But when he and some other black ex-servicemen attempted to vote, a white mob stopped them. Wikimedia Commons. The most basic right of a citizen in a democracy is the right to vote.
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Without this right, people can be easily ignored and even abused by their government. Despite the 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteeing the civil rights of black Americans, their right to vote was systematically taken away by white supremacist state governments.
After the Civil War, Congress acted to prevent Southerners from re-establishing white supremacy. Inthe Radical Republicans in Congress imposed federal military rule over most of the South. Under U. Army occupation, the former Confederate states wrote new constitutions and were readmitted to the Union, but only after ratifying the 14th Amendment.
Inthe 15th Amendment was ratified. More than a half-million black men became voters in the South during the s women did not secure the right to vote in the United States until For the most part, these new black voters cast their ballots solidly for the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. During the next decade, Mississippi sent two black U. But even though the new black citizens voted freely and in large s, whites were still elected to a large majority of state and local offices.
This was the pattern in most of the Southern states during Reconstruction. The Republican-controlled state governments in the South were hardly perfect. Many citizens complained about overtaxation and outright corruption.
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But these governments brought about ificant improvements in the lives of the former slaves. For the first time, black men and women enjoyed freedom of speech and movement, the right of a fair trial, education for their children, and all the other privileges and protections of American citizenship. But all this changed when Reconstruction ended in and federal troops withdrew from the old Confederacy.
With federal troops no longer present to protect the rights of black citizens, white supremacy quickly returned to the old Confederate states. Black voting fell off sharply in most areas because of threats by white employers and violence from the Ku Klux Klan, a ruthless secret organization bent on preserving white supremacy at all costs. White majorities began to vote out the Republicans and replace them with Democratic governors, legislators, and local officials.
Laws were soon passed banning interracial marriages and racially segregating railroad cars along with the public schools.
Laws and practices were also put in place to make sure blacks would never again freely participate in elections. But one problem stood in the way of denying African Americans the right to vote: the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed them this right. To a great extent, Mississippi led the way in overcoming the barrier presented by the 15th Amendment. House of Representative and later the Senate. Revels served in Congress from torepresenting Mississippi.
InMississippi held a convention to write a new state constitution to replace the one in force since Reconstruction. The white leaders of the convention were clear about their intentions. Because of the 15th Amendment, they could not ban blacks from voting. Instead, they wrote into the state constitution a of voter restrictions making it difficult for most blacks to register to vote. First, the new constitution required an annual poll tax, which voters had to pay for two years before the election.
But the most formidable voting barrier put into the state constitution was the literacy test.
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It required a person seeking to register to vote to read a section of the state constitution and explain it to the county clerk who processed voter registrations. This clerk, who was always white, decided whether a citizen was literate or not. The literacy test did not just exclude the 60 percent of voting-age black men most of them ex-slaves who could not read. It excluded almost all black men, because the clerk would select complicated technical passages for them to interpret.
By contrast, the clerk would pass whites by picking simple sentences in the state constitution for them to explain. Obviously, this benefited only white citizens. Mississippi cut the percentage of black voting-age men registered to vote from more than 90 percent during Reconstruction to less than 6 percent in These measures were copied by most of the other states in the South.
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As a result of intimidation, violence, and racial discrimination in state voting laws, a mere 3 percent of voting-age black men and women in the South were registered to vote in In Mississippi, less than 1 percent were registered. Most blacks who did vote lived in the larger cities of the South.
By not having the power of the ballot, African Americans in the South had little influence in their communities. They did not hold elected offices. They had no say in how much their taxes would be or what laws would be passed. They had little, if any, control over local police, courts, or public schools.
They, in effect, were denied their rights as citizens. Attempts to change this situation were met with animosity and outright violence. But in the s, the civil rights movement developed. Facing enormous hostility, black people in the South organized to demand their rights guaranteed in the U.
They launched voter registration drives in many Southern communities. This set the stage for great changes in the s, but not without tragedy. Medgar Evers, the black veteran stopped by a white mob from voting, became a civil rights leader in his native Mississippi. Because of his civil rights activities, he was shot and killed in front of his home by a white segregationist in McMillen, Neil R. Urbana, Ill. New York: Penguin Books, All states have some voting restrictions.
Are they necessary? Below are five traditional restrictions on the right to vote. Form small groups to decide whether your state should retain each of these restrictions. Before making a decision on each restriction, the group should discuss and write answers to these two questions:. After the groups have finished their work, each restriction should be discussed and voted on by the entire class.
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Wikimedia Commons The most basic right of a citizen in a democracy is the right to vote. Voting in Mississippi With federal troops no longer present to protect the rights of black citizens, white supremacy quickly returned to the old Confederate states. Wikimedia Commons InMississippi held a convention to write a new state constitution to replace the one in force since Reconstruction. The Winds of Change As a result of intimidation, violence, and racial discrimination in state voting laws, a mere 3 percent of voting-age black men and women in the South were registered to vote in For Discussion and Writing What legal devices did Southern states use to exclude most of their black citizens from voting?
What other methods were used to stop blacks from voting? What was unfair about the way literacy tests were used for voter registration in the South from to ?
What were the consequences to African Americans of being excluded from voting in the segregated South? Before making a decision on each restriction, the group should discuss and write answers to these two questions: What are some reasons favoring the restriction? What are some reasons against the restriction?
Restrictions on the Right to Vote In order to vote, you must Reside in a voting district for at least one month. Be at least 18 years of age. Not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction. Register to vote. Remember Me. Log in.