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Bust-length painted profile portrait of a man. He wears a dark suit and dark top hat.

Benjamin Tillman (1847–1918)

A Democratic senator for South Carolina during the War of 1898, Benjamin Tillman was one of the most vocal and powerful members of a substantial racist faction of the Anti-Imperialist League (AIL). He helped engineer the disenfranchisement of African Americans in his state through gerrymandering and championed violent tactics of voter suppression against Black people. 

As a member of the AIL, he appealed in a speech to his allies, stating, “We understand and realize what it is to have two races side by side that cannot mix or mingle without deterioration and injury to both and the ultimate destruction of the civilization of the higher.” 

The presence of men like Tillman in the AIL led many African Americans who opposed the War of 1898 to establish their own anti-imperialist organizations, such as the Colored National Anti-Imperialistic League.


Unidentified artist
Date unknown
Oil on canvas
Frame: 101.6 × 88.9 cm (40 × 35 in.)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution