Black in the Day…The Disenfranchisement Continues

September 1, 1898:

 

Black in the Day:

On this date the state of Louisiana joined the list of many other southern states in the continued alienation of Black folks having  basic human rights. The disfranchisement of Black folks has been an ever present hurdle that Blacks have had to jump over.  From the late 1870s, racists have worked tirelessly to weaken Black political power. They employed violence and intimidation to scare many Blacks from voting. White landlords would sometimes threaten or bribe Black sharecroppers and renters not to vote or to vote for the landlord’s candidates. They used the threat of joblessness as a means to keep Black folks from voting. In the post-Reconstruction era, Southern states mobilized a vast campaign of suffrage restriction—fraud, registration laws, and literary tests—in an effort to disempower African Americans and maintain Democratic party dominance. One form of voting restriction aimed specifically at African Americans was the Grandfather clause that allowed men to register to vote only if they could have voted in 1867 (before African Americans were allowed to vote in the South) or descended from an 1867 voter. The following is an excerpt from the Louisiana law of 1898 was typical of many such restrictions:

 

[Article 197] Sec. 3. He [the elector] shall be able to read and write, and shall demonstrate his ability to do so when he applies for registration, by making, under oath administered by the registration officer or his deputy, written application therefor, in the English language, or his mother tongue, which application shall contain the essential facts necessary to show that he is entitled to register and vote, and shall be entirely written, dated and signed by him, in the presence of the registration officer or his deputy, without assistance or suggestion from any person or any memorandum whatever, except the form of application. . . .

Sec. 4. If he be not able to read and write, as provided by Section three . . . then he shall be entitled to register and vote if he shall, at the time he offers to register, be the bona fide owner of property assessed to him in this State at a valuation of not less than three hundred dollars . . . and on which, if such property be personal only, all taxes due shall have been paid. . . .

Sec. 5. No male person who was on January 1st, 1867, or at any date prior thereto, entitled to vote under the Constitution or statutes of any State of the United States, wherein he then resided, and no son or grandson of any such person not less than twenty—one years of age at the date of the adoption of this Constitution, and no male person of foreign birth, who was naturalized prior to the first day of January, 1898, shall be denied the right to register and vote in this State by reason of his failure to possess the educational or property qualifications prescribed by this Constitution; provided, he shall have resided in this State for five years next preceding the date at which he shall apply for registration, and shall have registered in accordance with the terms of this article prior to September 1, 1898, and no person shall be entitled to register under this section after said date. . . .
A separate registration of voters applying under this section, shall be made by the registration officer of every parish. . . .

The registration of voters under this section [5] shall close on the 31st day of August, 1898, and immediately thereafter the registration Officer of every parish shall make a sworn copy, in duplicate, of the list of persons registered under this section, showing in detail whether the applicant registered as a voter of 1867, or prior thereto, or as the son of such voter, or as the grandson of such voter, and deposit one of said duplicates in the Office of the Secretary of State . . . and the other of said duplicates shall be by him filed in the office of the Clerk of the District Court of the parish. . . .

All persons whose names appear on said registration lists shall be admitted to register for all elections in this State without possessing the educational or property qualification prescribed by this Constitution, unless otherwise disqualified, and all persons who do not by personal application claim exemption from the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of this article before September 1st, 1898, shall be forever denied the right to do so.

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