stayed home while those involved in sharecropping or farming rented land continued to use women to supplement 97 Manu script Cens u s Hillsborough C o unty, Fl o rida 1 88 0 F o r an analy s i s o f the w ays African Ame rican w o m e n s occupati o nal ch o ic es reflect e d a d e t e rmin atio n t o a vo id whit e d o min a tion see T e r a W Hunter D o minati o n and R es i s tance: Th e Politi cs of Wa ge H o u s e h o ld Lab o r in N e w S outh Atlanta Lab o r Hist01y 3 4 (Spring/Summer, 1993 ) 2 0 5 -212 9 8 Manusc ript Cen s us Hill s borough C o unty F l o rid a, 18 7 0 1880 The 1870 cen s us re co rd ed fifteen f e m a le a dult an d nin e f e m ale children e mplo y ed a s farm l abo r e r s b y 1 880 only five a dult w o men d escribed themsel ves prim ari l y as farm e r s or farm l a b o r e r s and n o fe m a l e c hildren rem ained as a gri c ultur a l l abo r e r s 99 J o n es Labor of Lo v e 5 8 -59.
57 their labor when necessary .100 The increase in independent farming relations made black males more willing to brin g women' s labor into the fields since the y could control its use and avoid its exploitation b y whites While African Americans were insisting on more independent work relations middle-class whites remained intent on defining black roles in society, particularl y thos e of women. Middle-class intrusion into blacks domestic relations was as intensive as it was unwelcome. For black women mired in poverty lessons on middle-class deportment were neither practic a l nor desired Besides many never accepted the inh e rent v alue of this standard to begin with .101 During slavery black women did labor considered akin to "men's work" and wer e proud of their abilities and accomplishm e nt s In studies following emancipation, interviewers often found e x s lave women talked about their physical labor with a pride that would have shocked nineteenth-century elite women's se n si bilities.102 Acreage, But No Mules The 1 866 Homestead Act opened gove rnment lands in Arkansas Miss issippi Alabama Louisiana and F lorida for settlement. The program's most durable l egacy was probabl y the 40 acres and a mule myth but officials intended the act to open gove rnment land s to small, independ e nt farmers both black and white Homesteader s could late r purcha se the property for 100 Foner Reconstruction, 86. 101 For literature espousing the prop e r woman s ro l e see periodica l s s uch as De Bow's Review and Har:per's Weekly ; Linda K. Kerber, "Separa te Sph e r es, Fem a l e World s, Woman s Place : The Rhetoric of Women's Hist ory, J ourna l of American Hi s t ory 75 (June 1988) : 26. 102 Deborah G. White Fema l e Slaves : Sex Role s and Status in the Antebe llwn P l antation South, Journal of Family Hi s t ory 8 (Fall, 1 983), 258
nominal fees The government intended the program primarily to benefit male-headed households Women could only claim land if they were unmarried This reflected prevailing social beliefs that men were the rightful heads of households. 103 58 Many southern whites, however did not want freedpeople to gain too much independence As long as blacks could be kept under whites control economically the latter could also influence other aspects of their lives The Freedmen s Bureau recognized this While anxious to get blacks back to work Bureau officials worried that ex-slaves who labored for their former owners would be overly influenced by them undercutting northern influence This presented a problem for the Bureau which was trying to limit the power and influence of landed elite whites in the South Bureau officials illustrated their ambivalence through words and actions Officials often expressed beliefs that blacks required northern white mentors for success. Yet they also applauded the homestead program which they felt would make freedpeople self-reliant and better qualified to discharge the rights and duties of citizens, a condition unlikely as long as freedpeople remained in a great measure within the power of employers and landed proprietors."1 04 The homestead program offered applicants the opportunity to own land and perhaps gain increased control over their lives With independent land ownership would come increased freedom from influence, a Jeffersonian concept that still held sway in both the North and South More than just creating a better citizen homesteads would hold families together. As one Bureau official noted the family relation exerts a most powerful influence on public morals and whatever serves for its protection is of the utmost importance. Those without homes were "exposed to many temptations and seductions from which homes of their own would shield them ."105 Where once the Bureau s 103 Foner, Unfini s hed Revolution, 87. 104 J. Sprague t o 0 0. Howard October I 1867, Annual Report, LSDF. lOS Ibid
59 primary interest was to control the African-American workforce it increasingly saw the benefits of creating a larger base of independent fanners and good" Republicans Economic independence did not come as a by-product of freedom. Because of this many blacks felt their best chance for autonomy lay in homesteading. Their goal was not to become either agrarian capitalists or the agricultural peasantry Governor Marvin envisioned, but to gain personal independence. Meanwhile many white southerners resisted African Americans efforts to become independent yeomen Their reasoning had a clear class component. Wealthier whites saw blacks primarily as a means of production and their independence lessened elite control and wealth Poorer whites saw them as potential competitors and independence made this contest more acute Numerous contemporary press articles expressed the theme of the ex-slave as competitor to poor whites Perhaps elites thought they needed to remind their poorer white counterparts that race not class should defme their postwar loyalties. The full extent of homesteading in Hillsborough County is unknown, but an Army officer from Fort Brooke reported that it interested many freedpeople. There were obstacles however since "the government lands are worthless for any purpose whatever most of them being barren sand hilJs with little or no vegetation upon them" or "sadly located in overflown and swampy lands "1 06 Despite these negative descriptions by March 1868 the Bureau s land agent serving Hillsborough, Hernando and Sumter Counties reported filing claims for eighty-six applicants both black and white testifying to a strong desire by the poor of both races to farm their own land_l07 Just filing a claim could be problematic. One Tampa official indicated he could get neither program information nor maps and 106 Florida Peninsular Novemb e r 30, 1867 ; William Vance to A. Jack s on August 31, 1867 ULAR ; J. Sprague t o 0 0 Howard Monthly Report, February 7 1868 LSDF 107 Reports of W Apthorpe to the As s istant Commissioner dated Sept e mber 18 67 March 1868 in Assistant Commissioner, Land Agent Report s, RG 105, Box 7, National Archive s, Washington D C ; J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard October 14 1867, Annual Report LSDF, Volume 2 Statewide by th e Fall o f 1867 land agents had registered 2 ,012 home s teads
60 would have to travel to Tallahassee to remedy the problem .108 He complained that the official in charge of helping blacks to apply for land "might as well have his headquarters in New York City as at Tampa. He has no office or other place of business her e that I know of where freedmen can obtain information. "1 0 9 It was relatively easy for land agents to obstruct homestead a pplicants i f they desired Land agents were not available in every town and either they or the freedmen had to sometimes travel long distances to record claims Despite these problems the homestead program generated enthusiasm among African Americans, if not their employers. Early on the Florida Peninsular expressed derision by suggesting officials call the homestead law "a Bill to Get Rid of the Laboring Class of the South, and make Cuffe a Self-Supporting Nuisance "110 Since many whites claimed that their only reason for controlling blacks was to insure that they did not become an economic drain on the South this statement s u gges ts more than economic independence was at stake Southern white farm owners opposed the homestead program as it related to blacks for several reasons Most importantly it threatened to remove African Americans from hired agricultural labor further exacerbating existing labor shortages and eroding white control. As long as whites hired blacks to work on their farms the former maintained a degree of control not only over the head-of-household but also his family. Even in an area with few labor contracts, such as Hillsborough County the threat of a more independent black yeoman class apparently was unwelcome since it might undercut what influence still existed 108 W. Vance to Ass istant Adjutant General, October 5 1866, LRDF, Bo x 4 ; W. Apthorpe to A. Jackson March 31, 1868, Locating Agent Reports, RG I 05, Box 7 National Archive s When homes teaders, black or white could fmd a land agent to proces s their applications, the costs were mode st. In South Florida fees ranged from $19 75 to $29 .75, depending on whethe r the applicant had the land surveyed before taking p o s s es s i o n 109 R. Comba to C Garrabee October 31, 1867, LRDF; 11 F l orida Peninsular, August 4, 1 866
61 Many white fanners actively obstructed black homesteading Techniques ranged from propaganda to outright fraud One Bureau representative noted there seems to be a silent compact on this subject. "111 Some opponents took direct action. One official reported there is reason to believe freedmen have b een intentionally misguided Locating agents have found them settled on private land through advice of neighboring white people . [after] industriously cultivating the land they were compelled to remove and lose their improvements." In other cases after taking possession and most probably erecting his hut and building his fences, a neighbor with gun in hand orders him to leave that he is a trespasser. White fanners also told blacks that their lands will be taken from them by the United States Gov 'tjust as soon as they get them nicely cleared." This not-so-subtle propaganda campaign attempted to offset the impact of government advertisements declaring Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a fann. "112 Even getting title to a homestead did not assure success or independence particularly in the early months of possession In addition to poor land quality, many homesteaders had no money for tools fann animals, or seed Further the land they occupied was barren of structures fences or improvements of any sort This meant back-breaking labor for the entire family as it tried to carve out a home and livelihood from the wilderness This took time and homesteaders had difficulty sustaining themselves while waiting for the first harvest. Despite some concern that government assistance might discourage continued hard work, the Bureau offered temporary aid to help poor fanners and prevent new homesteaders from abandoning their lands .113 A program to issue rations 111 J. Sprague to 0 0. Howard October 14, 186 7 Annu a l Report LSDF 112 W. Vance to A. Jackson August 31, 1867, ULAR, Box 6; Florida Peninsular October 13 1869, November 30, 186 7; J. Sprague t o 0. 0. H owar d June 5 1 867, October 14, 1867, Annual report, R. Comba t o C. Garra b e e October 31, 186 LSDF Volume 2 113 0 0 Howard to Secretary of War March 8, 186 7, ASP Senate Executive Documents I ( 40 1 ) 1308 1-2 The head of the Freedmen s Bureau estimated that over 32,000 white s and 24 000 blacks in th e South requir e d t e mp orary assistance
62 to homesteaders recognized that until the grounds are cultivated and their huts built they must be subjected to hunger and many inconveniences ." By providing rations, the government could destroy slothful habits, cause families to remain at home and create a social unity and foster morality and good conduct."114 In Florida full rations were available only to people who could show they were farming at least ten acres for a one-year period .115 Conclusion Despite serious obstacles blacks influenced their own economic destiny by resisting whites attempts at control. African Americans' concepts of the household, their views about labor and gender and a determination to keep their families away from white influence shaped these efforts Blacks challenged laws that would have kept them tied to agriculture for white employers These challenges most often took the form of refusing to contract to abusive white bosses demanding favorable changes to the contract labor system, and becoming independent farmers Gender constructions are clearly visible both in whites attempts to define black women s role in the workforce and African-American men s and women s refusal to adopt that vision. Although keeping house never meant exclusion from the family economy, it did mean black women s labor benefitted their own family economy and not that of whites Over time adult women and children 114 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard Monthl y Bureau Rep o rt January 10, 1868 LSDF 1 1 5 T. O s born to 0 0. Howard Novemb e r I, 1865 LSDF V olum e I. Records from May 1868 s how that statewide the Bureau provided ration s for I 764 men 2 Ill wom e n and 3 6 6 9 children at a co s t of about $19 0 0 0 Thi s was a significant decline from the nearly 18,000 rations is s ued during one month in the Fall of 1865
63 moved further away from waged labor and the influence of whites This represented not an attempt to withdraw from the family economy, but an attempt to control its rewards 116 Labor practices help illustrate the ways in which southern society evolved after the Civil War We see in the Black Codes attempts to maintain strict control over black labor and to defm e its economic role in the new society. Within white criticism of blacks we see southern elites beliefs that they must control blacks to maintain their own economic viability White northerners often share d white southern misconceptions about blacks and thus also misinterpreted black actions. The homestead program offered African Americans the opportunity to become independent farmers Their widespread participation despite deplorabl e conditions demonstr ates that their driv e for independence was strong Conservatives resistanc e to this program suggests their concerns centered around the likelihood homesteading would erode white control over freedpeople Throughout the period th e black struggle for autonomy and freedpeople s insistence on defmin g that status brought them into conflict with whites who wanted to defme and limit their role in postwar southern society. Despite threats blacks resisted efforts to circumscribe their freedom. In Hillsborough County labor differed somewhat from northern counties b e cause farming conditions put blacks less in direct competition with whites. White criticism, however did not diminish s ug gesting white concern was as much about social transformation as e conomic change With their first efforts to form households and resist oppressive labor arrangements African Americans were practicing politics in ways that would r eshape the South and their role within it. The shared ex perience of racial oppression that shaped their view toward hou se holds families and communities also helped politicize them and focus their individual and collective efforts. The goal of freedpeople was independence and they realized that the fight for it would take place on man y levels. 116 For a d isc u ssi on of gender r o l es in African Am e ri c an h o u se h o ld s, see E dward s, Gend e r ed Strife, 201207.
