Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday guest post; "Greensboro’s Carpetbagging, KKK-Combatting Judge, Part 1", by YJ Miller

"Recent events in Charlottesville  and Durham challenge justice-minded North Carolinians to remember that the fight against hate requires a coat of many colors. Some photos in the African American Registry stand out. 1, 2, 3.
Eminent annals of Greensboro “Carpetbagging Judge” Albion Tourgée’s life bear titles such as “Undaunted Radical” and “Refugee from his Race.”

Such accounts highlight activities such as Tourgée’s substantive role in the founding of Bennett College.  Works dedicating particular attention to his legal career bear the title “Color-Blind Justice,” reflecting his role representing Homer Plessy in the 1896 separate-but-equal Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson.  Though he lost the case at the time, his work was substantially the foundation when Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy 60 years later. 4,5,6.

When anti-slavery chronicles focus on reconstruction, one will often find Tourgée chronicled alongside key figures such as Harriet Beecher Stowe.  The association is particularly apt given Tourgée’s post-judicial career as a best-selling author chronicling reconstruction and the post-war plight of African American Southerners. 7.

The thinly-fictionally-veiled account of his Greensboro civil rights career during reconstruction—which included a prominent role drafting the state’s post-war Constitution permitting re-entry to the Union under the 14th Amendment—bears the disheartening title: “A Fool’s Errand, by One of the Fools.”

A year later, Tourgée published “Bricks Without Straw,” presenting Reconstruction through the eyes of emancipated slaves, making it unique among the white-authored works of its time and evidencing the remarkable relationship Tourgée had built with North Carolina African Americans.

The 1880 edition of “A Fool’s Errand” included an appendix chronicling the KKK’s atrocities throughout the South, including many victim’s accounts. The appendix was later republished on its own under the title “The Invisible Empire.”

North Carolina’s Constitution bears the stamp of this reality in Article I, Section 12:
Right of assembly and petition.

The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated. 

Tourgée’s writings evidence a remarkable commitment and ability to analyze and articulate counterpoint, presenting compelling descriptions of why the KKK’s development was a natural product of the culture,  and offering contrasting descriptions like “The Northern Idea of the Southern Idea of Slavery” and “The Southern Idea of the Northern Idea of Slavery.” 8,9,10.

Subsequent entries in this series will highlight key experiences Tourgée shares, providing guidance to Greensboro, North Carolina, and US Citizens who wish to respond to current events with an undaunting commitment to equality and justice."

Rabbi-turned-Civil Rights Attorney YJ Miller is completing his training at Elon School of Law and Harvard University while becoming a leader in North Carolina’s fight against gerrymandering and other corruptions against The People, earning him the moniker “Penicillin for Injustice.”
4.Kevin Reid, Images of America: Greensboro, Arcadia 2014, p. 83.
9.Fool’s Errand, Waveland Press Edition, Chapter 39.
10.Fool’s Errand, Waveland Press Edition, 138-139.