Black suffrage

Black suffrage is Black people's right to vote. Black suffrage has been at issue in countries established under conditions of white supremacy. It may be limited through official or informal (de facto) discrimination. In many places, black people have obtained suffrage through national independence. It should also be pointed out that "Black suffrage" in the United States in the aftermath of the American Civil War explicitly refers to "Black Male Suffrage". While women citizens, regardless of race, held rights to vote in some states, at the federal level, the U.S. Constitution was not interpreted to prohibit discrimination against women in voting, regardless of their race, until the passage of the 19th Amendment which was ratified by the United States Congress on August 18 and then certified by law on August 26, 1920.

British Empire and United Kingdom

South Africa

Cape Colony

  • The Cape Qualified Franchise restricted voting by property ownership but not explicitly by race.
    • In 1853, the Queen authorized a Cape Colony parliament, which drafted a Constitution with no explicit racial restriction.
    • Cape Colony's "Responsible Government" Constitution, issued in 1872, explicitly prohibited racial discrimination.
    • Under Prime Minister Gordon Sprigg, the Colony passed the 1877 "Registration Bill", disenfranchising Black communal land owners.
    • The Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 raised the threshold for suffrage from £25 to £75, accomplishing de facto disenfranchisement of many non-White voters

South Africa


United States


  • Before the Revolution, only some local elections were held, the first real national suffrage appeared in 1791.
  • From 1791, France installed several male suffrage systems, alternating between census and universal suffrage. In mainland France, there was no racial criterion to be a voter so technically from this date, Black (male) voters existed and received the same rights as non-Blacks. They were still rare as segregation in France was not based directly on skin color or racialism but on the status as a slave or as a free human. Later it would be based on status as a mainland citizen or as a colony citizen.
  • From there, through the first half of the 19th century, frequent changes in the national government caused the colonies (where most slaves were, as their presence was restricted in mainland France) to have different rules than mainland France, often illegally. Several uprising occurred in the colonies during this period and the colonial rules diverged considerably from mainland France.
  • In mainland France:
    • In 1794 the government abolished slavery.
    • In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte re-established slavery and, possibly owing to his disagreements with Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a black general, forbade Blacks and people of mixed-ancestry (mulâtres) to enter mainland France.
    • In 1815 slave trade was abolished, but not slavery
    • In 1848 slavery is formally abolished in France and all slaves are freed.
  • In the French Colonial Empire, however, most indigenous people were not recognized as full French citizens and therefore often did not have the right to vote:
    • Vincent Ogé, who had been working in Paris during the Revolution, returned to the island slave colony of Saint-Domingue and demanded voting rights. Ogé led an insurrection in 1790 and was executed in 1791. Enslaved people took control of the island in the subsequent Revolution and established the Republic of Haiti. (Elections were held but the democracy was not stable.)
    • France promoted a model of assimilation according to which Blacks and indigenous people could gain voting (and other) rights by successfully conforming to French culture. These high-status Blacks were known as les Évoluées.
    • People living in French colonies primarily fell under the Code de l'indigénat. Les indigènes had some voting privileges, but these could be modified without their consent.
    • Following the Revolution of 1848, France granted limited representation to the Four Communes of Senegal. Ordinary residents of these cities gained full voting rights in 1916 after the election of Blaise Diagne.
    • Lamine Guèye (another Senegalese politician) also achieved expanded voting rights ("loi Lamine Guèye") for people in the colonies.
    • Residents of African colonies were permitted to vote in the French constitutional referendum, 1958, which established the French Community. Most colonies voted for independence, resulting in the creation of 17 Black nations in the Year of Africa.

Belgian Congo


  1. ^ "Ancient voting rights", The History of the Parliamentary Franchise, House of Commons Library, 1 March 2013, p. 6, retrieved 16 March 2016
  2. ^ Everette Swinney, "Enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment, 1870–1877." Journal of Southern History 28#2 (1962): 202–218. [1]

See also

Further reading

  • Beckman, Ludvig. "Who Should Vote? Conceptualizing Universal Suffrage in Studies of Democracy." Democratisation 15.1 (2008): 29-48.
  • Paxton, Pamela, et al. "A half-century of suffrage: New data and a comparative analysis." Studies in Comparative International Development 38.1 (2003): 93-122.
  • Robinson, George M. Fredrickson Edgar E. Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa (Oxford University Press, 1995).
  • Sneider, Allison. "The New Suffrage History: Voting Rights in International Perspective." History Compass 8.7 (2010): 692-703. focus on women.
1860 New York state election

The 1860 New York state election was held on November 6, 1860, to elect the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Canal Commissioner, and an Inspector of State Prisons, as well as all members of the New York State Assembly. Besides, the question of Negro suffrage was asked, and was answered in the negative with 197,503 votes for and 337,984 against it.

