Propagating Redemption: An Analysis of the Propaganda Campaign of South Carolina Conservatives in 1876
On the country's centennial, events were set in motion that would define the nature of race relations in South Carolina for much of the next one hundred years. A simple argument over the right of way on a little-used street in the small village of Hamburg, South Carolina, sparked a bloody confrontation which, in part, eventually led to the overthrow of Republican control of the state and the end of Reconstruction in the South. The violence in Hamburg and at four subsequent civil disturbances electrified the state and the nation. Prior to these events, the state Democratic Party had conceded the upcoming election to Republican Governor Daniel Chamberlain and his fusionist coalition with moderate conservatives. However, it was not just violence that altered the state's political fortunes. The well-organized and disciplined propaganda campaign designed by Edgefield Democrat Martin Gary took full advantage of violence for conservatives' political gain. They used their overwhelming dominance of newspaper circulation to control the rhetoric to paint the Republican administration as corrupt and inept and the black militia as dangerous. Combined with spectacles championing Wade Hampton, conservatives used violence and intimidation by rifle and saber clubs to 'redeem' the state and control race relations for the next 100 years.