The Phoenix Riot and the Memories of Greenwood County

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The Phoenix Riot and the Memories of Greenwood County

by Daniel Levinson Wilk
Southern Cultures, Vol. 8, No. 4: Ghosts

"'I was with my father when they rode up, and I remember starting to cry.'"

November 8, 1898, was election day in the small town of Phoenix, South Carolina. Inside Watson and Lake’s general store, local citizens cast their ballots. Out on the porch, a white man, Thomas P. Tolbert, set up a small box and began taking affidavits from African Americans who, for one reason or another, had not been allowed to vote. Tolbert was a political anomaly. In a state where being white had become almost synonymous with being a Democrat, he was the Republican son of a prominent Republican family. His father, John R. Tolbert, was collector of the port in Charleston, and his brother, Robert Red Tolbert, was Greenwood’s Republican candidate for the House of Representatives.

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