64 Actions within the private realm of the family reveal this struggle The contest spilled into th e public arena as black s and whites contested labor relations The fight did not stop there however as we shall now see through an analysis of African Americans political activity during this period Freedpeople recognized that public activism provided them with additional means to resist in a white-dominated society
65 CHAPTER4 THE POLITICS OF FREEDOM : AFRJCAN AMERJCANS STRUGGLES TO BE HEARD Previous chapters dealing with the household and labor clearly demonstrate how personal actions were at their core political for these acts changed both the nature and balance of power in the South This chapter deals with the more conventional arena of politics though we must no t lose sight that even here public political activity was a continuation and extension of that already occurring in other areas. Although traditional analysis posits politics' existence within a public relationship to government, analysis offreedpeople's actions reveal a more dynamic interaction. As such, man y activities that once fell outside the focus of attention emerge as central factors in the process of change Officials did not impose changes only from the top as once assumed ; but rather public policy was often in response to actions that forced e lites to make changes Recognition of the role of the private sphere in politics and the public nature of private actions is crucial to studies of groups typically marginalized in the grand political scheme for without that recognition their influence remains invisible As in other areas, issues of race and class informed the public political process Race was at the h eart of whites' desires to block African Americans' political access. Some white southerners b e lie ved blacks incapable of exercising independent political thought. But even more important in explaining white reaction is the fact that the high number of blacks in the post-war electorate threatened to dilute white influence Befor e emancipation, blacks pla ye d no role in publ ic politics They had no citizenship and no standing in the polity White masters served as the connection betwe e n blacks and the state as previousl y discussed In doing so whites assured their own
66 preeminence in the public political system Emancipation and black male suffrage threatened that. Class also played a role since it was former elites who were for the most part barred from the new electorate and who stood to lose the most in a political system where poor blacks wielded increased influence. Political and legal institutions created and perpetuated a caste system that placed blacks at the bottom of society Through those same institutions enfranchised blacks could reshape political hierarchies As such the public political arena was the scene of some of the most visible confrontations between black s and whites At every tum blacks challenged white views of the natural hierarchy merely by their insistence on playing a public role in a society once so thoroughly dominated by whites In the process blacks achieved for themselves a measure of power and autonomy never previously experienced African Americans wanted to vote and participat e in the public realm They sought appointment and election to public offices and in large numbers joined the state s militia For all the efforts whites expended to convince themselves that blacks had no interest in politics African Americans actions speak volumes about their own view. Even before officials implemented military rule African Americans were already aware that formal politics could increase their autonomy Freedpeople did not need whites to tell them their actions were poli tica l--they already knew it. In putting their interests ahead of thos e of their former masters African Americans entered the political realm both privately and publicly. The results were profound and e licited a broad range of responses from whites As in other areas changes that occurred in the public political arena were often not the result of spectacular events but routine interactions in which African Americans refused to defer to whites Although emancipation was a seminal event in southern society it was individual actions that largely determined its ramifications for daily life
67 A Clash of Visions There was a stark difference between what Congress demanded and what the southern Democrats believed necessary for their states' readmission to the Union Once the war ended, southern states began to rewrite their constitutions Florida officials felt it enough to ban slavery ratify the fourteenth amendment, repudiate wartime debts and pledge support for the Union Congress expected them to take these actions but balked when they also adopted the Black Codes which placed freedpeople in a status similar to free blacks before emancipation In 1866, Florida Governor David Walker expressed his view that we have left nothing undone that the Government acting through the President demanded of us .... But still our Constitutional representation is denied us, and our civil rights have not been allowed to us, or, if we enjoy any portion of them, it seems to be by the permission of the military and not by virtue of the Constitution The recalcitrance of southern state legislatures resulted in military rule for the South There were protestations of injury from southern governors when Congress took Reconstruction out of the President s hands by passing the First Reconstruction Act over President Johnson s veto in March 1867. Conservative whites had hoped for a new southern political system that would stiU exclude African Americans Northern efforts to control the political scene and African Americans public political behavior threatened these efforts and drew the displeasure of Florida s conservative politicians at both state and local levels. Of Tampa, a Fort Brooke officer said "the people are outwardly loyal and will be so as long as there are any troops stationed here. The feeling toward the Union and, &c., is not very satisfactory Another Fort Brooke officer noted that "in Hillsborough and parts of the adjoining counties that are easy of access and with daily communication with this place where any abuses or violations of law can be promptly attended ... the people ar e disposed to conduct themselves well." In this situation the military authorities did not often interfere with local affairs but such was not the case in more isolated areas. The actions of white southerners forced the
68 unit at Fort Brooke to establish a system of patrols to enforce policies of fairness in the treatment of blacks in outlying areas.117 The political loyalty of former rebels and their supporters remained a topic of frequent discussion between Freedmen s Bureau officia l s and their headquart ers. Thomas Osborn the first Freedmen 's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for Florida said he was b y no m e ans convinced ... the time has arrived where it is better to hand over the control of the freedmen wholly to the civil authorities and do away with the operations of this bureau-quite the contrary ."118 The net result was a fluid and tumultuous political environment where competing interests complicated the postwar political scene In Tampa sporadic violence continued, sometimes requiring Arm y intervention as in January 1868 when heads and noses were smashed ."119 This type of violence was common throughout the South though less so in Hillsborough County where the smaller black population seems to have experienced relatively few incidents of v i olence s uch as this The fact that there were some however shows some hostility did exist. The Army garrison in Tampa was fortuitous for the African-American community since the se troops mediated disagreements and prevented widespread racial violence Ironically conservative southern whites saw themselves as the best protectors offreedpeople Years of paternalism left whites with an ingrained feeling that black s were incapable of self-rule and needed guidance As a South Caro linian put it with us the death of slavery i s r ecognize d but we don' t believe that because the [African American] is free he ought to be saucy and we don' t mean to 117 F l orida Peninsu l ar August 1 8, 1866 ; L. Smith to J. Lyman, Nov e mber I 1867; R. Comba to C Garrabee June 30 1867 LRDF Bo x 4 118 T. O s born to 0. 0 Howard, November 30, 1865, LSDF 119 Florida Peninsular January II, 1 868 Monthly Inspect ion Reports. Departm e nt of F lorida, RG 393, Part I LSDF National Archives Washington D C Fort Brooke troop s would remain until Augu s t 1 869 w h en the Army aban d oned the g arrison During that period troop s trength varied In Augu s t 1 867 the r e were 2 officers and 35 men The number increased to high of 8 office r s and 132 men in March 1 869 and then decreased thr ougho ut the r e m a inder of the period until only 3 officer s and 77 m e n remain e d when the garriso n c l osed.
69 have any such nonsense as letting him vote." Through this commonly held view we see that many southern whites acknowledged black citizenship albeit grudgingly but saw it as fundamentally different from their own. 120 By virtue of long association with their slaves and the fact that they had always before represented them in the public realm whites believed emancipation should not change this Southern whites believed they could recreate a southern political society that still codified white supremacy and insured blacks accepted their "rightful" place as second-class citizens. Despite objective evide nce that blacks would not accept this conservative whites continued to believe otherwise To their minds iffreedpeople were politically active, it could only be because white Unionists incited them. In believing this, thes e whites did not have to confront the more disturbing possibility that they were no longer calling the shots In typical fashion whites glossed over the travesties of slavery to note "if colored men surrender their wills and freedom of political action ... the shackles which they thus voluntaril y assume will be found mor e degrading to their minds than the slavery which the law once imposed upon them."121 Governor Marvin claimed whites were amenable to blacks voting but that southern whites "are not willing they [African Americans] shall band together and without just reason set up special candidates of their own in opposition to the general sentiments of the white people." He warned, if at the very first election at which the colored people are allowed to vote they separate themselves from their old friends ... I fear they will lay the foundation for a great deal of ill feelings bitterness and hostility ... for many years yet to come."122 This sentiment reflected less the ability of African Americans for self governance than whites 120 Leon F. Litwack, Been in the Storm So Lo ng : The Aftermath of S l avery (New York : Harper and Row 1979) 257 1 2 1 Florida Peninsular May 11,1867; November 30, 1867 122 Letter of Governor William Marvin in Florida Peninsular, October 26, 1867
70 declining influence over them. Many former rebels considered the Freedmen's Bureau interlopers whose presence disturbed the "natural" tranquility existing before emancipation. A Florida newspaper summed up common sentiment by describing the Freedmen's Bureau as an army of malignant southern haters, Negro fanatics, and needy adventurers who intended to Africanize the South and put the white man under the Negro. "1 23 Federal forces were not the only target of anger for conservative Floridians however. Even more than northerners, Florida's conservatives disliked white Unionists whom they considered radical. Throughout the period, conservative whites decried the very industrious effort going on to drag our colored people into a party organization pledged to oppose the southern whites as such and chain them to the leadership of a set of men ... whose attempts to foster antagonism and hatred between the two races we deem unwise unnecessary, and of dangerous tendency.1 24 For their part conservative whites believed African Americans quest for equality to be misguided for "it does not even exist in the same family, nation or race. The law may confer equal rights, but . from time immemorial have not the strong the rich, and those in authority trampled on the weak the poor and the common herd ofmortals? "125 What they failed to understand was that African Americans did not consider themselves weak and their actions proved them right. The Freedmen s Bureau likewise recognized both the potential influence of blacks and their eagerness to participate in the polity. However they were equally unable to control blacks political aspirations. A Florida Bureau Commissioner told his superiors the political affairs of the country particularly the discussions in Congress relating to Negro suffrage, are well known here which creates much interest and causes the freedmen to look forward to a revolution quite equaling the 123 Tallahassee Floridian December 30, 1867 124 Florida Peninsular, May II, 1867. 125 Ibid., September II, 1879.
strife which brought about their freedom."126 Bureau officials commented primarily on the public political actions of freedpeople not understanding the quiet revolution also taking place in the private realm Blacks would defme their own role, however, not relying on their former masters or northerners to do so for them. In fact the actions of many blacks directly opposed the desires of Bureau officials, who were more interested in insuring reunion for the country than the individual rights of freedpeople 71 By 1867 white conservatives fears about their changing society were realized : blacks had become more independent. Their concerns went deeper than just fear of a more politicized African American populace Black independence also impinged on whites desires for a pliant labor force as well. Southern landowners had long held the view that political activity would take African Americans away from their duties as laborers. Now that fear increasingly became reality Bureau officials noted blacks were leaving their job sites to participate in political meetings and rallies which sometimes lasted for days A Freedmen's Bureau representative noted statewide that mass meetings and private political gatherings have been the means of diverting large numbers from their Jabor."127 Political meetings were also common in Hillsborough County These gatherings included speeches marches and barbeques Well-attended social events broke up the monoton y of work while simultaneously showing former slaves their potential as a formidable political force. 128 It also highlighted the fact that for blacks politics was about much more than just gaining or using the vote They were less likely to separate public politics from the rest of their lives In areas of the state where contract labor prevailed workers risked much to attend political meetings since they could lose their jobs Freedpeople who attended during the da y might be docked 126 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard December 31, 1866, LSDF, Volume 2 127 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard December I 0, 1867, Annual Report, LSDF. 128 Ibid., October 14, 1867
72 pay in accordance with the provisions of their contracts, fired, or threatened with poor perfonnance ratings on the work reports the Bureau required them to provide.129 Even those working for wages without contracts, as were many in Hillsborough County, risked sanctions since some employers refused to hire the politically active. The threat of firing or blacklisting if carried out, could place the ex-slave in danger of arrest for vagrancy This might mean incarceration and the break-up of the family. Economic threats were potentially very powerful against a group mired in poverty and living in a still white-dominated society. Aware of the coercive power southern whites could wield against freedpeople, northern whites worried that blacks might succumb to the pressure. Florida Assistant Commissioner Osborn believed white conservatives would try to influence African Americans votes "by kindness fraud or intimidation."13 0 While he was right to believe whites would try to influence blacks he miscalculated the effectiveness of such efforts, as did the white conservatives themselves. Each side assumed whites would continue to set the agenda Blacks never suffered under this misconception ; they knew what they wanted and pursued it Throughout the period 1865-1880, the press in Tampa echoed the displeasure of the conservative white community over local black political meetings especially those held in the area called the Scrub, where many of Tampa's blacks lived.131 In the local press one particularly pointed attack concerning night-time meetings in the Scrub charged that if there was nothing to hide the 129 Begirming in 1867, all black workers were required to obtain from employers documentation regarding their work habits and character. These papers were filed in district offices where prospective employers could check the records. This requirement undoubtedly served a coercive purpo se. 130 Quoted in George R Bentley, A Histmy of the Freedmen s Bureau (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania 1955), 32. 131 Florida Peninsular. February 15, 1868 The article describes the Scrub as an area that was "impenetrable and serves to remind one of a walled city." The impression was created b y the dense palmetto growth separating the area from the surrounding town. The boundaries of th e Scrub were Scott Street on the North, Cass on the South, Central Avenue on the West, and Nebraska on the East, according to the 1886 Tampa City Directory.
73 blacks and whites involved would hold their meetings in public during the daytime The newspaper showed no similar concern however when it previously advertised a Ku Klux Klan meeting and informed members "you will meet as usual at 2 A M to discuss "the social political and moral condition of this community ."132 A Bureau representative indicated nothing out of the ordinary about Unionist meetings in routine reports to superiors Conservative townspeople, however had more to say on the issue The Tampa press reported on several meetings noting that participants included both blacks and whites Since they could not stop them conservatives ridiculed and disparaged these activities in the local press One account described "an awful shuffling, singing and dancing on the piazza of the residence of C R Mobley b y his colored brethren every night or so, which of course annoys his neighbors. "13 3 Integrated political meetings held in the hous e of a white man in a section of town where blacks neither lived nor were welcome violated conservative whites' view of propriety In addition to meetings in the homes of black and white Unionists black churches in Tampa were also a favored gathering place for political meetings The church, a pivotal force in the lif e of the black community was central to the political discourse It had the ability to mobilize citizens and religious leaders were willing to speak for the community and fight for change Church services also provided a forum for passing the latest information about political, economic, and social changes and for drawing together individuals to protest unfair practices Despite the fact that many political meetings were organized and conducted within the black community conservatives frequently complained that whites who engaged in political dialogue with 132 Florida Peninsular, January 23 1869, April II, 1868. While announcements of meetings "as usual indicates an on-going Klan presence in Hill sbo rough County it was not involved in the lev e l of violence see n elsewhere 133 Ibid ., May 16 1868. C.R. Mobley was white and his c l ose politi ca l association with African Americans brought him much critici s m in the local pre ss.
74 blacks stirred up unrest. In the minds of many conseJVatives it was white Republicans who posed the biggest threat to political order and peace. This, too was a misperception since black political agitation had its roots in the discontent over the post-war social, economic and political system that kept African Americans subordinate to whites There was even talk in the local press in August 1868 that blacks might form their own political party. The writer however opined that he would rather see blacks in office than carpetbaggers ."134 This view may have reflected a common idea that whites were the real power base and that blacks were merely following their lead Therefore, blacks in political office would be easier to control than white Republicans. Blacks' confidence in their political power grew over time, evidenced by their increased willingness to take public stands against Democrats Such was the case in 1867 when the "Union men" of Hillsborough County presented a petition, signed by both blacks and whites, to military authorities in Tampa. They expressed dissatisfaction with a proposed roster of coWlty political officials The petition recommended an alternative roster that included three blacks At least one of these men, Cyrus Charles did receive an appointment to the County Commission in the Fall of 1868 Freedmen petitioned their government on a variety of issues They complained when officials taxed them for schools but did not use the money for this purpose They also petitioned the governor to approve an African-American militia company in 1870 .135 The black community s use of petitions to make its feelings known documents African Americans growing confidence and belief that the government was responsible to them as citizens Petitioning state officials was also sometimes the 134 Michael W Fitzgerald The Union League Movement in the Deep South: Political and Agricultural Change During Reco nstruction (Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press 1 989), 26; Florida Peninsular, August 9, 1868. 135 Petition by Citizens ofHillsborough County dated September 4, 1 867, contained in M Lyon s to R. Comba September 4, 1867, LRDF ; Roll of the Officers and Privates of the Company ofMilitia formed at Tampa, Florida August 27, 1870 ," Series 114 0 Box I, Florida State Archives; According t o the August 29, 18 68 Florida Peninsular, Mills Holloman, also black was appointed as a County Commissioner
75 only recourse when local courts denied blacks justice This was the case when the African-American community of Hillsborough County rallied to the aid ofHenry Clay a farm laborer and First Sergeant in the Tampa militia, when he was convicted of altering a cattle brand and sentenced to three months in prison. Citing the injustice of Clay s conviction because he was induced to commit the crime by a designing and unprincipled white man who has escaped punishment," they requested a pardon from the Governor. The black community did not contest Clay s guilt but demanded for him equality under the law Since his white accomplice had not been punished neither should Clay The Governor apparently agreed since he iss ued a pardon .136 The willingness of 43 freedmen to sign this petition is a testament to their strong feelings that justice must be equal. Blacks success in getting relief from policies they found unjust undoubtedly encouraged further petitions and put whites on notic e that the black community would challenge local white authorities when equity was not forthcoming. Votes For Freedom When it came to the most visible sign of traditional political behavior--the vote--blacks were enthusiastic about the prospects from the beginning Voter registration awakened the freedmen to a sense of his personal strength and importance," according to a Bureau official. While Democrats tried to persuade blacks to vote for them Bureau reports show that local African Americans actively mobilized against the Democratic party and for their own interests .137 136 Petition from the citizens ofHillsborough County to the Governor of Florida concerning Henry Clay, 1874 Office of the Governor, Correspondence of the Governors, 1 857-1888, RG 101 Serie s 577 Box 4, Florida State Archives ; "Roll of the Officers and Privates of the Company of Militi a formed at Tampa Florida Augu s t 27, 1870," Series 1140 Box I, F lorida State Archives 137 J. Sprague to 0. 0 Howard October 14, 1867 LSDF ; W Vance to A. Jackson June 30, 1867 ULAR.
