African-American Perspectives
The Progress of a People
Segregation and Violence Solving the Race Problem Contributions to the Nation

SESSION 3: Our Place in Politics | Work Among Our Women | Negro in the Wars of the Nation | Address to the Country

Session Topic
Our Place in the Politics of the Country
Image: captions follows
The 1st Vote. Artist unknown. Wood engraving, in Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867. LC-USZ62-29247.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, guaranteed the right to vote without regard to "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

All federal efforts to enforce this amendment came to an end after the 1876 election. Immersed in the great industrial expansion that followed the Civil War, the nation was no longer very interested in ensuring the rights or advancement of newly emancipated African-Americans. Democrats, who had no hope of winning the White House without the support of the "solid South," did nothing to irritate white Southerners -- nor did the national Republicans, who were anxious to make inroads in the Democratic South. Thus, for more than a generation, neither national party paid more than lip service to the rights of African-Americans.

Ninety percent of African-Americans lived in the South, where the vast majority was kept from voting by state law and terrorism. Elections were usually "lily white." In the rest of the nation, however, black Americans did vote. Traditionally these voters supported the Republicans -- the party of Reconstruction, Emancipation, and Lincoln. Anxious for votes, the Republican party continued to work to retain the support of African-Americans.

 
Pamphlet Excerpt
from "A Republican Text-Book for Colored Voters"

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Audio Transcription:

The negro was invested with popular rights by the Republican party. Those rights have been curtailed and nullified by the Democratic party in many States. Life, liberty and happiness can be enjoyed by every honest and industrious negro in any State where the principles of the Republican party are dominant. Life, liberty and happiness are denied black men in their full meaning in every Southern State dominated by the Democratic party...The Republican party, by constitutional amendments, made the negro politically equal to every other citizen. The Democratic party in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina and other Southern States has adopted State constitutions taking away from the negro practically everything given him by the Republican party in the shape of political rights.

The Republican party has never passed a "Jim Crow" law. The Democratic party has passed all such laws. A Republican President has appointed reputable black men to Federal offices. Men of the Democratic party have shot them to pieces...Why should any loyal race man support the Democratic party?...Is it not the party engaged in a comprehensive plan of negro degradation?


SESSIONS: Segregation and Violence | Solving the Race Problem | Contributions to the Nation

 
The Progress of a People

African-American Perspectives