African Americans and the Right to Vote

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African Americans and the Right to Vote

The right to vote is a fundamental principle of democracy, yet for African Americans in the United States this right has been fraught with obstacles. This article will explore the history of African American voting rights and its significance both legally and culturally since emancipation. We will trace how disenfranchisement strategies have evolved from Reconstruction era black codes to contemporary tactics such as voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority populations. Moreover, we will examine how civil rights activists worked to break down these barriers over time through litigation and advocacy campaigns, culminating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Finally, we’ll consider what progress still needs to be made today to ensure all citizens can exercise their constitutional right freely and equitably without interference or intimidation.


Voting is an integral part of any functioning democracy. It allows citizens to have a say in the governing process and hold public officials accountable for their actions. As such, ensuring that everyone has access to voting is essential if democracies are going to remain strong.

When African Americans were granted the right to vote with the passing of the 15th Amendment, it was an important step forward for civil rights in America. Yet despite this victory, many states enacted laws designed to make it more difficult or impossible for African Americans to exercise their right to vote by instituting poll taxes or literacy tests.

  • Poll Taxes Poll taxes were a set fee imposed on individuals who wanted to cast ballots during elections. This made voting prohibitively expensive for many people living in poverty, especially those belonging from minority communities like African American people.
  • Literacy Tests Literacy tests posed questions about history and government affairs that had no real purpose other than providing an excuse not allow certain groups from being ableto vote.
    For example when African American Right To Vote would be asked about obscure historical figures or legal documents related specifically only white voters knew , making it virtually impossible them pass.


    Grandfather Clause Grandfather clauses exempted from these requirements anyone whose grandfather had been eligible practice suffrage before 1867– thus allowing poor whites register while still excludingAfrican-American citizens.
    When african american right t oVote was first established after end of Civil War legislation like grandfather clause sought undermine advances .
I. Introduction to African Americans and the Right to Vote

The History of African Americans and the Right to Vote:

African Americans have a long history when it comes to voting rights. After abolishing slavery in 1865, the 15th Amendment was ratified on February 3rd, 1870 which stated that no one could be denied their right to vote based on race or skin color. However, this law only applied formally; African American citizens were still not able to exercise their right at the polls due to other measures such as poll taxes and literacy tests.

  • Poll Taxes – An amount of money demanded from an individual by local governments as a requirement for them registering themselves or exercising their right in general elections. This was aimed directly at preventing African Americans from being able register and/or cast votes.
  • Literacy Tests – Voters had to take writing exams that tested individuals’ knowledge about complex topics like State government laws before they were allowed access into voter registration booths.

These requirements disproportionately affected lower income groups who often couldn’t afford these fees while also causing delays with administrative paperwork.

Though enforced for many years up until 1965 under Jim Crow Laws,the passage of the Voting Rights Act did away with several impediments for voters – including those mentioned above – thus finally allowing African American citizens true access into voting booths across America when african american right to vote . The 24th Amendment then completed this effort by banning any form of taxation that would prevent someone from participating in federal elections when african american right ot vote. Finally, after numerous attempts since Reconstruction (1865) period following Civil War , African Americans gained full freedom over ballot boxes throughout country when african american rignts oto voe .

II. Historical Context of Voting Rights in America

The history of voting rights in the United States has been a complex one. From early days when only white, male landowners could vote, to more recent times where people from all backgrounds and genders are granted this right – America’s journey towards universal suffrage is long and winding. In particular, there have been numerous milestones related to African American voting rights throughout the nation’s history.

  • In 1790, Congress passed naturalization laws granting citizenship to any “free white person” who had resided in the US for two years or longer.
  • Even after being emancipated following the Civil War with passage of the 13th Amendment (1865), many freed slaves were still unable to exercise their newly acquired right due to discriminatory practices such as poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses.

Following Reconstruction (1865-77), these barriers were erected by states that wanted to limit black political participation–and successfully kept large numbers away from polls until 1965 . Despite much legal action seeking relief against racial discrimination in politics (e.g., Supreme Court decision mandating equal protection under 14th Amendment; 15th Amendment protecting blacks’ access ot ballot box) , it was not until passage of Voting Rights Act of 1965 that comprehensive federal legislation finally put an end disenfranchisement policies aimed at blocking access for African Americans when they tried to vote.

