Under the terms of Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction of December 1863, a civil government was established over the federally held parts of Louisiana in 1864. A new state constitution was drafted, abolishing slavery.
The civil government, which assumed statewide jurisdiction at the war’s end, came to be dominated by ex-Confederates. Blacks were denied the right to vote. In addition, numerous laws were passed, including the notorious Black Codes, that sharply restricted the rights and freedoms of Louisiana’s black population. A bloody race riot in 1866 induced the federal government to impose political changes in Louisiana. In 1867 and 1868 Congress passed so-called Reconstruction Acts over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. The Reconstruction Acts restored federal military rule over ten ex-Confederate states, including Louisiana, and made readmission to the Union conditional on the adoption of state constitutions acceptable to Congress.
Thus, in March 1868, a new constitution was drafted in New Orleans; it provided voting rights for adult males of all races, and guaranteed full civil rights to blacks. It also disfranchised (denied the vote to) many ex-Confederates. It was approved by the Louisiana voters, a majority of whom were black, and Louisiana was formally readmitted to the Union on June 25, 1868. Whites would have been a majority if they had registered but, perhaps because of apathy, racism, or official dissuasion, about one-half of eligible whites had stayed away from the voter registration offices in 1867 and 1868.
For about eight years following readmission, the majority of officeholders in the state were former slaves, pro-Union white Southerners, and white Northern immigrants, who banded together under the banner of the Republican Party. The latter two groups were labeled scalawags and carpetbaggers, respectively, by their enemies. Blacks who were prominent in this period included Blanche K. Bruce, the first black U.S. senator; P. B. S. Pinchback, the first black state governor; Joseph H. Rainey and Jefferson Long, U.S. congressmen; Oscar J. Dunn, lieutenant governor; and Antoine Dubuclet, state treasurer.
Many white Louisianians worked to undermine Republican rule by political and economic action, as well as by violence through organizations like the Ku Klux Klan (northern Louisiana), the Knights of the White Camellia (southern Louisiana), and the White League. These organizations engaged in such tactics as burning of homes and flogging or lynching of blacks considered dangerous. The White League was particularly vicious, assassinating Republican officials and driving black laborers from their homes. The league’s activities culminated in the bloody Battle of Liberty Place in New Orleans in 1874, where 3,500 league members took over the city hall, statehouse, and arsenal, and left only when federal troops arrived. As a consequence, a federal army of occupation remained in the state until the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877.
In the early 1870s the Republican domination of state politics became increasingly precarious. Many Republican supporters, particularly blacks, were intimidated into not voting. In addition, presidential and congressional pardons gave the vote back to many Louisiana ex-Confederates. In the election for governor in 1876, Stephen B. Packard, a Republican, opposed Francis R. T. Nicholls of the Democratic Party. Following the vote counting, both sides claimed victory. Louisiana’s electoral votes for president were also claimed by both sides. The Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, needed those votes and also those of two other Southern states, Florida and South Carolina, to win the presidency. It is thought that the Republicans and the Southern Democrats struck a deal to settle the election. Whatever the agreement may have been, the Republicans did not challenge the seating of Nicholls as governor, and the Democrats did not challenge the awarding of the electoral votes to Hayes. Then, when Hayes took office in 1877, he called off the federal troops that had been on station in New Orleans. Reconstruction was over.
Louisiana was under one-party rule by the Democrats, which did not end until Republican David C. Treen became governor in 1980. The party took various measures to consolidate its power, largely at the expense of the state’s black population. Eventually, a new state constitution in 1898 made most blacks ineligible to vote through a combination of poll taxes, literacy tests, and property qualifications. "Louisiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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