Albert Talmon Morgan was a controversial Republican politician in Reconstruction-era Mississippi who gained some fame by writing an account of his time in the state. Born in Wisconsin to George and Eleanor Morgan, devout Baptists and abolitionists who migrated from New York, Morgan attended Oberlin College in Ohio, served in the Union Army, and then settled with his older brother, Charles, in Yazoo County in 1866. After failing as a planter and a merchant, he turned to politics. The 1867 federal mandates to register and protect black voters provided Morgan the opportunity to represent his county as a delegate at the constitutional convention.
Although previously apprehensive about black suffrage, he eventually supported both political and social equality, identifying with the Radical faction at the convention and crusading to end concubinage in the state he called a “hot-bed of miscegenation.” Morgan’s crusade to recognize common-law unions and punish concubinage portended his mission to legalize intermarriage—a mission realized when his bill repealing discriminatory marriage laws survived both houses of the Mississippi legislature and received the governor’s tacit approval in 1870.
Having removed all obstacles to intermarriage, Morgan married Carolyn Victoria Highgate, a biracial schoolteacher from New York. The newlyweds quickly became fodder for the state’s Democratic newspapers, and the headlines severely damaged his local reputation. Commonly called “Miscegenationist Mawgin,” he endured attacks not only from Democrats, who thought his marriage confirmed native white suspicions about carpetbaggers, but also from Republicans, who thought it alienated native white recruits from the party.
The 1874 Republican convention for Yazoo County nominated Morgan for sheriff, but F. P. Hilliard (a former political associate and a former sheriff) ran against him. Fraught with intraparty squabbles and desertions, the election left Morgan claiming victory and Hilliard crying fraud. Foregoing an official inquiry, the two factions settled the contested election via violence that ended with Hilliard’s body riddled with bullets.
Public outrage over the shootout centered on Morgan. After a local newspaper blamed the sheriff for local woes, a book, Sister Sallie, urged native white men to reclaim local government, by force if necessary, to prevent the intermarriage of their sisters. An extralegal society, the White Liners, attempted to reestablish “home rule” by purging northerners from Mississippi’s communities through intimidation and violence. Overwhelmed by the insurrection, Morgan implored Gov. Adelbert Ames to rescue the party in Yazoo County. The governor, however, lacked both the commitment and the influence to stop the purge, and a year after the vigilantes launched their violent campaign, federal investigators were told that only one northern man still resided in Yazoo County.
Morgan fled to Washington, D.C., where he published his memoirs, Yazoo; or, On the Picket Line of Freedom in the South: A Personal Narrative. He then moved his family to Lawrence, Kansas, before leaving them there to prospect for gold and silver in Colorado. Morgan died on 15 April 1922 in Denver. His children included well-known poet Angela Morgan.
- Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (1997)
- Albert T. Morgan, Yazoo; or, On the Picket Line of Freedom in the South: A Personal Narrative (1884)
- David Overy, Wisconsin Carpetbaggers in Dixie (1961)
- C. B. Waldrep, Journal of Mississippi History (Summer 2002)