At the dawn of the 20thcentury, African-American men had the theoretical right to vote, but the continuation of KKK intimidation and murder, poll taxes and literacy tests rendered it mostly ineffective. Meanwhile, there were other disenfranchised Americans still not allowed to vote—most notably women, Native Americans and Asian Americans. Of these groups, the women’s suffrage movement was the most highly organized and ultimately effective.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first convention for women’s voting rights at Seneca Falls in…1848! It took 72 years before it was finally ratified by Congress. Both Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and others were not in favor of including black women in their campaigns, so in 1896, Harriet Tubman, Frances Harper, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells formed the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Throughout this time, there were many other notable women, both black and white, working for voting rights for all women.
Finally women—both white and black—were given the right to vote, though black women were still at the mercy of the Jim Crow strategies to make voting both difficult and dangerous. Native American women were “given” the vote (quotation marks to make clear that this was right they should have had from the beginning) in a legislation enacted in 1924 and Asian-American women in 1952, both from Bills that finally granted them citizenship.
1965—Voting Rights Act
Really, just a reiteration a century later saying, “Follow the 13thAmendment!” by officially making the underhanded poll tax and literacy tests illegal. Meaning that the white supremacists (and I’m not just talking about hooded Klan members here!) had to come up with a different strategy. And sure enough they did.
1969/ 1982/ 1994 —The New Jim Crow: School to Prison Pipeline
As a political strategy to get radical leftists, black folks, Hispanic activists off of the voting rolls, Richard Nixon began a War on Drugs following his 1968 election. Ronald Reagan stepped it up considerably in 1982, Bill Clinton gave it a another boost with his Crime Bill of 1994 and suddenly, prisons were overflowing with black folks who would not be allowed to vote when they served their time. The basic strategy was:
Step 1: Make marijuana and later crack-cocaine a felony (but cocaine used by upper-class folks was okay).
Step 2: Announce an all-out Drug War to send all hippies and people of color to jail.
Step 3: Deny voting rights to anyone convicted of a felony.
It worked. The new Jim Crow managed to disenfranchise yet again an enormous percentage of black voters.
In spite of all that, this happened (see next Post).