The Department of Justice Was the Original Black Lives Matter Enterprise
Our government has betrayed the mission.
Amos T. Akerman was an unlikely figure to head the newly formed Department of Justice. In 1870, the United States was still working to bind up the nation’s wounds torn open by the Civil War. During this period of Reconstruction, the federal government committed itself to guaranteeing full citizenship rights to all Americans, regardless of race. At the forefront of that effort was Akerman, a former Democrat and enslaver from Georgia, and a former officer in the Confederate Army.
Though the United States had had an Attorney General since the formation of the government in 1789, none had been empowered with the full force of a consolidated legal team quite like Akerman. And none had had the monumental task of enforcing the 14th and 15th Amendments and new legislation delivering long overdue rights to four million formerly enslaved black men and women. This department’s work on behalf of the emancipated population was so central to its early mission that Akerman established the department’s headquarters in the Freedman’s Savings Bank Building.
In the immediate wake of the Civil War, Akerman, a New Hampshirite who had settled in Georgia in the 1840s, looked to the future, leaving the Democrats for the Republicans and prosecuting voter intimidation cases as a U.S. district attorney in his adopted state. Reflecting on his decision to switch his allegiance to the party of Lincoln, Akerman said, “Some of us who had adhered to the Confederacy felt it to be our duty when we were to participate in the politics of the Union, to let Confederate ideas rule us no longer….Regarding the subjugation of one race by the other as an appurtenance of slavery, we were content that it should go to the grave in which slavery had been buried.”