Pre-20th Century Black Resistance to Disenfranchisement

Despite continuous attempts to keep them away from the ballot box and out of government, African Americans fought to keep their voices heard.

Throughout the later part of the 19th century, several black men held elected office in the South, in both the state legislatures and in Washington D.C. Those Black voters who were able to make it beyond the deliberate barriers at the polls continued to vote in order to advance their interests and combat injustice.

 

Coalition Building & The Readjuster Party

The formation of coalitions was another way that African Americans were able to band together to resist new forms of disenfranchisement.

The Readjusters, a party made up of Black voters and whites who opposed the interests of wealthy white Democrats, was formed in Virginia in the early 1880s. The party gained considerable political power and was able to see the repeal of the state poll tax in 1882 that had disenfranchised both African Americans and lower-class whites.

Populism as an Outlet for Resistance in Spite of Racism

This sentiment of unity between races against the elite continued into the 1890s with the formation of the Populist party, which drew the support of many African Americans for its stances against economic barriers to democracy.

However, while the Populists at first used the Black vote to their advantage, they were hardly committed to racial justice - turning against their African American supporters when it became a political strategy amidst the racism that permeated politics in the era.