63 Members of 1868 Reconstruction Legislature | History of SC Slide Collection

This "composite photograph" brings together 63 members of the 1868 Reconstruction legislature of South Carolina. Of that body, 50 were African-American, 30 were white. Colonel James G. Gibbes of Columbia thought it important to make a record of the members, and persuaded individuals to sit for their photographs. He then re-photographed the images together. In 1895, Benjamin R. Tillman used this composite photograph as part of the propaganda effort in his successful campaign to disenfranchise African-American voters (see The Constitution Of 1895). Although, in the South as a whole, some of the "radical" state governments were good, South Carolina's was marred by corruption, bribery, election fraud, waste and extravagance. Not all of the legislators were corrupt. Lieutenant Governor Alonzo J. Ransier, an African-American man respected even by those critical of Radical Reconstruction, called on members of his race to work honestly, justly, and economically, warning them that unworthy African- Americans would be remembered as the rule rather than the exception.

Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.