76 White Unionists and blacks rallied principally around two groups the Union League and the Lincoln Brotherhood which both supported the Republican party The Union League formed in the North in 1862 claimed to represent those that pledged complete support for the Union Many conservative southern whites considered it radical because it sought to restructure southern politics and society and supported the franchise for black men. Its platform centered around stay laws and debt relief, issues of interest to both poor whites and blacks.138 Although blacks also wanted the League to champion land confiscation and redistribution the League never went this far perhaps realizing such a radical move would erode white Unionist support Historian Michael Fit zge rald says that in the Union League political social and economic grievances merged to create the impetus for a "multilayered mass movement that appealed to the anti-confederate sentiments of yeomen and continuing dissatisfaction of the freedpeople." As such the League represented both a political movement and an agrarian uprising of sorts.139 This char a cterization is apt because despite membership that crossed boundaries of race, there was no uniformity of goals among the membership. White republicans wanted black male suffrage disenfranchisement of former rebels and replacement of governments formed under Presidential Reconstruction. These goals however had less to do with improving the lot offreedpeople than with assuring white Republican ascendency. Union League membership grew rapidly in Florida because offmancial support from national level Republicans, increased Unionist sentiment among white yeomen that carried over from the war and blacks dissatisfaction with the postwar social and economic order.1 4 For freedpeople Union League policies spoke to their desires for autonomy--a status the y could not achieve without significant changes in the political labor education, and legal systems Blacks already knew what 138 Fitzge rald Union League Movement 21, 117 121. 139 Ibid., 2-6 248 140 Ibid ., 9.
77 measures would bring them more equality and membership in political organizations allowed them to focus collective efforts toward these goals. Many blacks also believed the League s claim that slavery would be reinstated if conservatives regained control in the South After all the Black Codes showed conservative whites intent to maintain blacks separate status and rumors about plans to reenslave blacks appeared periodically after the war.1 4 1 Southern attitudes toward blacks were so entrenched in white actions and attitudes that blacks had little reason to believe whites suddenly and permanently had changed their belief systems White polemics only served to increase black suspicions. African Americans in great numbers joined the League to preserve and expand their freedom. The League s discourse focused the existing discontent of black workers into a political program that freedmen embraced when emancipation failed to bring them equality .1 4 2 In this way we can see that the Union League did not create the black political movement rather it embraced an existing one. The League most accurately provided a formalized structure for a political discourse already underway among the freedpeople. The Union League however was not the only organization in Florida seeking change inimical to elite white southerners. Bureau official Thomas Osborn resigned his post to form the Lincoln Brotherhood in Florida. This group was considered less radical than the Union League but was no more acceptable to Democrats. Both groups hoped to elect pro Union candidates to state offices and to benefit from vacancies left by officials barred from government office because of their affiliation with the rebel cause Both groups had similar goals--the black franchise debt relief changes in agricultural working relationships and keeping conservatives from power. According to historian 14 1 In the Fall of 1865 there were rumor s circulating th a t con s ervati ve w hite s intend e d t o s hip free dp e ople t o Cuba wh e re they would be r e en s laved. Alth o ugh the Bure a u's in ves t igatio n f o und n o pr oo f s uch a plo t exi s ted the As s istant Commi s sioner at th e time C o l O s born r e port e d th e incid e nt t o hi s s up erio r s. See Osborn to Howard 14 Nov 1865 LSDF Volume I. 14 2 Ibid. 12 7, 141.
78 Jerrell Shofner the primary difference between the two groups was the more strident rhetoric associated with the Union League .1 4 3 In the end blacks threw their support to the more radical Union League. As a result the Union League became the most influential political organi z ation representing Republicans in Florida and throughout the South.1 44 By July 1867 at the height of its power the Union League boasted 300, 000 members in 3 000 League branches throughout the South.1 4 5 Black participation insured the League s growth and influence since African Americans represented a powerful political force. The Union League was particularly popular in Hillsborough County and likely represented Tampa' s first integrated political group. In 1867 a Captain from Fort Brooke reported on a League meeting held in Tampa and revealed plans for additional meetings in Man a tee and Polk counties According to him "the Refugees and Union men are jubilant they are industriously at work perfecting their organi z ation as a po l itical parly. They have entir e confidence in their ability to elect loyal Union men to office when the proper time comes."146 The Freedmen anxiousl y joined in political debate They listened to speeches discussed courses of action and urged others to participate as well Union League members pledged to elect true and reliable Union men and supporters of the government," but more than that the y furthered their own political goals .147 Their aims included increasing the number of black elected officials But for many, the most pressing ne e d was to elect officials of either race who could create and maintain an environment allowing African Americans to achieve rights as equal citizens under th e law. 1 4 3 Shofuer N o r i s it Ov e r Yet 1 6 8 169. 144 J o e M. Ri c hard so n P o litic a l Re c on s tructi o n in F l o rid a," Fl o rida Hi s t orical Soc i ety Quarterly 6 5 ( O ctob e r 1 966): 1 41. 145 Fitzg e r a ld Uni o n Leagu e M ov em e n t, 14 146 R. C omba to E. W oo druff May 31, 1867 LRDF. 147 Fi tz gerald, Union League M ove m ent, 115-116.
79 A major political battle between Democrats and Unionists during military rule involved electing delegates for Florida's 1868 Constitutional Convention One of the tasks facing the military government in Florida was to expand the base of registered voters that selected these delegates A Freedmen's Bureau official predicted "the strife will be between the Southern and Northern loyalists. "1 48 Controversy began with voter registration preceding delegate elections. Blacks and whites of all political leanings were extremely active since they recognized this as a crucial crossroad in the state's political future. The elections for delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention revived disputes and drew the lines between Conservatives and Unionists even tighter. By April of 1868, a Fort Brooke officer reported that feelings of hatred toward Union men were at their highest levels in two years.149 Voter registration was central to the federal government's plan to insure the triumph of more moderate elements. The only whites permitted to register were males over the age of twenty-one who signed oaths of loyalty to the Union or had received Presidential pardons This increased the number and influence of the black electorate while eliminating the most radical Democratic elements. To offset their disadvantage in meeting registration requirements some whites tried to sabotage Bureau efforts to register blacks In several coWlties in Florida Conservative whites told prospective black voters that the registration was actually a muster into military service against Mexico though Bureau officials hurriedly dispelled this rumor. In the end, registration of blacks was successful with a statewide ratio of blacks to whites of three to one.1 50 Voter registration patterns again highlight demographic differences betw een Hillsborough and northern Florida coWlties. According to the local press 211 whites registered in the coWlty, compared with only eighty-seven blacks, making the voter ratio about two to one in favor of 148 J. Sprague to 0. 0 Ho ward LSDF Volume 2 1 4 9 W. Comba to C Garrabee April30, 1868 L RDF ISO Sprague to Howard July 31, 1867 LSDF
80 whites.151 This is not sw-prising given the small size of Hillsborough County s African-American population compared with northern counties. Hillsborough County blacks constituted twenty-nine percent of the electorate, significantly less that the statewide average but still greater than their twenty percent representation in the population. Local whites claimed fraud had artificially inflated black political influence. At one point, a Florida Peninsular article claimed there were eighty-three black voters registered but only seventy-three adult male blacks living in the county. There is no way of determining the validity of this charge though, since voter registration records for the county no longer exist. 152 Despite the growing power of the Republican party and Unionist organizations, some Democrats still believed they could convince blacks to support their party. True to a vision of themselves as friends and protectors of ex-slaves these Democrats honestly seemed to have believed blacks also saw them as benefactors. As one white expressed it "we have no reason to hate the black man he has done nobly. It has been by his strong arm that we possess our wealth while on the other had the white man has ever been his friend, protector and provider."153 While acknowledging the pivotal role of African Americans in the economic development of the South, there was still no commitment for sharing the benefits of that development. Conservative state politicians tried to put a new spin on events to convince African Americans that southern Democrats had their best interests at heart. The state s Governor William Marvin, told blacks they owed nothing to either party in Florida 151 Florida Peninsular October 26, 1867 There was confusion ove r actual age s and in all probability some blacks were registered who might have been younger than th e legal age Reviews of the manuscript census from consecutive periods shows many cases where ages do not match those expected. 152 Florida Peninsular, September 3, 1867 ; Hillsborough County Manuscript Census, 1 870. The local pres s report e d both 83 and 87 black voters at differ e nt times. The true number of African-American voters remain s unknown. The federal census in 1870 record e d 7 I black mal es who were then ove r the age of 21, so it i s possible conservatives were right. If they were, then this may have changed the election results since Republicans won b y only a few vo te s. 1 5 3 E.B. Duncan to Governor David Walker November 8 1866 in the "Repo rt of the Superintendent of Common Schools for Freedmen Series 288 Folder I Florida State Archives
81 According to him, they should understand their freedom was not the result of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation but of the state's 1866 Constitution written by Democrats and rejected by Washington Republicans .154 Presumably he did not dwell on the fact that Washington rejected the 1866 State Constitution because it sought to severely restrict the autonomy of blacks. In spite of the fact that white voters outnumbered blacks in Hillsborough County, conservatives realized the vote would not take place along the color line. There were many Unionists in South Florida and they joined with blacks to elect the Unionist candidate C.R. Mobley The voting was close but Mobley won by a small margin The local press complained bitterly claiming that after his election Mobley would follow blacks wishes when previousl y he had pledged himself to "do the bidding ofwhites. "155 Whatever the case, the press in Tampa vilified him while prominent local blacks including Mills Holloman later a member of the County Commission, continued to support Mobley was one of twenty-eight whites and eighteen blacks elected statewide to convene in Tallahassee to formulate a new State Constitution in January of 1868. Radical factions among the delegates appealed to blacks by attacking their former masters a tactic moderate delegates claimed would set the races against each other. Radicals wanted most state and local offices to become elective positions to take advantage of African Americans' voting power and the disfranchisement of former Confederates. Moderates, by contrast, wanted more positions to be appointive and were willing to appease whites by limiting the number of black officials Under the Radicals plan for 154 Florida Penin sular, October 26, 1867 President J o hn so n appointed William Marvin as provisional governor of Florida on Jul y 13, 1865 Marvin a r es id e nt of Florida for thirty years, served as a Federal Di s trict Judge in Key West during th e war. 155 Ibid ., November 1 6, 1867, November 30 1867 April4 18 68. The 17th District which consisted of Hillsborough Manatee and Polk Counties was allowed one delegate t o th e Const itutional Convention 1 5 6 Ibid ., October 3, 1868. After his service as a delegate to th e Con s titutional Convention local s upporters, including black s signing a petition recommending him as th e most suit a ble candidate for th e Congress.
82 apportioning representatives, predominantly black counties would also have received more seats than under the moderates plan When radicals took control of the convention and proposed what conservatives considered an untenable constitution the local newspaper told readers whites must bind together to vote 'no' on the proposed constitution Hillsborough County residents voted on the new constitution in early May 1868 and rejected it by a vote of 118 to 164 .1 5 7 As the results suggest white Unionists were deepl y divided Although man y white voters were anti-Democrat th ey w e re not anxious to usher in a radical brand of Reconstruction, unlike blacks who advocated more drastic changes to the political system The voters who chose Mobley as their delegate had voted for a moderate a man who while a U nionist did not subscribe to the most drastic ideas for remo v ing Democrats from power Despite Hillsborough County s no vote on the Constitution the state s electorate voted to adopt it. A New Age : Practicing Politics in the County Following adoption of the 1868 con s titution the legislature passed laws designed to insure f airness in, or at least to monitor future elections These provisions reflected the changing status o f fre e dpeople Each county selected three men as Inspectors of Elections In Hillsborou g h County officials selected two whites and one black. The African-American inspector was Joseph Sexton a former Union soldier who settled in Tampa and served as Minister to the congregation of Mt. Sinai A.M E Zion Church Reverend Sexton wa s politicall y active in the community particularl y in the 1s7 Ibid D ece mber 14, 186 7 May9, 1868.
