How do you explain the disenfranchisement of southern blacks during the 1890’s? What measures did whites enact to prevent blacks from voting?
The disenfranchisement of southern blacks during the 1890’s and well into the early twentieth century was based on a number of actions that upper-class, white, southern Democrats used in order to reverse the shift of political power created by southern blacks voting Republican. These actions can be further characterized into two techniques: direct and indirect disenfranchisement. “Direct” disenfranchisement, often in the form of violence, differs from indirect disenfranchisement in that it openly prevents individuals from voting and having their votes counted. “Indirect” disenfranchisement on the other hand attempted to influence the political outcomes of southern elections by preventing the impact of those votes. (Kousser 1974) Violence and ballot box stuffing dominated as forms of early disenfranchisement actions in the south but the creation of the Enforcement Acts and Reconstruction Amendments led to more legal forms of disenfranchisement. Gerrymandering practices in the south ensured Democratic majority in state legislatures. This in turn allowed unchallenged, indirect disenfranchisement legislation and referendums to become lawful. The first legal disenfranchisement at state level not only affected and discouraged southern blacks from voting but also the poor southern whites. Poll taxes, literacy test, and prejudicial voter registration requirements were effective in securing the desired partisan success of upper-class and white Democrats in the southern United States during the 1890’s. Disenfranchisement in my opinion seems primarily more partisan motivated than racially motivated. Had African Americans not voted Republican (and their needs been addressed after Reconstruction by the Democratic Party) in southern elections would these techniques of voter suppression have occurred? Disenfranchisement along...
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