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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Untitled Reconstruction Project

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By: Omar K. Elmore, senior writer

On March 6, Wofford hosted a staged reading of the Untitled Reconstruction Project, a play written by Anna Abhau Elliot. Elliot adapted official transcripts of hearings held by Congress as they investigated racial violence in South Carolina during Reconstruction.

After the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan committed several racially motivated acts of terrorism throughout the South. Targeting blacks and white republicans, the Klan’s increasingly violent tactics forced Congress to investigate the group. The verbatim testimony of both victims of mob violence and some that were accused of perpetrating attacks on blacks was published as the Report (and Testimony) of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States in 13 volumes, three of which are for South Carolina.

The South Carolina volumes feature about 600 pages of testimonies in Spartanburg, S.C. Congress questioned 72 people in the area, 36 white and 36 black. Like all the testimonies from the investigation, the events described are detailed and often gruesome.

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At the close of the Congressional hearings, Congress passed the Third Force Act, often called “the Ku Klux Act,” which allowed President Ulysses S. Grant to declare martial law and use military force to combat organizations like the Klan.

With a grant from the Chapman Cultural Center, Elliot was commissioned to write and produce a play based on the testimonies. The play will be directed by Crystal Irby and feature Dr. Mark Byrnes as giving one of the testimonials. Much of the play features depictions of the testimonies; in that regard, there isn’t much original content, instead focusing on exactly what happened in the few years just after the Civil War.

Special Collections Librarian Luke Meagher will showcase the Sandor Teszler Library’s collection of the congressional testimonies throughout March and April.

“This project is important in that it’s different than the typical narrative that we hear about Reconstruction in Spartanburg,” says Meagher. “We can’t get anywhere as a society without analyzing the truth of what happened in Spartanburg. This play takes that narrative in a different direction than we are used to.”

After the reading, the playwright and actors hosted a talk with Speaking Down Barriers about confronting prejudice, and discussed the ramifications of the Klan’s actions in Spartanburg.

“It’s important to get this information out there,” says Meagher. “If you look at official Spartanburg histories, Reconstruction is hardly mentioned at all. When it is, it doesn’t mention that it was such a hotbed of racial and political violence. It is hard to move forward without confronting the past.”

In March and April, there are several events around the Untitled Reconstruction Project. On March 29, director Crystal Irby will read the testimony of Harriet Hernandez who was victimized during Reconstruction. On April 12, Dr. Mark Byrnes will read another testimony and talk about its implications. All 13 volumes of the Report (and Testimony) of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States are available in the library.

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