83 area of education The county continued to have a black Inspector of Elections until October 1872, when a white man replaced Reverend Sexton .158 Political meetings, which continued unabated after the 1868 Constitution vote indicate that blacks did not simply rally in response to a single issue. Instead they maintained a broad political discourse long after the new Constitution was in place. One such meeting was organized by the Reverends Gibbs and Pierce and held at the African Methodist church Several other black community leaders were present a s was C R. Mobley Another meeting in August of 1868 included thirty black men, eight black women and five whites Among those attending were ten Democrat s. Whether they were there to lend support or just to monitor activity is unknown In October of that year there were at least three more Republican political rallies with black participation, one featuring a black speaker. Following the last rally in October participants formed a procession consisting of sixty blacks and at least one white man, M P L yons_l59 Blacks forged alliances with like-minded whites but maintained their independence They constituted their own political interest group Where goals coincided the y might combine efforts But blacks understood that their real interests lay within the solidarity of their race far more than whites could imagine They had experienced attempts to manipulate them before and were aware of just how quickl y political expediency could change white opinions Throughout the Reconstruction period blacks made the white community aware of their presence through public marches and rallies held in Tampa Newspapers provided accounts of marches and speeches on various occasions Public displays by 158 Hill s b o r o ugh C ounty Manuscript Cen s u s, 1 8 70 ; N o t es o n th e Hi s t ory ofMt. S inai A.M. E Z i o n C hurch Tampa Florida ; Hill s borough Co unty Co mmissi o n Minut e B oo k B 83 I 0 2 Sunland T ribun e Dec embe r 23 1 8 80 ; R e co rd s o f the Hill s b o r o ugh Co unty Boar d of Publi c In s tru ctio n 188 0 ; Hill s b oro ugh Co unty Co mmission Minute Book C O cto ber 7 1 872 4 0 159 F lorida Penin s ular, Augu s t 22, Oc t o b e r 3 Oct ober 24, October 31, N o v e mb e r 2 8 186 8
84 the black populace demonstrated their solidarity and showed whites they were not invisible .160 The African-American community even organized parades to celebrate special holidays On January 1st and July 4th of each year blacks marched through the streets of their town celebrating the nation's and their own independence. The African-American brass band whose 14 members practiced at the local school house on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, probably accompanied these marchers .161 These demonstrations of individual community and national pride brought together members of the community as well as members of Tampa's "Negro Militia," formed in 1870 .162 When parading participants usually followed a course traversing the small town and ending at the county courthouse where they listened to political speeches enjoyed the fellowship of their neighbors and celebrated their freedom There does not appear to have been significant violence associated with these celebrations in Tampa. Aside from a few fights, marchers were generally left alone Blacks served as County Commissioners through at least the rnid-1870s but whites did not always accept their presence uncritically Although commission records reveal no significant rifts press reporting suggested otherwise Disparaging comments indicate whites preferred less politically active blacks. In a particularl y condescending attack the local press reported that Cyrus Charles and Mills Holloman then the onl y two black Commissioners, had to prematur ely adjourn a meeting Reportedly they could not approve the tax assessors book until M P Lyons a white man could attend since neither Charles nor Holloman could read .163 While it may have been true that 160 Numerous reports concerning political meetings by black s are available in the Florida Peninsular between April 1868 to February 1869 The Florida Peninsular also reported on black marche s h e ld on h olidays s uch a s New Year's Day and the Fourth o f July during the peri o d 1 6 1 For analysis of the militi a system in the South se e, Otis Singletary Negro Militia and Reconstruction (New York : Harper 1 963). 162 Florida Peninsular, June 8, 1870 The Peninsular d oc uments s everal parade s during th e period The N e gro Militia, actually a mi snome r sin ce mo s t members were white marched to s upp ort Republican party idea ls. 163 Ibid. August 24, 1870
85 these two commissioners could not read the attack was more likel y based in the continued irritation of the conservative local press over their presence on the conunission than with a justified concern over their ability to govern. In fact white conservatives seemed to see African-American commissioners more as figureheads than active participants. When complaining about the commissioners reducing the number of precincts in the county, the local pap e r said such men as Brownlow Mills and Cyrus should not be held responsible. Lyons, Mobley and Magbee are the men who are responsible for this."1 64 Conservatives showed sensitivity to much of African Americans political act ivities but were especially concerned by their participation in the militia The conservative state leadership revived Florida s militia in its 1866 constitution but limited membership to every able-bodied white male inhabitant of the State between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years. "1 65 These qualifications were common in post-war constitutions throughout the South. At Brookesville ,just North of Tampa, an Army officer observed that "they hav e not one Union man in the Reg t for officers all ha ving held commissions in the Rebel Army. State officials sometimes used the militia to terrorize blacks and Unionists Abuses throughout the South led the federal government to ban militias in 1867 .166 They did not remain dormant for long, though Fearing conservative whites might threaten their power when the federal military presence in the South declined white radicals petitioned Congress to allow them to form loyal militias. Despite widespread complaints from Southern whites Congress believed a controlled and pro-northern militia could influence events in the South Because of this they allowed southern states to re-form militias by mid-1868. Anticipating this move Florida s 1 64 Ibid November 2, 1870. 1 6 5 F l orida State Constitution ( 1866 ) in Laws of Florida 1865-1866 1 66 W Vance to Assistant Adjutant General District ofFlorida Octob e r 5 1866, LRDF Box 4 ; Singletary, Negro Militia, 6.
86 1868 constitution contained provisions for a militia .167 Florida's militia law permitted membership by black and white men between the ages of 18 and 45 who declared their loyalty to the state In Florida b lacks joined the militia in large numbers, but never outnumbered whites in the state. In fact there were only five Florida counties in 1869 and 1873 where black militiamen predominated .168 Formation of the state s new militia system served as another pol i tical minefield since African Americans participation was a particularl y visible symbol of how much southern society had changed The idea of organized armed blacks drew special ire from many whites It spoke to some of their deepest fears : armed blacks b lacks in positions of power over whites, and blacks moving out of their natural role as manual laborers. During slavery bondspeople were forbidden to possess firearms without permission from their owners After emancipation, conservative whites reenacted proscriptions on firearms for freedpeople in the B lack Codes. Specifically African Americans were forbidden to own use or keep ... any Bowie-knife dirk sword fire-arms or ammunition without frrst obtaining a license from their county Probate Judge .169 Despite integrated militia membership, southern whites often referred to the organi z ation as the Negro militia." The popularity of the term indicates just how sensitive conservative whites were to African Americans participation Even though blacks only represented a minority in every state militia it was considered a Negro militia nonetheless in keeping with the long-standing Southern indifference to logic when considering questions involving race As in heredity so in the militia a 167 Florida State Constitution 1868; An Ac t to Provide for Organizing and Disciplining th e Militia of th e S tate," Laws of Florida 1868, Chapter I ,816 168 Florida Senate Journal 187 0, 88; Ibid, 187 4, p.20 I 203 ; blacks comprised a majority of rrulitia participation only in Duval Franklin (1874), Leon, Madi son and Marion Counties Each of the se counties also had a s ignificantl y higher ratio of blacks to whites within the general population. 169 An Act Prescribin g Additional Penalties for the Commission of Offences Again s t the Stat e, and for Other Purposes, January 12, 1 866, Laws ofFiorida 1865 -18 66, 2 5
87 touch ofNegro blood was sufficient to brand it as all Negro in the eyes of many southern whites ."1 7 0 Both blacks and whites loyal to the new order in Florida had reasons for joining the militia For Unionist whites, membership offered a means of shielding themselves and their property from recalcitrant whites and offered participation in creating and protecting the new order. Blacks joined for equally compelling reasons The militia provided an increased sense of stewardship in serving the government that offered the best hope for their advancement. It also offered the potential for increased pay since militiamen called to active service received pay comparable to U.S Army soldiers Uniforms and ceremonial aspects of the militia drew some blacks while still others responded to encouragement from within the African-American community for their participation In contrast whites were pressured by their communities not to join. Given strong sentiments against the militia it is probable both its black and white members suffered recriminations. White conservatives sometimes refused to sell goods or rent land to black militia members Ther e was probably even more significant retribution against whites who joined .171 Tampa had at least three militia companies one black and two white Thomas McKnight a laborer headed the black company Of the twelve officers in his company at least six were black as were the eighty-five troops rounding out the muster.172 Even in Hillsborough County however blacks were not a majority in the militia accounting for only 16 percent of the total according to state records Despite a militia strength statewide that increased by 52 percent from 1869 to 1873 the size and racial make-up of the militia remained stable within Hillsborough County 1 73 170 Singletary Negro Militia p 15. 171 Ibid ., 24, 122 172 Roll of the Officers and Private s of th e Company ofMilitia formed at Tampa Florida August 27 1870," Series 1140 Box 1 Florida State Archives 173 Florida Senate JolU11al, 1870 88.
88 Reaction to the Hillsborough County militia was swift and unambiguous The local press decried its formation "at a time when law and order is so much respected . when the passions of the people are subsiding and the discontents and bickerings of the past give place to a sound and health y public sentiment ; and at a time too when constant work is indispensable to growing crops ."174 The belief that blacks should be engaged in their natural" calling agricultural labor, rather than dressing up and "playing soldier" was not unique to Hillsborough County. The sentiment was expressed throughout Florida and the rest of the South. Many whites already disturbed by the fact of blacks participation in the militia units were quick to fmd fault with militiamen s activities both inside and outside of this official capacity Throughout the South there were reports both of serious crime and common nuisance associated with the militia and its members. Criticism in Tampa was predominantly the latter where complaints centered around militia participation in holiday celebrations White reaction ranged from paternalistic derision to occasional brawls. The local press described the militia s 1871 New Year's parade as an interesting spectacle" but claimed that in the aftermath there was such fearful howlings, cursings groans and yells ... seldom heard from human throats. "175 Despite occasional problems the relatively benign reaction toward the militia expressed by the local press probably reflects the fact that the Governor never called the Hillsborough County units to active duty in maneuvers that pitted them directly against conservative white interests in the area Officials did however, use the militia to provide security at polling stations during elections Other than this duty the militia s main activities probably centered around training While some whites tried to derail the militia others sought to transform it from within Such was the case in Hillsborough County where conservatives petitioned to form their own company 1 7 4 Florida Peninsular June 8 1870. 175 Ibid., January 4 1871.
89 Officer selection relied more on loyalty to the state than military training or skill so in cases wh e re loyalty was in doubt the governor could simply refuse to recognize prospective units legitimac y or decline to accept their officers This was apparently the case for at least one proposed all-white unit that petitioned to form a company in Tampa since petitioners never received a response from Tallahassee In this rebuff whites saw ulterior motives One disgruntled Conservative reminded his neighbor s that there is a meaning in all this ; keep y our eyes open "1 7 6 Conclusion The black community in Tampa made significant political gains during th e R e construction years African Americans were drawn to politics out of frustration that emancipation did not bring equality Their large presence in the electorate gave them unprecedented power however and allowed them to help set the state s political agenda The y activel y participated in politic s and challenged whites b y openly attending political meetings and rallies. Blacks provided s upport for both the Union League and the Lincoln Brotherhood and in the process, assur e d continued Republican power in the state They demonstrated their growing sense of power through political rallies marches and petitions Black churches provided valuable leader s hip for the communi ty and began a tradition of political agitation that would continue over the year s Black political solidarity was not complete or unchanging howe v er. B y at least 1878 c racks were beginning to form in what had been a solidly Republican voting bl o c among blacks Th e local Hillsborough County paper reported some black voters were switching from the Republican to the Democratic ticket. The writer also said black Republicans were threatening to run African-American 176 "Mus ter Role o f Militia C ompan y Enrolle d at Wood Mill Hill sborou gh Co un ty, F l o rid a, Sept e mb e r 3 0 1870 L.D R oss Mus t e r Ros ter for Compan y fanne d Se pt e mber 2 5 1870", S eries 1146, Box I Florida State Archives ; Florida Penin s ular June 3 1871.
90 Democrats out of Tampa although the veracity of this claim is unknown .177 Voters bad elected a Democratic governor in 1876 so it is possible some blacks joined that party in hopes of influencing its policies once it re-emerged as the dominant party But the key point that escaped white Democrats was that even if blacks were beginning to leave the Republican fold it was not because they embraced the white supremacy of the southern Democratic party but because the Republican Party failed to adequately meet their needs Black political efforts left conservative whites perplexed about the changing political realities of their county At the same time blacks became more convinced than ever that politicians would heed their concerns and that collective voting power gave them influence in the community Their political success and increased confidence strained relations with conservative whites throughout Hillsborough County. Common interests counted more than racial differences to both Republican whites and blacks Integrated political meetings in Hillsborough County and other areas of the State show that race was not an impenetrable barrier to cooperation This realization heightened tensions within the white community between Democrats and Unionists since many Democrats believ e d the races were naturally separated and did not share common interests that could bridge racial barri e rs It is difficult to assess the success of blacks in influencing the political discourse Certainly they had many victories, but even so were unable to influence events to the extent their numbers should have allowed. They never gained control over state politics nor were they able to prevent the later erosion of their rights This does not minimize the importance of what they did achieve however. By challenging local officials as they did in the Henry Clay case they were able to show local officials that unfair practices would not go unchallenged They were able to elect Republican representatives to state government gain appointments to local offices, and force whites to take them into account when making local policies As the Reconstruction era drew to a close however 177 Sunland Tribune October 12 1878 July 29 1880.
91 conservative whites reversed many of these hard-fought gains. When Democrats regained power they marginalized blacks as a political force within the community but these reversals did not eclipse the significant political contributions blacks made during the period.
92 CHAPTERS THE BUSINESS OF CLIMBING WHEN EDUCATION IS THE LADDER Education within the state changed dramatically in the postwar period African American participation in these changes stands as testament to their desire to achieve equality and further their push for autonomy. Blacks and whites alike recognized the importance of education. It was a powerful means of socialization and one that all parties sought to control. Through this struggle we see the divergent goals of southern whites northern whites, and the freedpeople. Whites emphasized the ability of education to mold the populace to meet desired roles Some whites principally those from the North saw ignorance as a legacy of slavery and felt knowledge would be the great equalizer for African Americans in their relations with whites. Northerners also believed education could create good Republicans." Meanwhile, many southerners believed education could instill in blacks an acceptance and appreciation of their role as an agrarian workforce African Americans had other ideas, however They saw in education a means of combating ignorance and improving their upward social and economic mobility. Perhaps most of all though, it served as a powerful symbol since education for slaves had been against the law. As one official observed, the freedman knows that it is now his business to climb, and he fully comprehends that education is the ladder.178 African Americans saw education as yet another means to first gain and then extend their autonomy. They fought hard to gain access to education often sacrificing the short-term economic benefit of more workers in the family to long-term goals of increased knowledge. Where schools were unavailable 178 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction December 1876 in F lorida Senate Journal, 1877
93 they often created their own, a task black churches tackled with great enthusiasm The story of education in Florida and Hillsborough County illustrates this process and shows how the long and arduous battle for education changed the postwar South. The Politics of Public Education Before the e nd of the Civil War, education for Florida s youth was ge nerall y available only to children of the middle-class and elite The vast majority of these students were white, since formal education was illegal for slaves and few free black children could afford to attend Florida s Education Society which advocated public education, was established in Tallahassee in January 1831 but private schools remained the primary source of formal education for students in the state b efore Reconstruction In 1850 there were only sixty-six African Americans attending school in the entire state all of the m free blacks The ftrst public school for blacks opened in 1862 in Fernandina once that town fell to Union troops By 1864 additio nal schools for blacks opened in Saint Augustine and Jacksonville and by the end of 1865 there were ten schools operating with twenty-one teachers and 1 ,918 students .179 Affluent whites thought of free schools as "paupe r institutions ," which only increased their psychological and economic resistance to establishing a public education system .18 0 Despite this, Florida followed a unique course after the Civil War. While other southern states set up public school s ystems but barred blacks Florida specifically chartered its public school 179 Frederick B Rosen, The Development of Negro Education in Florida During Reconstruction : 1865-1877," (Ph.D dissertation University ofFlorida 1974) 24, 28, 33; T Osborn to 0 0 Howard December 31, 1865 in American State Papers (ASP), Senate Exec utive documents 30 (39, 1) 1238, 49. 180 U S Census Bureau Compendium of the Tenth census. 1880 (Washingt o n : GPO 1883) 50; Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction January 3 1 870 in Florida Senate Journal. 1870, 56
94 syste m for blacks .181 An 1866law entitled "An Act Concerning Schools for Freedmen," created public schools for African Americans, but made no similar provision for poor whites The la w required the Superintendent o f Public Instruction to establish schools for freedmen, when the number of persons of color ... will warrant."18 2 This initial effort brought black public schools to larger population centers but the people of smaller counties such as Hillsborough, had to provide for themselves Florida s creation of public education for blacks alone, suggests the law had political motivations Few southern whites were genuinely interested in educating blacks since the y felt it inappropriately took African Americans out of the labor force. However, when conservative whites realized the federal government intended to make educational opportunities availab l e with or without their cooperation, they took an interest in shaping the experience. A Florida newspaper warned that if white citizens did not get involved in black education, it would be done by 'unfit, alien hostile and dangerous agents."183 Some whites also suggested the y might be able to use the institution to create an effective and obedient working class and control their votes."184 The fact that elites made no provisions for poor whites' public education suggests they intended the system to socialize blacks to accept a role in society defined b y conservative whites This role consisted of accepting a status as a laboring class subordinate to propertied whites who, they felt were the best jud ge of appropriate public policy. By controlling the school system and shaping its curriculum elite whites would be in a position to ensure theirs was the message heard by freedpeople. 1 8 1 Florida State Constitution 1868 ; Foner, Unfinished Revolution 207 ; John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil War (Chicago : Unive r sity of Chicago Press 1994) 45-46 182 An Act Concerning Schools for Freedmen ," January 1 6 1866 Laws of Florida, Chapter I ,475, (Tallahassee 1867) 183 The Floridian July 12, 1866 quoted in Bentley Histmy of the Freedmen s Bureau 182 1 8 4 Rose n Development of Negro Education, 226.
