Parson Brownlow and the Rhetoric of Race in Postwar East Tennessee
A notable letter in April 1867 appeared in the Knoxville (TN) Whig. It was a political endorsement of Tennessee governor William “Parson” Brownlow allegedly written by an African American named J. B. Thomas. Thomas explained in the letter that, before the Civil War, when he was a slave—and, inexplicably, a Democrat as well—he was convinced that “Brownlow was the worst man on earth.” But the Parson's loyalty to the Union during the Civil War and his support for black suffrage during Reconstruction had lifted Thomas from his Democratic leanings.
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