1860 New York suffrage referendum

A referendum on black suffrage was held in New York in 1860. Voters were asked whether universal suffrage for black men 21 years of age and older should be introduced. At the time, black voters were required to meet certain property-owning criteria. Black men who owned the required amount of property could still vote in the state, and many did vote in the referendum.The referendum question failed, with 64% voting against the change, and property restrictions to vote were maintained for blacks.

The referendum was most heavily supported by voters in Upstate New York. The Five Boroughs of New York City, as well as most of the area around the city, voted against the proposed amendment.

1867 Kansas suffrage referendum

The U.S. state of Kansas held a referendum on November on a proposed constitutional amendment to grant women the full right to vote on November 5, 1867. It was the first-ever referendum on women's suffrage in U.S. history, and specifically sought to amend Section 1, Article 5 of the state constitution to "eliminate the word "male" from the clause defining the qualifications of an elector." The amendment had been approved by the legislature, but had to be ratified by the all-white-male electorate of the state; the proposed amendment shared the November ballot with a proposition to "eliminate the word "white" from the clause defining the qualifications of an elector" and allow African-American males the right to vote.

Andrew Jackson Hamilton

This page is about a former politician; for other people named Andrew Hamilton, see Andrew Hamilton (disambiguation).Andrew Jackson Hamilton (January 28, 1815 – April 11, 1875) was a United States politician during the third quarter of the 19th century. He was a lawyer, state representative, military governor of Texas, as well as the 11th Governor of Texas during Reconstruction.

Black suffrage in Pennsylvania

Prior the early 1800s wealthy African-American men could vote just as their rich European-American male counterparts could. However, voting rights were expanded to include poor European-American men, in a shift that began the transgression away from a stratified society based on class, to one which was now based on race; black wealthy men were now no longer allowed to vote. This page covers the context of the gradual decline in rights for African Americans which culminated in the loss of their voting rights, as well as the effects on the surrounding society and the resulting political climate as well as the revolt from the black community.

Charles Henry Langston

Charles Henry Langston (1817–1892) was an American abolitionist and political activist who was active in Ohio and later in Kansas, during and after the American Civil War, where he worked for black suffrage and other civil rights. He was a spokesman for blacks of Kansas and "the West".Born free in Louisa County, Virginia, he was the son of a wealthy white planter and his common-law African American-Native American Pamunkey wife. His father provided for his education and ensured Langston and his brothers inherited his estate. In 1835 he and his brother Gideon were the first African Americans to attend Oberlin College in Ohio.

Langston worked for 30 years for equal rights, suffrage and education in Ohio and Kansas. In 1858, Langston was tried with a white colleague for the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, a cause célèbre that was a catalyst for increasing support for abolition. That year Langston helped found the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society and, with his younger brother John as president, led it as executive secretary. After the American Civil War, he was appointed as general superintendent of refugees and freedmen for the Freedmen's Bureau in Kansas. In 1872 he was appointed as principal of the Quindaro Freedman's School (later Western University), the first black college west of the Mississippi River.

He was an older brother of John Mercer Langston, an accomplished attorney and activist, who had numerous appointed posts, and in 1888 was the first black person elected to the United States Congress from Virginia (and the last for nearly a century). Charles was the grandfather of renowned poet Langston Hughes.

Conservative Party of Virginia (1867)

The Conservative Party of Virginia was a United States political party in the state of Virginia during the second half of 19th century. It centered on opposition to Reconstruction. During its history, the party was successful in electing six congressmen to the U.S. House of Representatives, all during the 41st Congress. The party was related to similar conservative movements in other states, combining Liberal Republicans and repentant Democrats looking to improve their image as "friends of the black people" on a national level. The movement was also closely tied to the "New Departure" movement of Virginia statesman William Mahone. The Conservative Party's efforts ultimately divided the Republican Party in the state and caused its political power in Virginia to diminish.

Dunning School

The Dunning School refers to a historiographical school of thought regarding the Reconstruction period of American history (1865–1877), supporting conservative elements against the Radical Republicans who introduced civil rights in the South.