95 Licensing requirements and salary arrangements illustrate the process b y which landed whites hop e d to control the newly created public education s y stem Licensing provisions gav e state authorities control over who could teach in schools Officials hoped to exclude certain individuals or groups particularly those with Unionist leanings The 1866 law also prohibited payment to teachers without certificates and directed that officials pay salaries quarterly out of the treasury ... and from no othe r fund ." Teachers failing to comply with the law could be fined between $100 and $500 or imprisoned thirty to sixty days.1 85 To fund the public school system, the state charged black students a tuition of 50 cents per month The government matched this amount with a contribution of 50 cents per student initiall y, but later raised its contribution to one dollar Tuition proved particularly difficult for poor families who averaged earnings of only about fifteen to thirty dollars per month .1 86 Government funding came from a special tax of one dollar per year o n all black males between the ages of eighteen and frfty-five .187 This represented the first time the state taxed any of its citizens for e ducation Although the state collected the special tax the funds apparently did not bring public e ducation to all communities In Hillsborough County an Army officer reported the freedmen have been taxed for schools but they get no benefit. This official was not the only one to notice that the state was not using the freedmen s common school taxes to bring educatio n to blacks in their community African Americans also voiced their irritation to the Bureau .1 88 185 An Ac t Concerning Schools for Freedmen, January 1 6 1866, Laws of F l orida 1 86 Report of th e S uperint en den t of Co mm o n Schools fo r Freedmen in Florida Senate J o urn a l 1 866, 27 187 Report of the Superintendent o f E du cat i o n in F l o rid a Se n a t e Journal 1 867 ISS W Vanc e, to A. J ackso n June 30, 1867, ULAR ; Florida Penin s ul ar, Jul y 6, 1 867 By 1 867 the e ducati o n tax o n black s ended when th e sta t e s uprem e co urt declared it uncon s tituti o n a l s ince it did n o t apply e quall y to whites
96 Although the legislature made no provisions for public schools for whites in 1866 another law did allow the State Superintendent of Schools to draw on the interest now due the school fund of the state and to apportion the same in an equitable manner to the superintendents of each county ... for the education of the indigent white children there ."189 It is impossible to tell how much money entered the interest fund during the period, so the extent of this tuition subsidy program is unknown It certainly had some impact on this group, however which before had little access to formal education .1 90 Poor whites in Hillsborough County probably benefitted from this program as well since education officials apportioned the money among each county By providing for the education of poor whites but keeping them out of the public school system created for blacks white elites could socialize both groups to accept the roles they intended for them. Perhaps white elites were also concerned that class affiliations among the poor might overcome racial differences if education took place within the same school system Though concerns of class-consciousness crossing racial lines may have influenced white elites, it is unlikely they had much to fear. Poor whites generally emphasized racial differences themselves since this is what kept them from joining blacks on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder. The activities and fates of early state education superintendents demonstrates the battle for control in which first conservative whites and later Unionists politicized the classroom experience In 1866 Florida s Governor David Walker fired the first school superintendent, a black ex-Union soldier named L.M. Hobbs after he criticized Florida s reconstruction efforts before a Congressional committee investigating Southern attitudes toward blacks E B. Duncan Hobbs deputy replaced 1 89 An Act to Provide for the Indigent White Youth of the State ofFlorida," January 1 6 1866, Laws ofF l orida, Chapter 1 ,486. 190 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in Florida Senate Journal, 187 4, 7 Nonnally the inte rest in the common school fund was apportioned to the counties, not as cash but in warrants which were sold t o private citizens, generally for s ixty cents o n the dollar.
97 him but the succeeding Republican administration later fired Duncan for favoring southern teachers over those from the North and refusing to allow discussion of pro-northern issues within schools 1 9 1 The final incident that precipitated Duncan s firing was his refusal to distribute copies of a speech in which Thaddeus Stevens advocated confiscating former rebels property .192 Both Radicals and Conservatives realized the classroom was a battleground for the hearts and minds of the children and, indirectly, their families While conservative Florida elites got the first opportunity to use the school system for socialization, implementation of military rule in 1867 shifted control to the Freedmen s Bureau and Unionists Aware of the potential for developing "good Republicans through the education system the Freedmen's Bureau in particular became actively involved in building schools and subsidizing teachers salaries Its efforts provided the fust public school for blacks in Hillsborough County and eventually widened educational opportunities for whites as well The Bureau had a genuine desire to see blacks educated since schools once finished and advantageously located will be the central point for improvement." Education was to be the regenerator of the colored race and if they can be brought in contact with the whites in an intellectual effort prejudices will subside and both races will be improved." As one Bureau official observed "it cannot be long before the white citizens will discard their prejudices and parents overcome all scruples to secure for their children an education ."193 Conservatives charged that the Freedmen's Bureau used schools for spreading propaganda In fact, the Bureau s own statements indicate it did view the educational system as a means of 191 Rosen, Development of Negro Education, 1 26. 192 Bentley, History of the Freedmen s Bureau, 33 ; Roberts, "Soc ial Legislation, 351. 193 J. Sprague to 0. 0. Howard July 10, 1 867, LSDF ; 0 0. Howard to J. Sprague, Monthly rep ort LRDF, J uly 1 0, 1867
98 proselyti zing ex-slaves .194 Even th e Superintendent of Education appointed b y the Freedmen s Bureau, George W Gile acknowledged that the education of the South is fraught with too much importance to be lost sight of and entrusted entirely to state or local influences." Gile claim e d that conservatives brought anti-Republican ideas into the classroom through the literatur e and public journals of the south ." The answer was stricter controls: it seems to m e that these evil influences can be most effectively met and counteracted b y a careful supervision of public schools. Gile b e lie ve d this supervision should not b e m e rely passi ve ... but active and stro n g and capable of excludin g pecuniary aid. "195 T h e Bureau retained earlier requirements for teacher certifications which th e n allowed th e state s Republicans to control who taught children. At least in the early years, politic a l lo ya lt y was lik e l y the most important qualification for instruction as many early teachers were describ e d as inept. This suggests continued diffic ulty in fmding suitable teachers or that subjective m eas ures counted mor e than objective criteria .196 Many of the early black t ea chers had not enjoyed the ben efi t s of formal e ducation so it seems lik e l y certification requirements were waiv e d if politic a l lo ya l ty was assure d As a result the quality of t eac h ers was uneven at b est. Frequent complaints from Bureau officia ls charged that many t eac h e rs were hardly less illiterate than th e pupils w hom th ey profe ssed to te a ch With the exception of a small number sent her e and supported in part b y B e n evo l ent Societi es the teachers are totally unfit for th e ir work."197 Even the Florida s Freedmen s Bureau Commissioner lamented this great want of a larger number of competent t eac h e rs [since] many 1 9 4 For a discussion o f early charge s of bias again s t the Freedmen s Bure au s r o l e in edu c ati o n see Ro s en The Devel opmen t of Negro Education ; Shofner Nor Is It Ov e r Yet 77-78. 1 95 G Gile to E Whittle s ey December 3 1 1869, LSDF 1 96 Rosen Negro Educa ti on in Florida 204; Bentley History of the Freedmen's Bure au 182. 1 97 G. Giles to E. Whittlesey February I 0 186 9 in Negro Education in F l orida I 04.
99 colored teachers in the interior are utterly incompetent. "1 98 This contrasts with views such as Stat e Education Superintendent E. B. Duncan who had been appointed when Marvin was go v ernor. In 1866 Duncan reported that the teachers have been of good moral character . and many well qualified to teach. Further he said he had received no complaints about the forty-five teachers emplo y ed teaching blacks This di f ference of opinion likely had its origin s in the fact that south e rn whites wer e unlikely to complain about sub-standard education for blacks Blacks for their part took whatever teachers they could get since the alternative to poorly qualified teachers was none at all. 199 Initiall y, the Florida Superintendent of Publ i c Instruction personall y certified candidates if a community lost its teacher. Schools literally shut down until the superintendent came to town to certify new one s or prospective teachers could tra vel to Tallahassee .200 By 1873 this problem diminished when state officials authorized county Boards of Instruction to administer a standardi zed test at the local level. There were no test questions of an explicitly political nature but the e x amination was rigorous enough to exclude anyone without formal education (See Appendix 1).20 1 Additionally provisions of an 1869 law that required teachers to be of good moral character," provided the subjectivity necessary to weed out conservatives regardless of their qualifications School teachers remained in short suppl y throughout the Reconstruction period. In 18 6 7 wh e n officials worried about fmding qualified teachers there were only eight white and thirty-thre e black teachers employed within the entire state The number of black teach e rs dipped significantl y ov e r the ne x t two years with only eleven reported in 1868 and nine in 18 6 9 Conv e rsel y the number of white teachers increased to twenty-two in 1868 before dropping to thirteen in 1869 There is no indication 198 J Spragu e t o 0 0 Ho ward O c t obe r 14, 18 6 7 LSDF 199 Rep ort of the S up e rintendent of P ublic In s tructi o n in F l o rida S e n ate J o urnal 18 66, 27 200 F. G rossman t o S Mc He nry Augu st 12, 1866 R G 1 05, LRDF, B o x I. 201 R e p o rt of th e Sup e rint e nd e nt of Public In s tru c ti o n in Florida Se n a t e J o urn al. 1 87 4 5 7 59.
100 of why these changes occurred They may have reflected the turmoil present as conservatives and Republicans fought for control. By 1870 there was an significant increase in teachers seventy seven white and sixty-two black. This accompanied the significant increase in school attendance by both races.202 Meeting Educational Needs Increased school attendance among both black and white students demonstrates success in th e Freedmen's Bureau s educational programs While formal education still only reached a minority of those e li gible, education made significant gains over time In 1860 only about 8 000 tota l children attended school virtually all of them white. By 1869 the growth of schools in Florida was higher than anywhere else in the South. The schools provided by the Bureau for blacks were among the best in the State and often exceeded the standards of white schools.203 According to historian Frederick Rosen the Freedmen's Bureau's goal was to enable parents to send their children to schools close b y with little expense and without interfering materially with their labor. This indicates that northern whites still did not see education as the liberating experience blacks did ?04 B y 1870 the 12 788 students represented only about 20 percent of the state s 63 897 children b e tween the ages of four and twenty-one attended, and participation remained higher among whites than blacks throughout the period of Reconstruction. 205 202 Freedmen's Bureau Monthly Statis tical School Reports RG 105 Box 9, National Archive s, Washington D C 203 Joe M Richards on, "An Eva lu a ti o n of the Freedmen s Bureau in Florida F l orida Historica l Quarterly 41 (January 1 963) 235236 ; Ro se n Devel o pm e nt of Negro Education, 229 204 J. Sprague to 0 0 Howard Monthly Report, September 9 1 867, LSDF 205 Report of the Superintendent of Educ atio n in Florida Senate Journal 1870; Manu s cript Census Hillsborough County 1870 1880 Definition s of s chool-age children differed by sta te. Florida officia l s defmed them as those between four and twent y-one.
101 Since there had been strict legal proscriptions against educating slaves most freedpeople lacked even basic literacy skills when first emancipated. Ex-slaves recognized the limitations this created and showed keen interest in education both for themselves and their children. According to Colonel Sprague freedmen themselves have everywhere displayed remarkable zeal and self-denial to bring education to their comrnunities ?06 To ease the problem of educational access the Bureau began to dot the countryside with schools and subsidize the costs of teachers. This program was successful in making education more available and affordable. Trends over time show increased attendance and accompanying improvements in literacy Generally speaking three different types of schools for freedpeople emerged during the Reconstruction period: Day Night, and Sabbath schools. In 1866, statewide there were an estimated 2,726 black pupils enrolled in Florida's thirty-five day and thirty night schools. These mostl y one teacher schools averaged around forty students each. Day school participants were primarily children whose schools might either be a part of the public education system or organized by employers on larger plantations. Employers often built schools near plantations to attract and keep black farm laborers. Night schools allowed day-workers to "learn their books around the pine fire," while Sabbath schools the most common educational forum filled a further niche Sabbath schools provided academic as well as religious instruction. Ministers often ran them and provided one to two hours of training in reading skills. Students from both day and night schools sometimes sought supplemental education at the Sabbath schools .207 The large number of Sabbath schools may also reflect white attempts to keep the black populace close to white-dominated churches and therefore white influence. When the Civil War ended, blacks quickly abandoned their association with white churches and formed their own 206 J. Sprague to 0. 0. Howard, Annual Report, October I 1867, LSDF. 207 Report of th e Superintendent of Education in Florida Senate JoWllal 1866 26.
