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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

15th Amendment: Right to Vote, Kind of

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." This was ratified on February 3, 1870.

Southern whites were intent on prohibiting African-Americans from voting, and used such tactics as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, poll taxes, gerrymandering, intimidation, violence and terrorism to keep African-Americans from doing so. Consequently, few African-Americans were able to participate in the political process.

It would in fact take another hundred years via the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.

Sources: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/15thamendment.html

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=015/llsl015.db&recNum=379 (15th Amendment)

Here is a post I read online about one person’s family experience with voting during the Reconstruction Period: http://blackgenealogy.blogspot.com/2008/03/letter-to-genealogyguys.html

What have you found in your research about your family’s voting experience? Did you find your information in voting records (if so, which records have you used?) or other sources? Would love to hear your stories from this Reconstruction Period.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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