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President Andrew Johnson and Mississippi


Governor Adelbert Ames
Governor Adelbert Ames

Under President Andrew Johnson, the federal government formed a plan for restoring the Union, called Reconstruction. Johnson appointed William L. Sharkey as provisional governor of Mississippi in June 1865 and directed him to reorganize the state government. Amendments to the state constitution were made in August, formally abolishing slavery. A new government, elected in October, was dominated by former Confederates. This government enacted the so-called Black Code, which reimposed on the freed blacks many of the old restrictions that had been placed on slaves. All blacks were required to possess, every January, written evidence of employment for the coming year. Laborers leaving their jobs before their contract expired would forfeit wages already earned and would be subject to arrest. Freedmen could not rent land in urban areas. Vagrancy was punishable by plantation labor. Blacks were also denied the right to vote.

Similar codes were enacted by other Southern legislatures. Partly for this reason, the Radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. In March 1867, Congress put all the ex-Confederate states except Tennessee under military rule. Readmission to the Union was made conditional on the adoption of new constitutions acceptable to Congress. In January 1868 another constitutional convention, the so-called Black and Tan Convention, met in Jackson and drafted a constitution guaranteeing the vote and other basic rights to blacks. The proposed new constitution was defeated by the electorate in June 1868 but was approved in November 1869. Mississippi was formally readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870.

The new state government


The new state government was Republican and consisted mainly of whites from the North (called carpetbaggers by their enemies), white Southerners who were willing to cooperate (called scalawags), and blacks. From the first, the administration faced a hostile white population and economic disruption. Even so, it had positive achievements, among them free public schools for all. However, the Democratic Party grew in strength as former Confederates received federal pardons and were again allowed to participate in politics. Also, increasing numbers of blacks and white Republicans were intimidated by such terrorist organizations as the Ku Klux Klan. Finally, in the elections of 1875, Democrats gained control of the state legislature, and in 1876 the legislature undertook impeachment proceedings against Republican Governor Adelbert Ames, Lieutenant Governor A. K. Davis, and other officials. Ames resigned, Davis was removed from office, and the president pro tempore of the state senate, a Democrat, became governor. Thus began more than a century of one-party rule of the state by the Democratic Party. "Mississippi" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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