December 24: Over 5,000 Blacks Leave South Carolina Town During ‘Edgefield Exodus’ of 1881

0 Posted by - December 24, 2020 - On This Date

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Harper’s Weekly Magazine

In South Carolina during the late 1800s, there was a principal result that broke down the whole antebellum slave plantation system.

Goods were no longer purchased centrally by the planters to be parceled out later in the year. Freedmen and other small farmers purchased their own goods as they saw fit. This, as well as the proliferation of manufactured consumer goods in the late 19th century, led to the development of a vigorous commercial economy.

Every town and every crossroads sprouted migrant merchants. But some merchants had to use questionable practices to benefit themselves at the expense of their customers. Overall, most South Carolinian merchants enjoyed a period of post-Civil War prosperity. But Black prosperity made the former white slaveholding class jealous.

These people lost much of their wealth after the Emancipation Proclamation. They were not competitive enough to adjust for and thrive in the U.S. southern region’s new post-war economic system. This time was right before the final election season of America’s so-called Reconstruction Era.

During this period, the South Carolina village of Edgefield (a district in the city of Hamburg, South Carolina) suffered a series of massive fires. The flames destroyed practically all of the commercial area of the small town except for its courthouse.

Much of the destruction that came about in Edgefield was caused by poor race relations. This caused race-based violence at the hands of angry white mobs. The progress of Black merchants was forcefully interfered with. White mobs used firepower and kept predominately Black quarters of the city under constant bombardment.

Exceedingly brutal atrocities were committed by angry white mobs against Blacks during South Carolina’s Hamburg Massacre of July 1876. claims that on December 24, 1881, over 5,000 Blacks in Edgefield decided they had enough. The Black Edgefield residents eventually relocated west across three states to Arkansas.

A portion of this page’s content was sourced from a reference made in a Wikipedia article. The contents are publicly available by law under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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