Master of Arts (MA)


Michael A. Davis


Bishop Henry M. Turner, Booker T. Washington, Civil Rights, Civil War, Jim Crowism, Reconstruction


Military History | Other History | Political History | Public History | Social History | United States History


Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915), a black wartime chaplain, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) pastor, and occasional Republican politician, was a beacon of hope for thousands of freedmen following the American Civil War. The late nineteenth century marked a watershed in civil rights in the United States. The Civil War (1861–1865) ushered in emancipation for black slaves, while Reconstruction (1865–1877) provided tremendous opportunities for freedmen, including black male suffrage, equal protection under the law, and election to public office. Of course, African–Americans faced serious challenges. Many white southerners resisted Reconstruction, and the Ku Klux Klan (and other hate groups) soon emerged and challenged – through intimidation, violence, and fear – federal authority in the South. By the 1880s, most Southern states had been “redeemed” by white, southern Democrats and former Confederates who imposed poll taxes, literacy tests, and other devices aimed at preventing blacks from voting. Meanwhile, a harsh segregation regime emerged, leaving many blacks frustrated. In the midst of the depressing circumstances, Turner sought to help blacks rediscover their worth by advocating emigration to Africa, a combination of the industrial and liberal arts curriculums, and a deeper commitment to Christianity. Bishop Henry M. Turner is a pivotal figure in American history, not just African–American history, because of his work as a pastor, legislator, and civil rights leader.