- Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman by G. Ward Hubbs
G. Ward Hubbs, an archivist and librarian at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, claims that his book Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman is about a political cartoon featured in a September 1868 issue of the Independent Monitor, a Democratic newspaper published in Tuscaloosa. The cartoon actually was a technologically advanced woodcut depicting a carpetbagger and a scalawag hanging from a tree while a donkey with the letters KKK emblazoned across its body trotted away. The Reverend Arad S. Lakin, a [End Page 694] white Methodist from New York who relocated to Alabama after the war, was the carpetbagger. He sought to reestablish the national denomination in the state and later was named president of the University of Alabama. Noah B. Cloud—a white physician, journalist, education official, and proponent of scientific agriculture from South Carolina—was the scalawag. A prewar Whig who served as a Confederate surgeon, Cloud eventually became a Republican and chaired the Alabama Board of Education. Cloud and Lakin were harassed by sociopolitical conservatives such as Ryland Randolph, the editor of the immensely partisan Monitor, who also sat briefly in the Alabama House of Representatives and helped organize a statewide Klan.
Lakin, Cloud, Randolph, and Shandy Jones, a black politician and businessman who advocated for emigration to Liberia, are the main characters in Hubbs’s narrative. A separate chapter is devoted to each person, but Randolph is clearly the leading figure. Beyond recounting his life and times, Hubbs attempts to humanize Randolph, an unabashed racist whose brutality caused the Alabama House and the state Democratic Party to expel him. Instead of a deadly Klansman whose atheism lessened his fear of godly retribution, the Randolph whom Hubbs imagines was a learned, self-assertive Romantic whose desire to recapture the unhindered freedom that he and other white Alabamians experienced before the war led him to oppose the “concentrated power” of the central government and universal equality for freedpeople (p. 29).
Typescripts of hitherto unknown reminiscences by Randolph and correspondence with several living descendants of Jones and Lakin complement the trove of newspaper articles, legislative documents, court records, and cognate primary sources that Hubbs consults. His prose is superb, but a few statements are problematic. For example, “after years of looking at” Cloud, Jones, Lakin, and Randolph, Hubbs asserts, “I decided to look within them. I became Ryland Randolph. I became Arad S. Lakin, Noah B. Cloud, and Shandy Jones” (p. xiv). More troubling than Randolph’s isolation in this quotation is Hubbs’s purported ability to become these men, especially Jones, a former slave. On occasion textual references and their accompanying end-notes do not correspond, and some facts are confused. For example, Alabama Freedmen’s Bureau assistant commissioner Wager Swayne was never formally the “military governor” (p. 79). Contrary to what Hubbs declares, the state’s 1865 constitution did mention education, and the Fourth Reconstruction Act was ratified in March 1868 rather than in June (as Hubbs notes correctly in a useful chronology).
Despite its miscues, which all monographs have, Hubbs’s volume is informative. The preface, introduction, and four chapters illustrate many issues related to Alabama’s first Reconstruction. The epilogue makes it plain that some issues, most notably race and ethnicity, spanned the state’s Second Reconstruction (the modern civil rights movement) and continue to divide its citizenry during Third Reconstruction. Put another way, certain people in Alabama are still searching for freedom 150 years after the Civil War. Whether they will find it remains the state’s greatest challenge. [End Page 695]