Home » Black History » Today In Charleston History: August 11

Today In Charleston History: August 11

1735 – SLAVERY.

Abraham, a Negro man owned by Mr. Samuel Jones, was baptized by Rev. Nathan Bassett of the Independent Church.

1847 – BORN TODAY

Ben Tillman was born near Trenton, South Carolina. Tillman rose to power as a representative of poor white residents of the state. He was elected governor of South Carolina in 1890 and began instituting populist reforms, including Jim Crow laws. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1894, serving until his death.

He was forced to leave school at the age of 16 in order to join the Confederate Army. He was stricken with a bacterial infection in his left eye before he could enlist. The eye was subsequently removed. He joined a paramilitary effort to overthrow Republican rule in South Carolina, taking part in the “Hamburg Massacre” of 1876, in which armed citizens overwhelmed the federal militia. Tillman’s leadership in this event established him as a leading white supremacist and launched his political career.

tillmanTillman was elected governor of South Carolina in 1890, serving for a single term. During this time, he established an agricultural school that would become Clemson University.

As governor he tirelessly promoted a culture of race-based discrimination and violence. Tillman’s supporters dubbed him the “Champion of White Men’s Rule and Woman’s Virtue” for his support of lynching as a punishment for alleged sexual misconduct by African Americans. The decade of the 1890s saw a spike in mob violence, particularly lynching, that was tolerated and even encouraged by Tillman and his allies.

Tillman was elected to the United States Senate in 1894. He held the office until his death in 1918. In Washington, Tillman developed a reputation as a hot-head. He threatened to stab President Cleveland with a pitchfork, earning the nickname “Pitchfork Ben,” received a formal censure for assaulting another senator and was barred from entering the White House.

Tillman died on July 3, 1918, in Washington, D.C. A statue of Tillman was erected outside the South Carolina State House in 1940 and stands to this day.

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