The Story: Emancipation

During the post-war period, African Americans also began the long process of guaranteeing their equal rights. Black leaders in North Carolina formed a convention in 1865, made up of war veterans, ministers, skilled tradesmen, teachers, and other community members. The convention met in Raleigh and wrote a document to send to the North Carolina legislature asking for educational funding, assistance in reuniting former slaves with their families, and equal rights for blacks. The leaders tried to remain diplomatic while also asserting their rights, knowing that they would need to work together with North Carolina's whites to rebuild the state in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Black North Carolinians began participating in the state's government for the first time during the post-war era. Eighteen African Americans, including many former slaves, were elected to the State House of Representatives in 1868. By the late 1870’s, several more African American representatives had served in the North Carolina legislature. The representatives worked toward creating a public school system in the state and establishing equal rights for blacks. These leaders made the first steps in a long civil rights movement that would continue throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, as North Carolina’s African Americans recovered from the injustices of slavery and fought to ensure their equal rights under the law.