Local Politics and Black Freedom After the Civil War

By Karen Cook Bell | Black Perspectives

On June 4, 1870 Joshua C. Legree opened an account with the Savannah, Georgia branch of the Freedmen’s Bank. Three years earlier, Legree had been among the first to register to vote under the terms of the 1867 Reconstruction Act. Both his political activity and his desire to save the fruits of his labor underscored his determination to establish an independent life for himself, his wife Mary, and daughter Rina. For four decades, Legree remained politically active in Lowcountry Georgia, consistently paid poll taxes to retain voting rights, and built an economic foundation which included land and other forms of property. Elected as the first mayor of Burroughs, Georgia in 1898, J. C. Legree relied on a network of men and women who shared the same collective experience of dispossession to build a political base. During Reconstruction, Lowcountry Georgia, a five-county region that extends from Savannah to St. Mary’s Georgia, served as the territorial nexus for African American social, political, and economic activism.

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