Balance of Power: the Negro Vote

Balance of Power: the Negro Vote

Balance of Power: the Negro Vote

Balance of Power: the Negro Vote

Excerpt

INTENT UPON ATTAINING FULL EQUALITY OF CITIZENSHIP in his native land, the Negro American today sees in the ballot his most effective instrument in the long and hazardous struggle toward this goal. From such equality, he realizes, flow all the good things of life in a democratic society--the freedoms and enjoyments long denied him. His recent experiences have convinced him that his greatest hope for continued and accelerated progress lies in independent political action subject to the domination and control of no political party. He has arrived at this conviction through a circuitous route; indeed, after traversing a complete cycle: political action, the acquisition of property, the pursuit of learning, and now, again, political action. These were the converging roads he trod in search of freedom.

With the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, the nation belatedly acknowledged the Negro's hard-earned right to citizenship and the franchise. The hopeful ex-slave believed, when first he came into possession of the highly prized ballot, that his prayers had been realized and that he was on his way to the promised new freedom. This was to be his great opportunity to assume new responsibilities and to enjoy new privileges. The ballot was to be the key to a future of progress. That he used his franchise for socially useful purposes is indicated by his role in the establishment of public school systems, the abolition of property qualifications for voting, and the introduction of other long-overdue reforms in the South. His participation in Reconstruction, commonly discredited by historians, was bitterly opposed by the defeated and demoralized planter class and finally betrayed by northern politicians and industrialists. In 1877 this experiment in democracy was . . .

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