These efforts paid off: within 5 years since its implementation , over 1 million new African American voters registered across 11 southern states alone . This was also evident through various key moments during this period including election success for mayors like Carl Stokes in Cleveland (1967); Shirley Chisholm becoming first Black woman elected U.S House Representative (1968); electing Jesse Jackson presidential candidate representing Democratic Party(1984). Today despite remaining disparities between races on voter turnout levels , great strides have been made toward achieving universal suffrage especially given earlier centuries marked by institutionalized restrictions limiting minorities particularly persons color trying register cast ballots – culminating with when African Americans won right vote back 1865 Amendments .

III. The 15th Amendment: Recognition of African American Suffrage

The 15th Amendment: Recognition of African American Suffrage

  • Before the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, African Americans were denied suffrage.
  • Despite amendments to both state and federal constitutions that had abolished slavery since 1865, former slaves were still prevented from exercising their right to vote in many states across America due to voter suppression laws.
  • It was not until Congress passed and ratified the Fifteenth Amendment that voting rights for black men became a reality.

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States… shall not be denied the right to vote on account of race.”

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869 and ratified on February 3, 1870 with its words becoming part of Article One Section 2 Clause 1 when African American right to vote became recognized under law.

This amendment prohibited any State from denying a citizen’s ability to cast their ballot based on their race. With these new protections provided by this amendment came increased persecution through intimidation tactics like poll taxes or literacy tests which kept large numbers disenfranchised well into 1960s civil rights movement. In spite of efforts meant to exclude them from participating within democracy when African American right to vote remained an issue throughout history as they faced systematic restrictions preventing them form exercising this basic freedom along side other citizens.
< br/> The Voting Rights Act (VRA) was established over five decades after ratification of 15th Amendment seeking additional means necessary measures designed eradicate all forms discrimination against minorities at polls when african american right

IV. Jim Crow Laws and Disenfranchisement of Black Voters

Impact of Jim Crow Laws

  • The enforcement of segregation laws in the Southern United States had a profoundly negative impact on African Americans.
  • Though these laws varied from state to state, they all prohibited blacks from accessing certain public facilities and limited their educational opportunities.
  • Jim Crow Laws also sought to impede African American political power by disenfranchising them through poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements and other arbitrary measures.

Disenfranchisement of Black Voters

Due to extreme racism and discriminatory practices, when African American right to vote was finally granted with the 15th Amendment in 1870 – it took another 95 years for full voting rights due largely because this constitutional amendment could not be enforced without federal legislation.

Therefore, until passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965 which removed barriers that prevented black citizens from exercising their legal right to vote; many southern states created various strategies aimed at restricting or preventing African Americans’ access to polls – such as grandfather clauses and literacy tests.

These tactics allowed local officials wide discretion in denying applications for voter registration– ultimately leading again towards an atmosphere where most when African American rightto vote remained barred due solely based upon race.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s saw unprecedented changes to the laws around equal voting access in the United States. African American civil rights activists fought for their right to vote, ending years of legal discrimination at polling places throughout the country. Even after this major victory, there remained significant hurdles to ensuring everyone had an equitable opportunity for political representation.

  • Poll taxes: The Supreme Court case Harper v Virginia Board, decided in 1966, struck down poll taxes as unconstitutional. Poll taxes had been a common means used by some states to deny Black people from registering or casting ballots during elections.
  • Literacy tests: Giles v Harris, determined in 1967, declared that literacy tests given before allowing someone to register were also unconstitutional because they disproportionately targeted African Americans who did not have access to formal education.

Voter ID laws are another form of suppression faced today when African American’s right to vote is concerned; these laws require voters present identification upon arrival at a polling place regardless if they are already registered or not. This can be difficult for low-income communities where many citizens do not possess photo IDs needed by law due too lack of funds. Voter registration challenges have long created barriers between prospective voters and electoral participation particularly among communities with large minority populations , highlighting one more way racism has continued into modern politics despite landmark legislation from decades ago when African Americans righted their wrongs and finally earned full enfranchisement.