102 congregations. The rapid decline in membership among the dominant southern white churches alarmed elites. They may have seen Sabbath schools as a way to bring blacks back into the fold as well as a means to control the message. From the pulpits of Florida churches white ministers expressed the necessity of our engaging heartily in the instruction of our colored people as a matter of policy and protection, as well as a matter of humanity and Christian benevolence and that none should do so more readily than the Southern people .... We of the South have been the best missionaries the world ever knew receiving this black race, as barbarians, we have brought them to the social religious status which they at present enjoy.208 Whites continued to applaud their own efforts to educate blacks, though African Americans were less impressed by this "benevolence ." The Reverend Wiggins, a white minister in Hillsborough County told the local press that "in future years with proper Sabbath School training [freedmen] will be ornaments to society and a blessin g to their race."209 Despite heralding the role of"southem people in educating freedpeoplc, many whites considered only the efforts of conservative southerners as legitimate and welcome. Despite white churches' efforts to fill the educational void, many of the Sabbath schools were organized by newly established black churches. This further undercut white influence on the educational process. In Hillsborough County this was most clearly seen in Howell s Creek (now Bealsville ), east of present day Brandon. There the black community s church operated a Sabbath school for many years.Z10 These schools filled a vital niche in meeting the educational needs of the African-American community since assistance from the Freedmen's Bureau was late in coming to small isolated communities. 208 Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools for Freedmen, in Florida Senate Jownal 1867 25. 209 Flmida Peninsu l ar May 4 1867. 210 Samuel Horton a long time resident ofBealsville who now resides in Tampa says the Sabbath School there was established shortly after the war
103 Education in Florida got a boost when the 1868 state constitution provided for a public school system for both blacks and whites. Under the new state system, the law did not mandate segregated schools although they became the nonn. By 1870 Governor Harrison Reed reported that there were more than 200 schools in the state The Freedmen s Bureau furnished eighty-seven of these In addition to providing buildings the Bureau supported many schools by paying ten dollars per month toward their rent. In 1869 the Bureau was pa y ing this sum for seventy-five of the eighty-seven schools it sponsored.2 1 1 Statewide in 1870 schools taught 25 percent of white children between the ages of five and eighteen compared to just under 15 percent of black children By 1880 there were noticeable increases for both groups Significantly government figures show a higher percentage of black students than white. By 1880 41 percent of white and 49 percent of black children attended school in the state.212 Schools For Hillsborough County During Reconstruction Arm y officers at Fort Brooke frequently commented on the need for sc hools in the Tampa area and the black community's desire for them There was apparently a school for black children operating in Hillsborough County as early as 1866 although it was not a public day school. In 1867 a Bureau official noted the school had closed the previous summer and asked the Bureau to send another teacher to Tampa In 1867 an Army officer from Fort Brooke believed th e Bureau should establish schools at both Tampa and Brooksville since there were about fifty 21 1 Address of Governor Haniso n Reed to the State Se n ate undated 1 870; Florida Senate Journal 1870 14; Sing l etary, Development of Negro Ed u cation 226; Gile to Whittle sey, December 31, 1 869, LSDF Volum e 4 indicate s there we r e at l east 1 38 public sc h oo l s for blacks in Florida in 1 868 Of these th e Bureau o wned 12 and rente d an additional 75 212 U S Census Bureau Report o f the Commissioner ofEducation for The Y ear 1 880, (Wa s hington : GPO, 1882) vii.
104 students available for each. By 1868 another official estimated there were then s i xty to seventy students for each He suggested the Tampa school locate at Fort Brooke b eca use the white p eop le are somewhat opposed" to black schools.213 The reasons for white opposition were not explicitl y noted but it is likely Hillsborou g h County whites like their North Florida counterparts were concerned their influence would not predominate Bureau officials realized expanded education meant they would have to p ay some of th e expenses for both the facilitie s and the teachers if the y wanted schools to remain open permanentl y An Army officer noted that a school operated at Brook sv ille for a time "but the colored teacher was paid little and had to go back to work on a plantation." He estimated the cost of lodging and board for a new teacher at about $25-$30 per month .2 1 4 It was co mmon in southern communities for conservative citizens to discourage white teachers from working in black sc hools. Ofte n it was hard f o r lh ese t eac hers to fmd l o dgin g a t any cost and the y were frequently social outcast s .215 I f th e y were fr o m th e North they were considered int e rlop ers ; if fro m th e South, traitors. As a re sul t an Army official lament e d that Hill s borou g h County had never yet had a black school and ha s only one [black] man that can read and write."216 While thi s was an exagge ration th e s itu a tion in 1867 was dism a L By May of that year th e n Superintendent of F r e edm e n s Schools for th e State E. B. Duncan v isited Tampa. He acknowledged the need for a black school and issued certificates to 213 W Apthorpe to A J ac k so n September 6 1 86 7 A s s i stant Commi ss ioner Lo c atin g Agent Reports Box 7 .; R Co mb a t o C Woodruff March I 1 8 6 7 Volume 2 ; G. Ho lli s ter to C. Foster Septemb e r 1 5, 1 868 LRDF. 2 1 4 R Com b a to ill e gib l e, July 2 1867 ULAR m Bentle y, Histozy o f the Freedmen s Bureau 1 82; Ro s en The Developm e nt of Negro E ducati o n 113 2 1 6 R Comb a t o C. Garrabee Augus t 3 I 1 867 LRDF Box 5.
105 teachers .217 A captain at Fort Brooke believed there would be a school for blacks in Tampa by June 1867 .218 This prediction proved overly optimistic It was over two more years before officials established a black public school. In the county, blacks offered their time and labor to raise money to purchase a school building and site. They asked only that the government pay the teacher s salary.219 By December 1867, blacks in Hillsborough and Hernando counties established "school societies" to organize their efforts Before officials built a school, black students often met in church buildings, lodge halls or wherever space was available and permission could be obtained 220 While the fund-raising effort was underway some African-American children attended private schools such as those organized through churches Other black communities, such as Howell' s Creek, relied exclusively on church-based schools throughout the Reconstruction period since their towns were not large enough to prompt the Freedmen's Bureau to build a special schooJ.22 1 For the year 1867 the County Commission reported that a total of 687 whites and 92 blacks received some form of education. Since there were then no formal schools for African Americans in Hillsborough County these students probably reflect those studying in Sabbath or night schools The Bureau s program to build public schools for blacks generally relied on freedpeople to first purchase land through their own contributions. Once clear title was secured the office of the sub217 R. Comba to Woodruff, December 31, 1867 LRDF. The proce s s of certifying t e acher s continu e d with the e s tablishment of the County Board of Instruction Teachers were certified annually at Board mee t ings County Board of Instruction Records show th a t teachers e x amined in the county earned s econd or third C la ss certificates The certification proces s appear s t o have been the same for teachers in black and whit e s chools 218 Comb a to E. Woodruff, May 31, 1867 ULAR. 219 W. Vance to A. Jack s on June 30, 1867, ULAR 22 0 Irving E Scott The Educat i on o f Bla c k People in Florida (Philadelphia : Dorrance and C ompan y, 1 9 74) I. 22 1 The Courier (Plant City) F e bruary 5 1970
106 district provided construction materials By the end of 1867, freedpeople in Hillsborough County had collected more than half the money necessary to purchase land for a school. Officials expected the rest of the money to be available within seven to ten days. The Freedmen's Bureau promised blacks in Hillsborough County it would build a facility as soon as they provided clear title to land. Freedpeople were either unsuccessful in raising the remaining money or whites would not sell them land since they did not provide a suitable site until mid-1869.222 In June of that year the County Commission was fmally able to inform the Freedmen's Bureau that blacks now had clear title to land for a school. The local newspaper announced, in August 1869 that the Freedmen s Bureau planned to get involved in establishing a school.223 In December of that year, the Commissioners responded to a Freedmen s Bureau inquiry requesting cost estimates for building materials for a school.224 Since the Bureau did not subsequently provide any money to offset rental costs it appears freedpeople owned their own school outright. There are no surviving records describing Hillsborough County s first black school, but a state official's description is probably apt: school houses in the rural districts are fashioned after the rudest models--generally of logs or rough lumber with few conveniences."22 5 When the Freedmen s Bureau built schools in larger communities 222 R. Comba to E. Woodruff, December 31, 1867 ; Hillsborough County Commissioners to O .B. Hart, June 8, 1869 Florida Assistant Commissioner, LRDF. 223 Florida Peninsular August 18, 1869 ; Florida Peninsular April 28 1869 . Despite the lack of a black public school in Tampa the Florida Peninsular reported one black school in the local area in April 1869. This school did not hold classes in a formal school house, however since there was none available to blacks at that time and it did not remain open long, perhaps because black citizens could not continue paying a teacher. However, evidence of school attendance at least eighteen months before establishment of a formal school is testament to the desire of the black community to take advantage of any educational opportunities available . 224 W White to G. White, December 26 1869 LRDF, Volume 3 225 Report by the Superintendent of Public Instruction December 31, 1876 Florida Senat e Journal. 1877 ; Tampa Tribune October 29, 1950. D B McKa y authored a serie s of article s about Tampa s past. H e said the ftrst black s chool, existed in 1868 and was a one-room structure, about 3 5 X 75 fee t with no partition s and few windows. There may have been a facility s et aside s peciftcally for education prior to the Freedmen s Bureau building a formal school or the witness may have been describing th e facility built b y the Bureau.
107 records show they were usuall y one-story structures about 66 x 30 feet with clapboard walls and cypress shingles. Inside there was generally a raised platform for the teacher and sixty-four desks which could accommodate up to 128 students ?26 This was significantly lar ger, however than the one needed for the relatively small black population of Hillsborough County After citizens adopted the 1868 state constitution Republican officials wanted to institutionali ze the school system To do this the y established county Boards of Public Instruction in 1869. The state appointed members The Boards which consisted of up to five members were responsible for managing all educational properties and funds in the county They also established new schools as required and assured they operated at least three months each y ear Schools operating les s than three months per year received no state funding The formal school system got a s l ow start in Hillsborough since the first board members selected by the state on March 13 1869 refused to serve. New board members were selected in November of that year, but they too apparently were hesitant to accept these non-salaried positions227 The school board in Hillsborough County finall y held its ftrst meeting in August of 1871. By that time a black public school was already operating in Tampa, opening after the first public school for whites By 1871 there were a total of seven schools, six fo r whites and one for blacks in the county The Board of Instruction appointed Thomas McKnight and Isaac Howard both African Americans as two of the three trustees for the school. In December of that year Isaac Howard remained as a trustee while freedman Peter Bryant replaced McKnight.2 28 In 1870 there were no black teachers in 226 Freedmen's Bureau Labor Contracts. State o f F l orida, March 1867 -Augu st 1870, RG 217 Box I, National Archives, Washington D C. 227 Rosen Negro Education in F lorida 203 ; Report of the Superintendent o f Education, January 3, 1870 in Florida Senate Journal 1870, 57-58 77; Report of the Commissioner of Education, in Laws of Florida. 1880 1xxxii. 228 August 28, 1871 Minutes of the Hillsborough County Board of In structio n August 1871 t o December 1 898, Hillsborough County School System, Hills borough County Florida; Florida Penin su lar December 23 1871 ; Manuscript Census, Hillsborough County, F l orida (1870).
108 the county but that was not uncommon.229 By 1875 the total number of schools grew to twenty six although there was still only one public school for blacks During thi s period the number of students grew from 150 to 848 of the 1 357 school-age children in the county.23 0 In 1880 within the age group four to twenty-one 48 black children attended day school most with John Patton who began teaching them in 1876 .23 1 This represented about 14 percent of the populace in that age group less than one-half the norm for blacks in the state. Girls in the coun ty made up 70 percent of the black school population suggesting the continued widespread need for the labor of male children. In 1872 the average daily attendance at the black school was thirty-nine B y 1880 children who attended school came from families across the employment spectrum indicatin g education was important to a wide cross-section of the black community Literacy increased dramatically for blacks during the decade in all age groups Many new readers were working adults who probably took advantage of night and Sabbath schools to acquire highly pri z ed literacy skills .232 The state s 1869 revised laws on education did not require school segregation but left this option open to county school boards In Hillsborough County segregated schools were the norm from the beginning. This probably resulted in lower quality instruction for black children. Despite this many black families preferred segregation since discrimination and r a cial hos tilities remained high at this time Even within their own schools however blacks probabl y were subject to pr e judice 229 Ibid 230 Report of the Sup e rin te nd e nt o f Public In s truction f o r Fl o rida Se n a t e J o urn al. 1 877, 111-116 231 Manu s cript Census, Hill s borough County Fl o rida (1880) ; Minute s of the C o un t y B oa rd o f Publi c In s tructi o n September 2 187 6. 2 3 2 Ibid., March 22 1872 Dis crepancies b e twe e n Cens u s dat a and S c hoo l Boar d Rec ords co u l d be cau s ed b y a vari ety o f rea so ns including the fact th e C e n s u s r e lied on self-r e p o rtin g w hil e S ch oo l Board r ecords pro bably refl ect a d e finition ba s ed on r e gular attendanc e ; Manu s cript Cen s u s Hill s b o rough C o unty, F lorida (18 8 0 )
109 from their white teachers. Northern teachers who believed in e ducation for blacks often held strong prejudices that governed their ideas and actions. Although schools remained segregated, there is evidence of a genera l equality in the way county officials administered them Certified teachers taught in both black and white schools. Teachers in the black school received second-class certificates the same level as the most qualified teachers in the white schools, according to school board records. No teachers, not even those in white schools in the county, receiv e d frrst-class certification. The School Board standardized pay at one dollar per student per month for up to twenty pupil s until1873, when salaries of twenty-five dollars per month were common This was lower than the statewide salary average offorty dollars .233 In 1873, the county paid teachers with second-class certifications four dollars per student per month while teachers with third-class certifications earned three dollars per student. Wages were based on average attendance up to a total of twenty-five dollars per month The average attendance of thirty-nine s tudents at the black school meant its teacher earned the maximum salary of twenty five dollars per month.234 In 1876 the teacher earned only $120 for the entire year indicating the school was still closed most of the year. Hillsborough County had a total of twenty-eight teachers by 1877 twenty with secon d-class certificates and eight with third-class certificates.235 When the number of students exceeded forty, the county school board hired an assistant teacher, but only paid that individual at the $3 per student rate that a third-class certified teacher earned. This may explain state record s showing third-class certified teachers while local school records show none. In 1878, salaries reached thirty 233 Report of the Commissioner of Education 1880 xiv 234 Hill s borough County Board of Public Instruction Minute Book, July 5 1873 October 4 1873 235 Report oflhe Superintendent of Public schoo l s F l orida Senate Journal 1877 116 All of Hillsborough County s third-cla s s certified teachers appear to have bee n associated with white schools at lea s t in 1872 th e onl y year where certificate clas s and s chool location are identified Hillsborough County Board of Public Instruction, June 30, 1872
110 dollars per month for teachers with second-class certifications and an average of twenty students ; the average was twenty-five dollars per month for those with third-class certifications?36 By 1877, the length of the school year statewide expanded from three or four months to seven. The school year generally consisted of two terms of sixty-six school da ys each. 237 This represented a major step forward for public education since previously officials often scheduled school terms for the convenience of farmers who wanted to use child labor at harvest times Though not conducive to continued academic improvement, short sessions interrupted by work in the field continued to be the norm in Hillsborough County.238 By 1880 Florida public schools were opened an average of six hours per school day. There were three terms per year, each lasting about three months ?3 9 Funding for public schools remained problematic throughout the period The state generated ed ucation al funds through taxes, donations, and tuition but education still remained poorly funded. There were continuing problems attracting and retaining teachers given the limited amount of money generated through tuition from black students. Government expenditures for schools were low for this entire period. Per capita spending did not keep pace with the growing school population Once they deducted facility costs and overhead, state officials provided 9. 7 cents per student per year for education. The county had to make up the remainder. This placed a significant strain on impoverished counties like Hillsborough. In the 1872 -73 school year, the county board spent $1,990.52 but only received $288.80 of this from the state coffers.24 0 236 Hillsborough County Board of Instruction Minutes, October 4 1873 September 2, 1876 October 13, 1877, September 30, 1878 237 Ibid August 17, 1877; Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in Florida Senate Journal 1877, 116. 2 3 8 Hillsborough County Board of Public Instruction Minute Book November 2 1872 ; Ros en Education of Black People in Florida 2. 239 Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1 880 52-53 240 Report of the superintendent of Public Instruction, in Florida Senate Journal 1874, 43
111 Despite a general lack of fimding, it appears black and white schools received about the same amount of money from the county The per capita amount for black schools was Jess, though since the single black school had to absorb increased enrollment without the benefit of additional funding or new facilities throughout the 1870s By 1879, the number of white schools increased from five to thirty-six while there was still only one black public school in Hillsborough County .241 The disparity in the growth of schools indicates county officials and citizens felt little compulsion to create equal access to education for all. This discrepancy did not go unchallenged however. Reverend Joseph Sexton, minister ofMt. Sinai African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church organized meetings in the African-American community to discuss new schools for blacks and whom to hire as teachers Although he invited members of the Board of Instruction to attend, there is no evidence they did. School Board minutes mention neither these community meetings nor did board members discuss black concerns .242 The African-American community however appeared undeterred by lack of support from the school board having already established a pattern of self-help. B y 1880 there were two black teachers Harriet Henderson and Catherine Hamilton listed in the county's census but neither received salaries from the county. It is possible these women taught in Sabbath Schools or some other forum that did not fall under the public school system .243 Freedmen Thomas McKnight Peter Bryant Henry Brumick and Isaac Howard reportedly formed a committee to pursue increased educational opportunities within the African American community. 241 Florida Peninsular, December 23, 1871, October 30, 1879 ; Hill s borough County Board of Public Ins truction Minute Books 1 871 -1877. 242 Sun land Tribune, September 28, 1 878, Decemb e r 23, 1880 ; Manu s cript Census Hillsborough County F l ori d a ( 1870) 243 Hill sbo rough County Manuscript Censu s 1 880; Hillsborough County Co mmission Book D, August 31, 1879.
