In the antebellum era, Jews were more likely than Gentiles to own slaves and were disproportionately involved in the slave trade. Jews went along with the racial norms of Southern society and were not perceived as a subversive minority.
“Only one genuine example exists of Jews actively conspiring against slavery. During the 1840s, Issac and Peter Friedman assisted Peter Still’s escape from Tuscumbia, Alabama. However, even this appears to be an isolated incident born out of personal sentiment for a particular slave rather than any ideological opposition to the institution of slavery.”
There was no Jewish equivalent of John Brown or William Lloyd Garrison or Harriet Beecher Stowe – Black Republicanism grew out of Northern evangelical Christianity rather than Jewish influence.
“Most striking of all were the political careers of David Levy Yulee and Judah P. Benjamin. Yulee served as a congressman from Florida from 1844 until its admission as a state four years later, at which time he was elected senator. In 1852 Benjamin was elected senator of Louisiana. “It is a singular fact,” observed the Western Democrat, “that the most masterly expositions which have been made of the constitutional and religious argument for slavery are from gentlemen of the Hebrew faith.” Both Yulee and Benjamin were staunch advocates of slavery. Benjamin purchased a large sugar plantation in Louisiana with a labor force of 140 slaves. Yulee earned a reputation as the “Florida Fire Eater” for his passionate speeches in support of the South, especially his campaign to expand slavery through the territorial annexation of Mexico and Cuba.”
We have seen previously that David Yulee and Judah Benjamin, far from being subversive revolutionaries, were pillars of the Southern establishment in their time.
“Nothing better defines the depth of Jewish support for the South and the institution of slavery than the Civil War. Southern Jews were staunch supporters of secession and war. Several assumed eminent positions within the Confederate government. … According to one conservative estimate, 1,216 southern Jews took up arms in defense of their homeland. Many distinguished themselves on the battlefield, some making the ultimate sacrifice.”
This came as a genuine surprise.
I was aware that some Jews had fought for the Confederacy. I was aware that Yulee and Benjamin were in the Senate before the war. I had no idea though that Jews in general were staunch Confederates.
“As army officer Simon Mayer asserted in a letter written during the last year of the war, the Lincoln administration, “not satisfied with burning our towns, and endeavoring to carry out their hellish designs of starving our people in subjection … now want to carry out their new doctrine of ‘miscegenation.'” Mayer urged his brother to enlist in the Confederate army before this “evil” befell the South.”
The anti-miscegenation laws were temporarily repealed in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi during Reconstruction by the negro-carpetbagger-scalawag triumvirate which was propped up by the Union Army.
Note: The excerpts above come from Clive Webb’s Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights. I’m sharing my learning experience with everyone here as I come across this stuff.