VI. Voter Suppression Tactics Targeting African American Communities Today

History of African American Voter Suppression:

African Americans have faced a long and enduring struggle for the right to vote. As early as 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, it promised free citizens full voting rights regardless of race or color.1 Despite this promise, many states across the country began enacting laws that made it harder for people who were African American to cast their ballot in elections. These included poll taxes and literacy tests which disproportionately affected these communities.2

Modern Day Tactics:

Today voter suppression still affects black voters’ access to the polls. This includes gerrymandering congressional districts so they are drawn away from minority-heavy areas; closing polling places located in predominately black neighborhoods; placing restrictions on third-party registration drives designed to increase voter turnout among young minorities; passing ‘voter ID’ laws that require individuals show government-issued photo identification at polls but disproportionally affect poorer and elderly populations which includes a large portion of those who are African American.3 Furthermore, there has been an aggressive campaign by conservative politicians aimed at attacking organizations like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) whose main focus is registering low income voters including many with racial backgrounds different than white .

The Impact Of The Current State Of When African Americans Can Vote:

Currently when African Americans can vote is heavily determined by socio economic status with higher levels impeding them from exercising their democratic right due in part to institutionalized policies such as criminal records barring people from casting ballots even after completion of sentences , stricter photo id requirements limiting some 15 million americans mostly poor & minorities , tighter rules restricting absentee/mail -in balloting because alleged fraud will occur impacting service members overseas & students away at college etc .. All combined form road blocks preventing african american participation leading up too few representatives elected or appointed throughout US political system today . When african american right to vote continues being restricted election outcomes overall remain undemocratic thus our nation fails its founders promises of liberty & justice for all !

1. “13th Amendment.” Our Documents, accessed June 4th 2020.,
2.”Voter Literacy Tests,” National Constitution Center , last modified July 3rd 2019.,–literacytests.
3 “Perspective | Voting Rights Are Again Under Attack,” Washington Post , last modified September 25 2018.,https://wwwdev20cpkwebstagecometwoprimecom359285614htmllocal=/ washingtonpost/.amphtml..
(Don’t forget about your cited sources! )

VII. Conclusion: Ensuring Equality at the Ballot Box

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. This right gives all citizens an equal voice in choosing who will represent them and make decisions for their community, state, and nation. Unfortunately, over the years African American citizens have been systematically deprived of this crucial freedom.

  • State governments across the United States passed laws that made it harder for African Americans to register or cast ballots at the polls

Various strategies are being employed today to ensure equality at the ballot box when African American right to vote. These strategies include voter education campaigns with a particular focus on increasing awareness among minority communities about new voting rules; providing assistance from local organizations like churches and nonprofit groups regarding registration procedures; offering free rides to polling places so people can easily access their civic duty without financial obstacles; recruiting poll workers from diverse backgrounds so that there is greater representation among those facilitating voting activities; installing more accessible machines in areas where disabled individuals may require extra help while casting a ballot.

The Voting Rights Act has also played a major role in restoring when African American right to vote by making it illegal for states and counties with histories of discrimination against minorities—including blacks—to implement any changes affecting elections without pre-clearance approval from federal authorities. It’s through these efforts combined that we’ve seen improvements throughout America’s election systems: more eligible voters registered than ever before, fewer racial discrepancies during primary elections compared to 2008 results, increases in turnout rates especially amongst young adults aged 18–29.

This article has provided a comprehensive overview of African Americans and the Right to Vote, elucidating the importance of this right in order to ensure justice and equality. As we have seen, African American civil rights activists fought long and hard for their right to vote — even after they were granted suffrage, laws remained that further inhibited voting access. Though great strides have been made since then in increasing political representation of African Americans, the fight is still ongoing. The concept of “voter suppression” continues today as governments attempt to limit certain groups from having an equal say in democratic processes through various means. It is up to us all — regardless or race or ethnicity — to ensure our democracy truly works for everyone by upholding voting rights for all citizens equally.

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