Timeline

1874

September 14th, 1874

White Supremacist Militia Overthrows Louisiana’s Elected, Integrated State Government

In 1872, William Pitt Kellogg, a supporter of Reconstruction, was elected governor of Louisiana, largely on the strength of his support among African-American voters. That same year, Caesar Carpenter Antoine, an African American man, was elected lieutenant governor.

The electoral success of an integrated ticket angered many whites, and attempts to overthrow the elected government began nearly as soon as Governor Kellogg and Lt. Governor Antoine took office in 1873. During the summer of 1874, Frederick Nash Ogden, a former colonel in the Confederate army, began to organize a militia. The militia, which consisted primarily of white Confederate veterans who opposed Reconstruction, became known as the White League.

On September 14, 1874, 1500 members of the White League attacked New Orleans and overthrew the Louisiana government. After cutting the telegraph lines out of the city and killing at least thirteen members of the integrated New Orleans police force, the militia overran the state house and attempted to establish a new government. Governor Kellogg was forced to take refuge in a nearby federal building. After three days, President Ulysses S. Grant ordered the U.S. Army to put down the rebellion and the elected government was restored.

The 1874 coup was emblematic of the political violence that occurred during Reconstruction, which aimed to overthrow elected, integrated governments throughout the South and restore white supremacy under law. In 1891, following the conclusion of Reconstruction, the state of Louisiana installed a monument celebrating the coup as the “overthrow of carpetbag government ousting the usurpers.” The monument remains standing in New Orleans today.

1887

September 14th, 1887

Elderly Leased Prisoner in Georgia Writes Letter to Former Owner Seeking Help; Dies 17 Months Later

In the years following Reconstruction, Georgia leased its prisoners to three different private companies for $500,000 for a term of twenty years. Between 1870 and 1910, the convict population in Georgia grew ten times faster than that of the entire state – and discriminatory laws fueled the bulk of that growth. An 1882 investigation revealed that “coloreds” served sentences “twice as long as whites for burglary and five times as long for larceny,” the two most common crimes.

One of the largest beneficiaries of the leasing system was Joseph E. Brown, who was chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and had previously served as Georgia’s governor. Brown leased 300 Georgia prisoners to work at his Dade Coal Mines, netting him profits of $100,000 per year. In return, the Georgia treasury received approximately seven cents per prisoner per day. By 1880, Brown’s convict leasing scheme had made him a millionaire, and one newspaper declared that he had “turned a coal mine into a gold mine.”

In 1882, almost 50 percent of Georgia’s prisoners were serving a sentence of ten years or more, though, according to reformer George Washington Cable, “ten years is the utmost length of time that a convict can be expected to remain alive in the Georgia prisons system.”

On September 14, 1887, one such prisoner, former slave Lancaster LeConte, wrote to his former owner, Joseph LeConte, begging for $65 to help get his three-year sentence for “receiving stolen goods” overturned. Prisoners leased to Dade Coal Mines regularly worked from dawn to dusk in ankle-deep water. A 74-year-old man, the conditions at Dade had rendered Lancaster LeConte nearly immobile and he feared he wouldn’t survive his sentence.

“I am hear in prison for the term of three years for rescving som stolen goods,” Lacaster wrote, “and my helth is so bad that I donnt think I will to suav them out, so I thought I had done anougf for you in slavery time to ask you to please asist me now in my trubles.”

Lancaster LeConte’s letter went unanswered. He died in custody seventeen months later, according to a brief entry in the prison log: “Lancaster LeConte; Receiving Stolen Goods; Colored; 75; Arrived June 3, 1887; Died Feburary 13, 1889.”