African American Voters

Klu Klux Klan Broadside, n.d.

Klu Klux Klan Broadside, n.d.

The struggle of African Americans to gain voting rights may be the hardest and longest in the nation's history.

Black men were granted the right to vote in 1870 after the passing of the 15th Amendment, but the reality they faced at the polls made participation in the political process difficult if not impossible. In many states, Jim Crow laws and the Klu Klux Klan sprang up to limit the rights and freedoms of African Americans.

Barriers to Voting After the Civil War

  • White Primaries: In some states party primaries were only open to white voters, excluding Black voters from deciding who would be on general election tickets
  • Grandfather Clauses: Some states required voters to prove that their ancestors had the right to vote before the Civil War, which effectively barred all former enslaved people from the polls
  • Poll Taxes and Literacy Tests: Other measures were put in place to disenfranchise poor or undereducated communities, including tests to prove the ability to read and write and fees in order to vote
  • Threats and Violence: African Americans, particularly in the South, faced terrorism and lynching from groups such as the Klu Klux Klan

The 1965 Voting Rights Act made these blatant attempts to suppress Black voters illegal, but barriers to voting for underprivileged groups in America still exist today.