Enforcement Act of 1870

The Enforcement Act of 1869, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1870 or First Ku Klux Klan Act, or Force Act was a United States federal law written to empower the President with the legal authority to enforce the first section of the Fifteenth Amendment throughout the United States. The act was the first of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks on the suffrage rights of African Americans from state officials or violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan.The act would develop from separate legislative actions in the House and Senate. H.R. 1293 was introduced by House Republican John Bingham from Ohio on February 21, 1870, and discussed on May 16, 1870. S. 810 grew from several bills from several Senators. Senator George F. Edmunds from Vermont submitted the first bill, followed by Sen. Oliver P. Morton from Indiana, Sen. Charles Sumner from Massachusetts, and Sen. William Stewart from Nevada. After three months of debate in the Committee on the Judiciary, the final Senate version of the bill was introduced to the Senate on April 19, 1870. The act was passed by Congress in May 1870 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on May 31, 1870.

The Enforcement Act of 1870 prohibited discrimination by state officials in voter registration on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It established penalties for interfering with a person's right to vote and gave federal courts the power to enforce the act. The act also authorized the President to employ the use of the army to uphold the act and the use of federal marshals to bring charges against offenders for election fraud, the bribery or intimidation of voters, and conspiracies to prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.

Horatio Seymour 1868 presidential campaign

In 1868, the Democrats nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour for President and Francis Preston Blair Jr. (a Representative from Missouri) for Vice President. The Seymour-Blair ticket ran on a platform which supported national reconciliation and states' rights, opposed Reconstruction, and opposed both Black equality and Black suffrage. Meanwhile, the Republican presidential ticket led by General Ulysses S. Grant benefited from Grant's status as a war hero (for winning the American Civil War) and ran on a pro-Reconstruction (and pro-Fourteenth Amendment) platform. Ultimately, the Seymour-Blair ticket ended up losing to the Republican ticket of General Ulysses S. Grant and House Speaker Schuyler Colfax in the 1868 U.S. presidential election.

James G. Taliaferro

James Govan Taliaferro (September 28, 1798 – October 13, 1876) was a lawyer, judge, and newspaper publisher in Louisiana. In 1860 he owned 27 slaves and a plantation valued at $87,000. As the secession movement grew he remained a staunch Unionist and was held for some time in a Confederate prison during the American Civil War. A Whig, he later joined the Republican Party and was an outspoken opponent of secession. He was an opponent of the Thirteenth Amendment and ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1865 on a platform against Black suffrage. He remained active in Republican Party politics during the Reconstruction Era and was a candidate for governor in 1868 with the backing of Louis Charles Roudanez and his African American newspaper. He ran for governor with running mate Francis Ernest Dumas, an "almost white" Union officer and former slaveholder. They lost to a Northern Civil War veteran officer who ended up undermining civil rights legislation and being removed from office for election corruption in 1872.

Taliaferro was born to Zacharias Taliaferro and Sally Warwick on September 28, 1798 in Amherst, Virginia. The family moved to Claiborne County, Mississippi in 1806 and then to Catahoula Parish, Louisiana in 1815.

James Shepherd Pike

James Shepherd Pike (September 8, 1811 – November 29, 1882) was an American journalist and a historian of South Carolina during the Reconstruction Era

Naturalization Act of 1870

The Naturalization Act of 1870 (16 Stat. 254) was a United States federal law that created a system of controls for the naturalization process and penalties for fraudulent practices. It is also noted for extending the naturalization process to "aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent."

Octavius Catto

Octavius Valentine Catto (February 22, 1839 – October 10, 1871) was a black educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist in Philadelphia. He became principal of male students at the Institute for Colored Youth, where he had also been educated. Born free in Charleston, South Carolina, in a prominent mixed-race family, he moved north as a boy with his family. He became educated and served as a teacher, becoming active in civil rights. As a man, he also became known as a top cricket and baseball player in 19th-century Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Catto became a martyr to racism, as he was shot and killed in election-day violence in Philadelphia, where ethnic Irish of the Democratic Party, which was anti-Reconstruction and had opposed black suffrage, attacked black men to prevent their voting for Republican candidates.

P. G. T. Beauregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard (May 28, 1818 – February 20, 1893) was an American military officer who was the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Today, he is commonly referred to as P. G. T. Beauregard, but he rarely used his first name as an adult. He signed correspondence as G. T. Beauregard.

Trained as a civil engineer at the United States Military Academy, Beauregard served with distinction as an engineer in the Mexican–American War. Following a brief appointment as superintendent at West Point in 1861, after the South seceded he resigned from the United States Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He commanded the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, at the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Three months later he won the First Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia.

