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"U" is for Union Leagues

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"U" is for Union Leagues. Union Leagues sprang into existence across South Carolina and the South in the years immediately following the Civil War. The organization’s attraction was partly fraternal, with meetings marked by elaborate rituals, singing, and patriotic proclamations. The leagues’ primary mission, however, was the political education of the freedmen. At meetings the leading issues of the day, such as education, voting rights and land reform were discussed and candidates recommended for public office. By 1867 there were eighty-eight leagues in the state. Almost as quickly as it had appeared, the organization rapidly faded from the political landscape. With the establishment of the Republican Party, grass roots organizations were not needed to build party strength. In addition, in the years after 1868, the Union Leagues became a particular target of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.