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Union League

Started in Philadelphia in 1862, the Union League was organized to publicize Southern outrages and to promote Radical Republican policies. After the Civil War, the League mobilized newly enfranchised African American voters (all men) and used secrecy and promoted gun ownership as means to protect the African American population.  According to historian Steven Hahn, League meetings provided blacks with opportunities to debate political and societal issues, negotiate labor contracts, and plan how to care for the sick among them.

The first president of the Union League in North Carolina, Governor William Woods Holden advocated African American political equality. In 1867, the Republican Party was started in North Carolina, coinciding with the creation on the Union League. The Ku Klux Klan, an adversary of the League, accused the organization of murder, rape, arson, and other crimes against League members or its sympathizers.  It is unlikely, however, that the League committed such crimes or on the scale alleged by the Klan.  The organization worked primarily to ensure that blacks remained loyal to the Republican Party.

The Klan’s violent actions against white and black Union Leaguers revealed a deep fear of Republican dominance in North Carolina.  In 1870 Wyatt Outlaw, a black Republican from Alamance County, was taken from his bed and hanged in the central square in the town of Graham.  Also, John W. Stephens, a white Republican and active member of the League, was tied up and stabbed to death in Yanceyville.

Following the impeachment of Holden, Union League membership decreased because the Klan intimidation efforts were becoming successful.  


Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration (Cambridge, 2003); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); William S. Powell ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); Milton Ready, The Tar Heel State (Columbia, 2005).

See Also:

Related Categories: Civil War, African American
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Freedmen's Bank, John Pool (1826-1884), Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), Lieutenant Governor, Henry Toole Clark, Holden Impeachment, Thomas Jordan Jarvis (1836-1915), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), George Henry White (1852–1918), James Turner (1766-1824), William Woods Holden (1818-1892), Israel Braddock Abbott (1840–1887), Wilson Carey (1831-1905?), William H. McLaurin (1834-1902) , Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Augustus S. Merrimon (1830 - 1892), Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827 - 1901), Reconstruction Bibliography, John W. Ellis (1820-1861), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Fisher, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), John Motley Morehead (1796-1866), David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1779), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904), St. Augustine's College, Peace College, Election Case of Joseph Abbott and Zebulon Vance, Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1837 - 1864) , Vance Birthplace, Matthew Calbraith Butler (1836-1909), Wade Hampton III (1818-1902), The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (March 10, 1865), Carolinas Campaign (January 1865-April 1865), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), Confederate Surrender at Bennett's Place (April 17-26, 1865), Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881) and the Carolinas Campaign, Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891) and the Carolinas Campaign
Related Commentary: Reconstruction Bibliography, Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan, Freedmen’s Bank Served Blacks in Post-Civil War Economy, N.C. Played Crucial Role At Civil War’s End
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1866-1915
Region: Statewide

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