Freedom’s Lawmakers

Source Type: Other
Author: Eric Foner
Publisher: Eric

Burke, Richard (1807-1870)
Alabama. Born a slave. Black. Literate. Minister, teacher.
A Virginia-born Baptist preacher, Burke in 1865 established a school for twenty-two tuition-paying black pupils in Sumter County, Alabama. A Union League organizer, he represented the county in the state House of Representatives, 1868-70. According to the census of 1870, Burke owned no property. In 1870, armed blacks marched to the town of Livingston to hold a political meeting. Burke’s former owner, Turner Reavis, convinced Burke to have the freedmen disperse, but reports circulated that Burke had declared that blacks had the same right to carry arms as whites. A few nights later, he was murdered.
Subsequently, Reavis told the congressional committee investigating the Ku Klux Klan: “Richard Burke was a quiet man. To be sure, he had made himself obnoxious to a certain class of young men by having been a leader in the Loyal League and by having acquired a great influence over people of his color.”

KKK Hearings, Alabama, 334-37. Kolchin, First Freedom, 87.
Bailey, Neither Carpetbaggers nor Scalawags, 340. Manuscript
U.S. Census, 1870.