Beauregard commanded armies in the Western Theater, including at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, and the Siege of Corinth in northern Mississippi. He returned to Charleston and defended it in 1863 from repeated naval and land attacks by Union forces. His greatest achievement was saving the important industrial city of Petersburg, Virginia, in June 1864, and thus the nearby Confederate capital of Richmond, from assaults by overwhelmingly superior Union Army forces.

His influence over Confederate strategy was lessened by his poor professional relationships with President Jefferson Davis and other senior generals and officials. In April 1865, Beauregard and his commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, convinced Davis and the remaining cabinet members that the war needed to end. Johnston surrendered most of the remaining armies of the Confederacy, including Beauregard and his men, to Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. Following his military career, Beauregard returned to Louisiana, where he advocated for black civil rights and black suffrage, served as a railroad executive, and became wealthy as a promoter of the Louisiana Lottery.

Sadie L. Adams

Sadie L. Adams (February 24, 1872 – July 30, 1945) was an African American teacher, suffragette, and clubwoman. She was one of the first women to serve on an election board in Chicago and one of the founders of the Douglas League of Women Voters. In 1916, she served as a delegate from Chicago's first black suffrage organization, the Alpha Suffrage Club, to the National Equal Rights League conference. She was elected president of the Chicago and Northern District Association of Colored Women's Clubs in 1921, serving into 1934.

W. H. C. Stephenson

W. H. C. Stephenson (c1825 - April 6, 1899) was a doctor, preacher, and civil rights activist in Virginia City, Nevada and Omaha, Nebraska. He was probably the first black doctor in Nevada and worked for the rights of blacks in that city. He was noted for his efforts in support of black suffrage in Nevada at the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. He helped found the first Baptist church in Virginia City. He moved to Omaha in the late 1870s and continued his medical, religious, and civil rights work. He founded another Baptist church in Omaha, and was a prominent Republican and activist in the city.

Wendell Phillips

Wendell Phillips (November 29, 1811 – February 2, 1884) was an American abolitionist, advocate for Native Americans, orator, and attorney.

William Rainey Marshall

Willian Rainey Marshall (October 17, 1825 – January 8, 1896) was an American politician. He was the fifth Governor of Minnesota from January 8, 1866 to January 9, 1870 and was a member of the Republican party. He served as an officer in the 7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War (1861–1865).

He was born in Columbia, Missouri. Marshall first settled in Illinois and Wisconsin, where he mined for lead and surveyed land. He was elected to served in the Wisconsin State Assembly in the 1st Wisconsin Legislature in 1848 as a Democrat, but his seat was successfully contested by Joseph Bowron, because his home in St. Croix Falls was on the west (Minnesota Territory) side of the new state line. In 1849 he crossed the St. Croix River to settle in St. Paul, soon home of his fledgling hardware business. He served a term in the first Minnesota territorial legislature, and his reputation grew when he served as chairman of the convention that founded the state's Republican Party.

The one-time banker, dairy farmer, stock-raiser, and newspaper publisher volunteered to fight in both the Civil War and the Dakota War of 1862. He enlisted as a private in the 8th Minnesota and was quickly appointed lieutenant colonel of the 7th Minnesota on August 28, 1862. He fought in many of the battles of the Dakota War being promoted to colonel of his regiment on November 6, 1863. Marshall and his regiment were transferred to Andrew Jackson Smith's command in Missouri and took part in the pursuit of Sterling Price. Smith's command was attached to George H. Thomas' army outside Nashville. When Colonel Sylvester G. Hill was killed the first day of the battle of Nashville, Colonel Marshall took command of Hill's brigade and led it throughout the rest of the battle. He continued in brigade command when transferred to Mobile, Alabama to take part in the Battle of Fort Blakeley. Colonel Marshall was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers, dated March 13, 1865.

Marshall won the 1865 and 1867 gubernatorial elections. As governor, he repeatedly urged passage of a black suffrage amendment. After defeating it twice, the legislature finally adopted the amendment and inspired Marshall to declare that the "free young state of Minnesota" is "now altogether free." During William Marshall's administration, his adoptive state experienced a post-Civil-War surge of growth and development: its population doubled to 350,000, its railroad mileage quadrupled, and its commercial endeavors flourished.

After leaving office, Marshall remained active in both the private and public sectors as an attorney, banker, and as a railroad and land commissioner. He was a partner in a law firm with Jude Kerr and Robertson Howard while residing in St. Paul, but subsequent commercial ventures faltered, as did his health. He moved to California in 1894 and died there two years later.

Marshall County, Minnesota and the city of Marshall, Minnesota were named after him. He is listed as one of the few politicians to be an adherent of Swedenborgianism.

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