112 Supporting these efforts freedwomen organized clubs to raise funds. Their work eventually provided the money needed to build Tampa s Harlem Academy which opened in 1889 .2 4 4 By the end of the Reconstruction period politicians had institutionalized public education in law and practice. The availability of public education for blacks existed but the quality was generally not the same as in white public schools. Blacks took advantage of those opportunities that existed but continued to demand more and better education for themselves and their children. For their part whites still wondered aloud about the benefits and usefulness of educating blacks The previous decade however proved the ability and eagerness of African Americans to learn The State Superintendent of Public instruction himself acknowledged that the cold abstract discussion of the Negro s capability or intellectual capacity while affording intellectual pastime may not be invoked here ... The ability to appreciate argues capacity to receive and it must be said that the Negro since the day of his citizenship has shown large appreciation of the need the uses and the blessings of education 245 Perhaps the realization among whites that education improved the upward mobility of African Americans led to later changes in education that limited opportunities for blacks even further. Whites remained unconvinced of the natural a bility and equality of blacks They also feared educated blacks might be less amenable to manual labor jobs. There were few willing to a llow the black men and women of Florida the opportunity to take themselves as far as their abilities allowed Conclusion The picture that emerges of the period is an interesting mixture of self-interest and altruism on the part o f state and federal officials Programs to educate blacks were forced on an unwilling white 244 T ampa Tribune October 29, 1 950. 245 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction December 187 6, in Florida Senat e Journal 1877.
113 populace who quickly grasped the implications of leaving education entirely in the hands of northerners Programs of the Freedmen s Bureau wer e successful in expanding public education to the benefit of both poor blacks and whites but the experience was meant to politici z e thes e groups in different ways Blacks throughout Florida and in Hillsborough Count y took advantage of what opportunities were available and consistentl y fought for increased access to education When whites did not provide schools for them, they chartered their own When dissatisfied with white efforts African-American leaders in Hillsborough County formed their own committee to lobby for changes They raised the money for a school house released children from the work force and played an activ e role in shaping the educational experience of their families The struggle for a public school for freedpeople in Hillsborough was long and arduous but the African-American community through its own efforts educated itself first in informal schools and later within the public school for which they provided the land As in other areas they did not wait for whites to dictate matter s for them Educational opportunities for both blacks and whites expanded greatly during the Reconstruction period. In 1860 less than 8 000 students attended school. By 1880 concerted efforts by state and Freedmen s Bureau officials increased attendance to 39, 315 and blacks were more likel y than whit e s to attend 246 246 R e p o rt o f the Commiss i o ner o f E duc atio n M a de t o the Secre tary of the Int erio r for the Y ear 1870, with A c compan y ing Paper s, (Was hingt o n : G P O, 1 8 7 0), 504 ; R e p o rt o f the C o mmi ssio ner o f E du catio n, 1 88 0 xi, l xi
CHAPTER6 FINAL THOUGHTS 114 Slaves gained freedom as a by-product of the Civil War but needed much more to achieve a measure of equality. Advantages accrued to whites based simply on their race creating both tangible and intangible benefits that remained elusive for freedpeople The challenge for Florida's African Americans during the Reconstruction period was to assert themselves in an economic social, and political system that marginalized them This was especially difficult given the concerted efforts whites made to dominate the post-war social order. These efforts were evident in the state s Black Codes as well as le ss formal policies and practices They reflected the beliefs of many southern whites that blacks were inferior and in need of continued supervision. These entrenched beliefs mad e meaningful change in the South problematic Blacks, on the other hand refused to accept constraints on their freedom designed to set them apart from white citizens They knew that fo r freedom to ha ve real significance they must take an active part in shaping its meaning Thes e realizations moti va ted African Americans resistance to th e disadvantaged social e conomic and political roles conservativ e whites envisioned for them The conflict this engendered, as this study has shown was characteri ze d b y daily resistance and a stead y stream of low-level confrontations that forced whites to accommodate to new realities of African-American freedom. The ways in which freedpeople formed their own households renegotiated new l abor relations wielded the vote and struggled for education cha llen ged white dominance By exanlining thes e i ss ues we see that the defining characteristic of Reconstruction was not violence but the routini ze d interactions that marked the real process of change
115 In part this analysis supports the fmdings of studies in areas dominated by plantation economies Conversely the results also show some differences indicating that local conditions influenced the process of change. This is important since it underscores the fact that researchers must l ook across the spectrum of southern communities to capture the totality of the Reconstruction experience Factors influencing the Reconstruction process in Florida included the si z e of communities and the relative representation of African Americans in the population the economic basis of the community the depth of white hostilities and the proximity of Freedmen s Bureau agents though this is by no means an all-inclusive list. Variances in experience illustrate that the Reconstruction period was more complicated than either its participants recognized or chroniclers have fully reported. This study by concentrating analysis on Hillsborough County takes a small step toward understanding the process of change in rural areas which have received less attention. The smaller African-American population in Hillsborough Cow1ty makes individual act ion s more visible yet at the same time makes the typicality of responses somewhat more difficult to discern. The value of this study however lies in its findings that Reconstruction was not a monolithic process--it unfolded differently depending on local conditions It also becomes clear that the outcome of Reconstruction was not pre-ordained Many conservative southern whites apparently believed they could retain a strictly hierarchical society that excluded blacks socially politically and economically. Converse l y northerners probably believed their victory in the war would enable them to reshape the South at will. Neither was correct. To a large extent both sides failed to understand freedpeople were not content to let others define their role in the South The influence each group could bring to bear was decidedly different but the fact that changes beneficial to freedpeople occurred over white protests shows that blacks influence was effective Blacks refusal to sign or adhere to unfavorable contracts their willingness to complain when abused and their insistence on prerogatives of household membership provided both
116 the means and mode of resistance African Americans refused to accept the idea that their po v ert y or race should defme them as a class apart Emancipation provided the first opportunity for ex-s la ves to enjoy the benefits of heading their own households. Black families existed during slavery but officials recognized them as legal entities only after emancipation Whites saw in marriage and in the accompanying formation of households a means to ensure blacks would support their families Blacks saw them as much more After emancipation freedmen insisted on claiming prerogatives once reserved for white heads of households. In doing so they sought to shield their families from white exploitation African American households reflected the unique perspectives blacks had toward the concept offamily. Interdependence born of necessity during slavery survived that institution and contributed to emphasis on extended families and incorporation of non-family members The move toward formali z ing this was not uniform however and perhaps represents the largest sing le difference between rural Hillsborough County and more developed regions. State law decr e ed formal marriage whites applauded it and historians have documented large numbers of ceremonies as proof of strong family commitment. This study to the contrary shows that strong family ties existed within Hillsborough County despite the low number offormal marriages in the immediate post-war period This difference is significant in several respects It clearly demonstrates that formal marriage did not create or even necessarily reflect strong fami l y commitments since these flourished even in its absence Moreover the l ow number of prosecutions for adultery in Hillsborough Count y demonstrates that community mores often legitimi zed these informal unions Social historians have discovered much about freedpeople's households but work still remains We need more insight into how communities like Hillsborough County responded to community-legitimi zed informal marriages among whites to see if the reaction to blacks was similar or reflected a unique response Further we need more analysis of household roles and everyday life within the private sphere Poverty was
117 axiomatic among Hillsborough County s freedpeople but we cannot y et determine with precision just how this influenced freedpeople s choices With emancipation ex-slaves also gained the right to benefit from their own labor though the y had to fight to make this a reality. The struggle for control of black labor helps us see that the line between public and private sphere was not clear-cut. African Americans struggled to control the labor of family members in the public sphere always aware that proximity to whites increased the chances for continued exploitation. Through economics whites hoped to maintain control over freedpeople Elites passed statutes to outlaw vagranc y and institutionalize labor contracts but even so were unable to force compliance Blacks in large numbers refused to sign contracts with whites known to be especially abusive left one employer for another who offered better wages and forced the labor system s evolution toward less exploitative forms. Perhaps most significant was African American resistance to white efforts to defme the laboring force as all adult blacks not just black men. Prevailing social custom prescribed a role for women within the private sphere. This was racially specific however making white womanhood distinctly different from black womanhood Vagrancy statutes called for men and women to work but as this study showed, these laws were aimed at black women not their white counterparts. Despite the threat of legal sanctions freedwomen in large numbers abandoned the fields and households of whites. Rather than accepting conservative views that prevailing conceptions o f womanhood did not appl y to them these women created their own norms of domesticity For freedmen a notable change in this period was the movement toward more independent forms of labor This trend highlights differences between rural areas and those where plantation economies predominated. Freedmen s Bureau officials noted the lack oflabor contracts in Hillsborough County a stark departure from practices in northern parts of the state wh e re Bur e au and state officials more vigorousl y enforced vagrancy and contract laws These di f ferences present
118 tantalizing questions for future research. We still do not know the full character of labor relations in Florida and understand even less about Hillsborough County There is evidence labor contracts were not prevalent in Hillsborough County but this does not imply a fully independent black labor force We know that agricultural work predominated within the African-American community but know less about whether Hillsborough County s black farmers were independent homesteaders wage laborers or worked under some sort of shares system We need more research to distinguish the character of labor in rural communities This will help us to better understand changing labor relations Findings in the formal political realm are also intriguing and tell us much about the atmosphere in the South after the war Freedmen gained the vote but not the presumption that they could exercise it responsibly. Southern whites remained convinced they could, and should control the enfranchised freedmen and by extension his vote. This study has shown the ways issues of race and class sometimes created shifting constituencies that at times brought unlikely allies together Whiteness althoug h a powerful defming characteristic among southerners, held different benefits depending on class Poor whites often agreed with their richer counterparts about blacks innate capabilities, but also realized that the blacks votes could counterbalance elite power. White Unionists likewise understood that they needed blacks to protect themselves from retribution by ex Confederates. Conservative whites understood that coalitions among poor whites Unionists and blacks threatened their control. It is clear however from the level of their participation in formal politics that blacks were unwilling to let others defme their interests Freedpeople s political activity over time shows increased sophistication, organi z ation and activism Frequent meetings and organized rallies helped build solidarity and focus efforts while the vote gave them increased leverage to influence public life We know that political participation within the state was widespread vocal and influential. Less
119 clear is how political participation changed over time The local newspaper controlled by white Democrats claimed that during the later half of the 1870s some African Americans abandoned the Republican party and became Democrats If true we do not know whether this was out of frustration with the Republican party's failure to meet their needs or reflected a pragmatic assessment that the Democratic party would inevitably return to power. Freedpeople s relation to the state also changed over time They were well acquainted and frequently reminded of their obligations to the s tate : to support their families work, and obey the law On the other hand freedpeople's incr eased use of petitions to protest government actio n s they disagreed with shows they also came to see that the governme nt had obligations to them as citi ze ns. When they petitioned it was not to seek favors but to point out injustices and demand redress Blacks in Hillsborough County petitioned their gove rnment to overturn political appointments and gain pardons when the y perceived miscarriages of j u s tice However we do not know the full exlenl of this ac tivity or the extent of its success The small numb e r of surviving petition s make i t difficult to gauge the typicality of this b ehavior. What it does show us though is that African Americans expected their government to respond to their complaints It demonstrates a growing r ecognit ion of entitlement--a sense that the government was their governme nt. It also shows us that blacks had th e confidence and fortitude to stand up publicly for what the y thought right despile the risk of retaliation from employers townspeople or perhaps even night-riders. In freedom blacks also gained unprecedented opportunities to educate th e mselves and their children Throughout the period literac y l eve ls continued to increase reflectin g freedpeople s commitment to education This trend was duplicat e d throughout Florida both in rural and more developed areas It is clear freedpeople saw the benefits of education and were intent on seizing th e opportunity When state and Freedmen s Bur e au efforts did not provide sc hools, th e freedpeople took matters into their own hands. They operated Sabbath schools until officials could build public
