North Carolina soldiers in the 35th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry, liberating slaves in New Bern, Harper’s Weekly, January 23, 1864

After Slavery: Race, Citizenship and Democracy


The story of Carolina Hall and the controversy over its name begins in the second half of the nineteenth century, when not one but two civil wars were fought in North Carolina. The first, 1861 to 1865, pitted a southern rebellion against the government of the United States. It took the lives of more than 35,000 North Carolinians who fought for the Confederacy, plus those of another 2,000 who died for the Union.

The second was an internal civil war that arose from the Confederacy’s defeat and ground on until 1900. It set North Carolinians against one another in a battle over citizenship and equality in a society no longer built upon racial slavery.

During the late 1860s, at the height of Reconstruction, and again in the so-called Fusion era of the 1890s, fragile alliances of blacks, whites, and American Indians attempted to create an inclusive democracy in North Carolina. Their opponents stood firmly for the preservation of white rule.

By 1900, the self-styled champions of white supremacy were victorious. They won by stealing elections through fraud and violence, codifying racial segregation, and stripping black men and large numbers of poor whites of the right to vote.

The Granger Collection, New York


The opposing sides in this internal civil war can be understood through the political careers of William Laurence Saunders, leader of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction, and George Henry White, a younger man elected to Congress by Fusion voters in 1896 and 1898.


The 1890 federal census recorded a total state population of 1,893,810:
1,263,603 whites, 624,469 blacks, 5,687 American Indians, and 51 Chinese. Residents with other ethnic identities — all of whom the census classified as white — were few. White rule kept blacks in poverty, drove down the value of all labor, and made North Carolina an unappealing destination for immigrants.

51 Chinese
5,687 American Indians
624,469 Blacks
1,263,603 Whites