Should Ben Tillman’s statute be removed?

Although his workers were no longer slaves, Tillman continued to apply the whip to them. By 1876, Tillman was the largest landowner in Edgefield County. He rode through his fields on horseback like an antebellum overseer, and stated at the time that it was necessary that he do so to “drive the slovenly Negroes to work”.[16]

Beginning in 1901, Tillman joined the Chautauqua circuit, giving well-paid speeches throughout the nation. Tillman’s reputation, both for his views and his oratory, attracted large crowds. Tillman informed them that African Americans were inferior to the white man, but were not baboons, though some were “so near akin to the monkey that scientists are yet looking for the missing link”.[145] Given that in Africa, they were an “ignorant and debased and debauched race” with a record of “barbarism, savagery, cannibalism and everything that is low and degrading”, it was the “quintessence of folly” to believe that the black man should be placed on an equal footing with his white counterpart.[145] Tillman “embraced segregation as divinely imperative”.[146]:153

Tillman believed, and often stated as senator, that blacks must submit to either white domination or extermination.[142] He was reluctant to undertake the latter, fearing hundreds of whites would die accomplishing it.[143]

Tillman told the Senate, “as governor of South Carolina, I proclaimed that, although I had taken the oath of office to support the law and enforce it, I would lead a mob to lynch any man, black or white, who ravished a woman, black or white.”[147] He told his colleagues, “I have three daughters, but, so help me God, I had rather find either one of them killed by a tiger or a bear [and die a virgin] than to have her crawl to me and tell me the horrid story that she had been robbed of the jewel of her womanhood by a black fiend.”[148]

Regarding the below quote, it’s amazing after reconstruction blacks were able to be in politics at all:

He campaigned in the violent 1898 North Carolina elections, in which white Democrats were determined to take back control from a biracial Populist-Republican coalition elected in 1894 and 1896 on a fusion ticket. He spoke widely in North Carolina in late 1898, often to crowds wearing red shirts, disheartening his Populist supporters. Terror and intimidation again won the day for the Democrats, who were elected statewide. They failed to win in the coastal city of Wilmington, but white supremacists took it over by force. South Carolina saw violence as well: an effort to register black voters in Phoenix led whites to provoke a confrontation, after which a number of African Americans were murdered. Tillman warned African Americans and those who might combine with them that black political activism would provoke a murderous response from whites.[144]

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