EXCLUSIVE: Ralph Northam’s Great-Grandfather was ‘Red Shirt’, Family Owned 42 Slaves


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It’s all in the family for Democratic Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, whom Big League Politics exposed as a blackface/KKK hood-wearing racist two weeks ago.

Northam’s roots can be traced back to his great grandfather, Captain J.E. Brownlee, also a Democrat, who fought against the Yankees in the Civil War. After the war, he was a stalwart member of the “Red Shirts,” a group of white supremacists – all Democrats – who made a name for themselves by intimidating freed slaves to stop them from voting.

“In the days of the sixties that tried men’s courage and called for self-sacrifice and devotion to their country, Capt. Brownlee was tried and found not wanting,” Brownlee’s obituary reads. “With his valiant company of ‘Red Shirts’ he was always at the front, and in the right place, and it may truthfully be said that he did as much to redeem his country from Radical rule and tyranny as any man in upper Carolina.”


Here is a snapshot of Northam’s ancestry, proving that he is indeed the great-grandson of Brownlee.

The Red Shirts are described thusly by Dave Neiwert, who contributes for the SPLC:

State Democrats organized parades and rallies in every county of South Carolina. Many of the participants were armed and mounted; all wore red. Mounted men gave an impression of greater numbers. When Wade Hampton and other Democrats spoke, the Red Shirts would respond enthusiastically, shouting the campaign slogan, “Hurrah for Hampton.” This created a massive spectacle that united and motivated those present.

Red Shirts sought to intimidate both white and black watchers into voting for the Democrats or even not at all. The Red Shirts and similar groups were especially active in those few states with an African-American majority. They broke up Republican meetings, disrupted their organizing, and intimidated black voters at the polls. Many freedmen stopped voting from fear, and others voted for Democrats under pressure. The Red Shirts did not hesitate to use violence, nor did the other private militia groups. In the Piedmont counties of Aiken, Edgefield, and Barnwell, freedmen who voted were driven from their homes and whipped, while some of their leaders were murdered. During the 1876 presidential election, Democrats in Edgefield and Laurens counties voted “early and often”, while freedmen were barred from the polls.

According to the 1860 census, John Brownlee, Northam’s great-great grandfather, owned 42 slaves. Among them, presumably, were later freed slaves whom Northam’s great-grandfather attempted to intimidate out of voting:

Author’s Note: BLP never wanted to shame anyone for immutable traits, like family lineage, or to disparage those who fought in the Civil War for what they believed was right. It is part of American history, and must not be forgotten. But the modern political left has made these rules. They must learn to play by them. 

Follow Peter D’Abrosca on Twitter: @pdabrosca

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