Tags: Polls | Presidential History | Voting Rights | civil war | south

150 Years Ago This Weekend, Fmr. Slaves Voted in Va.

150 Years Ago This Weekend, Fmr. Slaves Voted in Va.
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Friday, 20 October 2017 10:28 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Following the Civil War, defeated Confederate States were required to draft and ratify new state constitutions. As part of that process, "the army's commanding general in Virginia ordered that African Americans be given the right to vote for and to be elected delegates to the convention."[1]

This weekend, 150 years ago — on Oct. 22, 1867 — 93,145 African Americans who had been enslaved and freed went to the polls and cast their ballots. Not only that, 24 were elected as delegates to the state’s Constitutional Convention.[1]

The resistance to allowing black Virginians to vote was intense (as was true throughout the former Confederate States). It required a military presence by the Union Army to enforce this basic right. Less than a decade after blacks first voted in Virginia, however, the Union military presence ended. The right of blacks to vote was taken away and not restored until the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The decisive moment was the 1876 presidential election. When the votes were tallied, 13 Electoral College votes in three Southern states were disputed. Without those votes, Democrat Samuel Tilden had a 12-vote lead. That meant Republican Rutherford B. Hayes could become president only by winning all 13 of the disputed Electoral College votes.

Had blacks been able to participate freely, there’s no doubt Hayes would have carried the states and all the Electoral College votes. African-American voters were reliably Republican in those days. However, as described in "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," the fraud and voter suppression in Southern states was beyond anything we can imagine in the 21st century.

The election wasn’t finally decided for months. When all was said and done, Hayes became president and the Union troops left the South. There are many hints of a corrupt bargain to make this happen. Black voters were not only denied the vote for decades to come, but many black leaders who had been elected to office became victims of violence. At least seven were killed.[2]

Events like this remind us that there has always been great resistance to our nation’s founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. The Southern states fought a Civil War because they explicitly rejected those ideals. Today, many resist the notion of self-governance and prefer an administrative state that limits voter involvement.

Special thanks to Rosanna Bencoach, the general registrar of voters in Charlottesville, Virginia, for suggesting this Number of the Day.

Footnotes:

  1. Document Bank of Virginia, "The First Vote, Engraving Published in Harper's Weekly, 1867," accessed October 19, 2017
  2. Rasmussen, S. (2017). Politics Has Failed: America Will Not. Salt Lake City, UT: Sutherland Institute.

    Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology. Columns published on Ballotpedia reflect the views of the author.

    Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Events like this remind us that there has always been great resistance to our nation’s founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. Today, many resist the notion of self-governance and prefer an Administrative State that limits voter involvement.
civil war, south
525
2017-28-20
Friday, 20 October 2017 10:28 AM
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