The upcoming 2016 Presidential Election has been described as one of the most horrible and contentious campaigns in the history of elections. With the lack of good choices and undecided voters, some people have decided to stay home and not vote at all. We, as African Americans, do not have the pleasure of deciding not to vote because our ancestors had to overcome brutal and often life threatening stumbling blocks in order to have the right to vote.
According to the fifth amendment of the United States Constitution, it is illegal for federal and state governments from denying a citizen’s right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. At the end of the Civil War (1863), Congress questioned whether to prevent newly freed slaves from voting. Between the years of 1890 and 1910 most black voters in the south were deterred from voting because of certain state laws such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Whites were exempt from these laws because of a grandfather clause.
Poll taxes was a system put in place requiring citizens to pay all their back taxes before being allowed to vote. In the 1870s, the taxes were only $1-$2, but for newly freed African Americans families struggling to survive, the cost was a bit much. Most southern states instituted these laws including but not limited to Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana.
Another underhanded tactic that Whites used to hinder blacks from voting was literacy tests. In South Carolina in 1882, the state adopted the infamous “ eight-box” ballot system. This was a method where voter’s had to place their ballot in the corresponding box or else the ballot would have been thrown out. For example, a Senate ballot placed in the Governor’s box would have not been counted because the ballot and the box titles did not match. Poll taxes and literacy tests are only two of the ruthless ways whites used to prevent blacks from voting.
These senseless and baseless tactics were not limited to the 1800s. As late as the 1950s and 60s blacks wanting to register to vote were subjected to predicting accurately the amount of black jellybeans in a jar filled with red and black candies or to recite the Preamble of the Constitution. RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!! History records the murders, lynchings, and brutal beatings of those traveling south to register our people to vote.
Our ancestors had to overcome many obstacles to have the privilege to vote. Being aware of this history should give us pride in having the liberty to vote today. When we vote we give honor to our ancestors who could not freely vote.
On November 8th, even if you are not sure who to vote for, GO VOTE and make our ancestors proud!