120 ones and continually fought to improve the quality of education for their children Whites both northern and southern saw education as a means to socialize freedpeople. Blacks saw it as a means of advancement. Evidence suggests some differences between education in Hillsborough County and more developed areas in Florida Most noticeable were the quality and availability of education Freedmen s Bureau reports document that in rural areas publ ic schools were less common more difficult to keep open and generally had less qualified teachers. There are still large gaps in our knowl e dge particularl y with regard to adult education Census data reflects attendance in F lorid a only for those aged four through twenty-one but successive census reports document increased adult literacy Presumably informal schools filled the need for adult education but since thes e forums wer e not state-sponsored we know little about them Likewise not enough is known about how access to education translated into increased opportunity In rural areas the correlation was probably weakest. Despite this blacks sought education with gusto so we need to more fully explore the intangible benefits of education that made it such a va lued prize Before we can fully under s tand the black experience during Reconstruction we must also examin e white actions and attitudes more fully. The fact that whites felt it necessary to pass discriminatory laws shows they understood blacks would not voluntarily accept a subordinate status. We also see white concerns in their rhetoric The press published an uninterrupted stream of dispar aging articles about blacks their abilities and their contributions to society. Writings which d esc ribed blacks as passive childlike and incapable of self-sufficiency attest to misperc e ptions about th e freedpeople. Moreover the y represent a backlash marking whites decreas e d control. More study is requir e d to fully understand the significance of publicl y espoused attitudes tow a rd black s and how emancipation influenced these. Paternalism remained prevalent but criticism became more harsh This is not s urprisin g and s u ggests avenues for additional research
121 Coupled with this is the issue of whites reactions to blacks' increasing assertiveness Rather than accept the reality of black agency whites blamed northerners for inciting African Americans Many northerners, for their part, seemed only a little more willing to accept the fact of black success Many like their so uth ern brethren remained unconvinced that freedpeop le could assimilate into society While northerners often abhorred the limit ations southern whites put on blacks their actions show their own ambivalence Northerners feared indigent blacks would flood their cities In response they too enacted harsh policies to control ex slaves even while trying to limit the worst abuses by southern whites As a result Bureau programs often helped blacks find increased independence yet often sought to shape the resulting autonomy By 1877 the Reconstruction era ended Conservative whites re gained political control throughout the South and instituted policies to erode African Americans' gains of the previous decade The magnitude of this retrenchment serves as evidence of just how much frccdpcople had gained Only by uncovering new sources of information and reexamining o ld sources in new ways can we break down the barriers to our understanding of this complicated and important era. Even though freedpeop l e infrequent l y left written records of their experiences there is still much we can learn by examining their actions By looking at the private sphere as well as the public and by examining the influence of race class and gender in the South we can see that conflict occurred not simply because of emanc ipation Rather a clash of visions, values and goa l s precipitated it. The story of blacks in Hillsborough County and their quest for personal a uton omy can tell us a great deal about the l arger struggles of African Americans to make freedom meaningful for themselves and their descendants
122 SOURCES CONSUL TED PRIMARY SOURCES Government Publications American State Papers. House Reports. Testimony before the House Sub-Committee on Freedmen November 10, 1871. 22 (42-2) 1541 part 13 and 22 p 65 American State Papers Senate Executive Documents Report from Headquarters District of Florida October 1866 6 (39-2) 1276. Florida Senate Journal. Tallahassee Office of the Floridian 1866-1877 Laws of Florida : 1865-1868. Tallahassee Office of the Floridian. U.S Census Bureau. Manuscript Census of Hillsborough County. Florida. 1850 (Slave Schedule s ) __ Eighth Census of the United States (1860) Agriculture Washington : Government Printing Office 1864 Manuscript Census of Hillsborough County. Florida. 1860 (Slave Schedules) Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 with Contributions From Many Eminent Men of Science and Several Departments of the Government. New York: J. Bien Lith 1874 __ 9th Census (1870). The 9th Census of the United States : 1870 Washington: Government Printing Office 1873. __ A Compendium of the Ninth Census. Washington: Government Printing Office 1872 __ Manuscript Census ofHillsborough County. Florida. (1870) __ lOth Census (1880). The lOth Census ofthe United States : 1880 Washington : Government Printing Office 1883. __ A Compendium of the Tenth Census (1880). Washington : Government Printing O f fice 1883. __ Manuscript Census of Hillsborough County Florida ( 1880)
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125 Notes on the History ofMt. Sinai AME Zion Church, Mt. Sinai AME Zion Church Tampa Florida Undated Office of the Governor. Correspondence of the Governors 1857-1888 Florida State Archives Tallahassee, Florida Petition to the Florida State Governor Regarding Heruy Clay, RG 101, Series 577, Box 4 Florida State Archives Tallahassee Florida Rosen Frederick B "The Development of Negro Education in Florida During Recon s truction : 1865-1977 Ph D dissertation University of Florida 1974. "Roll of the Officers and Privates of the Company ofMi1itia formed at Tampa, Florida August 27 1870, Series 1140 Box 1, Florida State Archives Tallahassee, F lorida. Newspapers De Bow' s Review Florida Peninsular (Tampa Florida) Harper s Weekly Sunland Tribune (Tampa, Florida) Tallahassee F loridian Tampa Tribune The Courier (Plant City, Florida)
SECONDARY SOURCES Abbott, Richard H. The Republican Party and the South : 1855-1877. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986 126 Bentley George R A History of the Freedmen' s Bureau. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania 1955 Bordaglio Peter Reconstructing the Household: Families. Sex. and the Law in the Nineteenth Century South Chapel Hill: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1995 Burr Virginia I. ed The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas. 1848-1889 Chapel Hill: University ofNorth Carolina Press 1990 Cimbala, Paul A. Making Good Yankees: The Freedmen' s Bureau and Education in Reconstruction Georgia 1865-1870" in African-American Life. 18611900. The Freedmen s Bureau and Black Freedom New York: Garland Publishers 1994 Davis, William W The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida Gainesville : University of Florida Press 1964 Edwards Laura F Gendered Strife and Confusion : the Political Culture of Reconstruction Urbana: University of Illinois Press forthcoming. Fitzgerald Michael W The Union League Movement in the Deep South : Political and Agricultural Change During Reconstruction Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1989 Foner Eric. Reconstruction : America' s Unfinished Revolution. 1863-1877 New York: Harper and Row, Inc, 1988. Franklin John H Reconstruction After the Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1994. Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York: Random House, 1976. Gutman Herbert The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976 Jones, Jacqueline Jones. Labor of Love. Labor of Sorrow : Black Women, Work and the Family From Slavery to the Present. New York: Vintage Books, 1995 __ The Dispossessed: America' s Underclasses From the Civil War to the Present New York: Harper Collins Publishers 1992
127 Litwack Leon Been in the Storm so Long : The Aftermath of Slavecy New York : Harper Row 1979 Roediger David R. The Wages of Whiteness : Race and the Making of the American Working Class New York: Verso 1991. Scott Irving E The Education of Black People in Florida Philadelphia : Dorrance and Compan y, 1974 Shofner Jerrell Nor is it Over Yet: Florida in the Era of Reconstruction. 1863-1877 Gainesville : University of Florida Press 1974 Sims L e onard H A Study of the Florida Press During the Reconstruction Years 1867 -70. M .A. Thesis University of Florida, 1958 Singletary Otis The Negro Militia and Reconstruction New York: Harper 1965 Smith Julia F Slavecy and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida 182 1-1860 Gainesville : University of Florida Press 1973 Sterling Dorothy ed We Are Your Sisters : Black Women in the Nineteenth Centycy New York : W. W Norton 1984. Thompson Mark M "A Practical Guide to the Records Repositories of the Tampa Bay Region M A. Thesis University of South Florida 1981 Journals Bentle y, George R. Colonel Thompson s Tour of Tropical Florida Tequesta 10 (1951) 3-12 B e rlin Ira Steven F Miller, and Leslie S Rowland Afro-American Families in the Transition From Slavery to Freedom." Radical Histocy Review 42 (Fall 1988) : 89 121. Co x, Merlin E "Military Reconstruction in Florida Florida Historical Sociecy Quarterly 46 (Jan 1968), 219-233 Eckert Edward K. "Contract Labor in Florida During Reconstruction in Florida Florida Historical Sociecy Quarterly 47 (July 1968) 34-50 F i t z gerald Michael W To Give Our votes to the Party : Black Political Agitation and Agricultural Change in Alabama 1865-1870 Journal of American Histocy 76 ( September 198 9) Hodes Martha The Sexualization of Reconstruction Politics : White Women and Black Men in the South. Journal of Sexual Histocy 3 (1993) : 402-417
128 .Hunter Tera W Domination and Resistance : The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta," Labor History 34 (Spring/Summer 1993) 205-220. Kerbe r Linda K. Separate Spheres Female Worlds Woman's Place : The Rhetoric of Women s History." Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 9-39. McCurry Stephanie The Two Faces of Republicanism : Gender and Pro-Slavery Politics in Antebellwn South Carolina." Journal of American History 78 (March 1992) : 1245-1264 Peek Ralph L. Law lessn ess in Florida, 1868-1871 ." Florida Historical Quarterly 40 (October 1961) : 164-185 __ "Military Reconstruction and the Growth of Anti-Negro Sentiment in Florida 1867 Florida Historical Society Quarterly 47 (Apr 1969), 380-400 Richardson Joe M The Florida Black Codes" Florida Historical Quarterly 47(Aprill969), 360382. __ "The Freedmen's Bureau and Negro Labor in Florida Florida Historical Soci ety Quarterly 39 (Oct 1960), 167-174 __ "An Evaluatio n of the Freedmen's Bureau in Florida Florida Historical Society Quarterly 41 (Jan 1963) 223 -238 _ "Political Reconstruction in Florida F lorid a Hi s torical Society Quart e rly 65 (Oct 1966) 145-170. Roberts, Derrell Social Legislation in Recon s truction Florida." Florida Historical Quarterly 43 (April 1965) : 349-360 Robinson Arm s tead L. "Beyo nd the Realm of Social Consensus : New Meanings of Recon s truction for American History." Journal of American History 68 (September 1981) : 276 297 Shlomowitz Ralph "The Origins of Southern Sharecropping ." Journal of agricultural His tory 53 (July 1979) : 557-575 Vaughan Alden T The Origins Debate : S l avery and Racism in Sev entee nth-Century Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 97 (July, 1989 ), 311-35 4 White Deborah G Female Slaves : Sex Roles and Status in the Antebellwn P lant ation South." Journal of Family History 8 (Fall 1983) : 248 261.
1 29 APPENDICES
130 APPENDIX 1 : EDUCATION CERTIFICATION TEST 247 ARITHMETIC 1. Subtract 365 trillionths from 787, and divide the remainder by four fifths of .02. 2. From two-thirds of a ton subtract 17 pounds and fmd what part of a ton the remainder equals 3 A and B dig a ditch 40 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 feet deep, in 5 days ; B digging two-fifteenths of the ditch each day. In what time would A alone have dug the ditch ? 4 If rectangular building lots measuring 40 feet by 100 feet are sold for $400 each what price per acre is obtained for the land? 5 At $5 per cord what will be the cost of a pile of wood 18 feet l ong 6 feet 4 inches high, and 4 feet 8 inches wide? 6 What is the difference between the compound and the simple interest of$100 for 2 years 2 months and 2 days at 6 percent interest being due semi-annually? 7 At what discount must stocks yie lding an annua l dividend of 8 percent on the par value be bought that the investment may yield 9 percent on the money invested ? 8 I bought goods for $100 paying cash for them May 1 1870. On the first of February 1872, I sold the goods for $105. What percent was gained on the money paid for the goods money being worth 6 percent per annum ? 9. Which is the better investment 8 percent stocks at 20 percent discount, or 12 percent stocks at 15 percent premium ? 10. A man bought a house at a discount of30 percent upon its appraised value and sold it for 15 percent more than its appraised value He received $5, 000 for the house What did he pay for it ? GRAMMAR 1 Correct the follow i ng sentence : I expect to have gone yesterday. Each one of us have as much as we can do. I saw him five years since. Washington will be remembered as him who was the Father of his country 2. Write the plural of spoonful court martial radius memorandum, corps hose turke y motto mosquito criterion 247 Appendix to the Superintendent of Public Instruction Report 1874 in Florida Senate .Toumal, 1874 pp. 57-59.
131 APPENDIX 1 (Continued) 3 Parse the words in capitals in the following sentences: The estate is WORTH ten thousand DOLLARS The Well is ten FEET DEEP Now is your time. You will gain THEREBY. 1 found him ALONE. He returned HOME. I want a hero-an uncommon WANT Last CAME Joy's ecstatic trial. 4. How are verbs divided according to their use ? 5 How are verbs divided according to their fonn ? 6 Write the principal parts of teach, arise throw lie and dive 7 Can the same verb be both transitive and intransitive ? 8. How do shall and will differ in meaning? 9. What is meant by the object of a verb? 10 What is meant by the object of a preposition? GEOGRAPHY 1 Why is the Torrid Zone the warmest part of the earth? 2. Which is the longest a degree of longitude near the Arctic Circle or a degree of latitude and why? 3. Name two European capitals having nearly the same latitude as New York city ? 4 Where is the highest mountain range in Asia and what is its name? 5 Describe the position of the principal plains and tablelands ofNorth America. 6 What detennines the direction of the Hudson River ? 7. What portions of South America are nearly rainless and why? 8 Wh y is Rhod e Island so extensively engaged in manufacturing ? 9 Name one of the United States that resembles Portugal in area 10 Name the States or Territories that are separated by the Missouri River also those through which it flows
APPENDIX 1 (Continued) SPELLING 1. Aqueduct 2. Receive 3 Circumference 4 Believe 5. Rheumatism 6. Separate 7 Facetious 8 Symmetry 9. Accommodate 10. Vermilion HISTORY l. Who was king of England in 177 6 and what was his character ? Who was his Prime Minist e r ? 2 What British Statesman opposed the American War? 3 For what is each of the following places distinguished in American history: St. Augustine Annapolis Charleston New Orleans, Guilford Court-ho use Monmouth ? 4 By whom was Louisiana settled, and how did it become part of the United States ? Florida ? 5 Name four Orators distinguished in American history four Statesmen four Generals two Historians two Poets 6. How are United States Senators elected and for what time: How are m e mber s of the House of Representatives elected and what is the basis of representation ? 7 By whom was the Mississippi discovered ? Where ? When ? 8. Name one important battle in which Burgoyne was engaged ; Cornwallis ; Washington 9. From what nations have we acquired Louisiana Florida and California ? 10 What induced Columbus to attempt the discovery of a Western Continent ? 132