Biographical Sidebar: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) came from the humblest origins of any man who reached the White House. Born in poverty in North Carolina, he worked as a youth as a tailor's apprentice.

After moving to Greenville, Tennessee, Johnson achieved success through politics. Beginning as an alderman, he rose to serve two terms as governor.


Although the owner of five slaves before the Civil War, Johnson identified himself as the champion of his state's "honest yeomen" and a foe of large planters, who he described as a "bloated, corrupted aristocracy." He strongly promoted public education, and free land for Western settlers.

A fervent believer in states rights, Johnson was also a strong defender of the Union. He was the only Senator from a seceding state to remain at his post in 1861, and when Union forces occupied Tennessee, Abraham Lincoln named him military governor. In 1864, he was elected vice president.

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he Meaning of Freedom: Black and White Responses to Slavery From Free Labor to Slave Labor Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction The Ending of Reconstruction Epilogue: The Unfinished Revolution Resources Credits for this Exhibit Introduction