A thrilling and incisive examination of the post-Reconstruction era struggle for and suppression of African American voting rights in the United States.
Following the Civil War, the Reconstruction era raised a new question to those in power in the US: Should African Americans, so many of them former slaves, be granted the right to vote?
In a bitter partisan fight over the legislature and Constitution, the answer eventually became yes, though only after two constitutional amendments, two Reconstruction Acts, two Civil Rights Acts, three Enforcement Acts, the impeachment of a president, and an army of occupation. Yet, even that was not enough to ensure that African American voices would be heard, or their lives protected. White supremacists loudly and intentionally prevented black Americans from voting -- and they were willing to kill to do so.
In this vivid portrait of the systematic suppression of the African American vote for young adults, critically acclaimed author Lawrence Goldstone traces the injustices of the post-Reconstruction era through the eyes of incredible individuals, both heroic and barbaric, and examines the legal cases that made the Supreme Court a partner of white supremacists in the rise of Jim Crow. Though this is a story of America's past, Goldstone brilliantly draws direct links to today's creeping threats to suffrage in this important and, alas, timely book.
About the Author
Lawrence Goldstone is the author of Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights, which School Library Journal declared in a starred review: "A must-buy for all high school collections"; and Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice, which Booklist's starred review called "gripping . . . and a well-informed perspective on American history." He is also the author of more than a dozen books for adults, including four on Constitutional law. He lives in Sagaponack, New York, with his wife, medieval and Renaissance historian Nancy Goldstone.
Read an Excerpt
With the army concentrated in the cities or other densely populated areas, the Klan’s reputation in the countryside as a terrorist organization beyond the reach of law spread dread among black residents. Often, Klan members needed simply to show up to keep black men from the voting booth. Even worse, in those cases, the Klan would not specifically have broken any laws.
"If a party of white men, with ropes conspicuous on their saddlebows, rode up to a polling place and announced that hanging would begin in fifteen minutes, though without any more definite reference to anybody, and a group of blacks who had assembled to vote heard the remark and promptly disappeared, votes were lost, but a conviction on a charge of intimidation was difficult. Or if an untraceable rumor that trouble was [looming] for blacks was followed by the mysterious appearance of horsemen on the roads at midnight, firing guns and yelling at nobody in particular, votes again were lost, but no crime or misdemeanor could be brought home to any one."
Even with the army in occupation, Klan terror was successful. In the presidential election of 1868, in eleven counties in Georgia, each with a majority of black voters, not a single vote was reported for Grant and the Republicans. That same year, when the Reconstruction state constitution was up for a vote in Mississippi, "it was charged by the Republicans . . . that whites terrorized the negroes by the Kuklux method, and either kept them away from the polls or intimidated them into voting against the Constitution."
By 1875, largely because of the campaign of terror by Klan groups and other violent white supremacist organizations, seven of the eleven secessionist states had been "Redeemed," or returned to Democratic control. The remaining four, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, would become the centers of both the war-at-any-cost effort to restore white rule and the last desperate attempts to maintain at least some areas of equal rights in the South.
Perched on the fulcrum of this seesaw was the United States Supreme Court.