north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Widely known as North Carolina’s most prominent carpetbagger, Albion Tourgée came to the state from Ohio after the Civil War. Tourgée, born in 1838 in Massachusetts, later moved with his family to Ohio and attended school in both states. He enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and fought in the Battle of Manassas where he was partially paralyzed by a back injury and discharged. Tourgée soon re-enlisted and fought in several battles, including a four-month imprisonment. In 1863 he left the military because of his back injury and served as a journalist, continued his education and taught until the end of the war.

     Tourgée married Emma Kilbourne in 1863 and, seeing opportunities in the post-war South, they migrated to an area outside of Greensboro in 1865. Tourgée then became involved in politics, mostly as a champion of equal rights for blacks. He was the target of many who sought to subjugate the black population but, despite the threat of physical harm and being a social outcast, Tourgée was elected to several posts. His most notable contributions came when he was elected to the constitutional convention of 1868 in which he fought for political, legal and economic reform. As such, he was one of three commissioners who re-wrote the state’s laws, fighting for judicial reform as part of radical Reconstruction.

     Tourgée then served as a judge in Greensboro, helped to found what is now Bennett College, and was elected to the 1875 constitutional convention. He then moved to Raleigh and unsuccessfully sought political office. Feeling ever the alien in his adopted state, Tourgée decided to leave and moved to Colorado in 1879, where he wrote editorials and published well-received novels on Reconstruction, notably A Fool's Errand and based on his experiences in North Carolina. In 1881, he moved again, to Mayville, New York, where he penned numerous articles on the problems of racial inequality and justice. His last post was an appointment as a French consul in 1896. He served in that capacity until his death in 1905 when his remains were returned to New York for burial. He was memorialized in a nationwide service as a friend of freedom along with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 47-48 —sketch by Otto H. Olsen
Olsen, Otto H., “Albion W. Tourgée: Carpetbagger,” North Carolina Historical Review (Autumn 1963): 434-454
Olsen, Otto H., Carpetbagger’s Crusade: The Life of Albion Winegar Tourgée (1965)
Ashe, Samuel, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, IV (1906)Albion Tourgée, Bricks Without Straw (1880) electronic edition, Documenting the American South:
Albion Tourgée, A Fool’s Errand (1879) electronic edition, Documenting the American South:      

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north carolina highway historical marker program

Albion Tourgee

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources