African Americans in U.S. Politics
by Barbara Deane
Published: February 2016
Since February is African American History Month, and this month also launches the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we thought it fitting to review the participation of African Americans in the U.S. political process.
1. When did African American men first get the right to vote?
2. When did African American women fully get the right to vote?
3. 3. In the suffrage parade of 1913, organized by Alice Paul’s Congressional Union, one African American woman refused to march in a segregated unit, when the African Americans were asked to do so. Who was she?
A. Sojourner Truth
B. Mary Church Terrell
C. Ida B. Wells
D. Mary Ann Shadd Carey
4. Who was the first African American governor of a U.S. State?
A. Henry Warmoth
B. Pinckney Pinchback
C. Booker T. Washington
D. Douglas Wilder
5. Which political party did African Americans first support?
A. Democratic Party
B. Republican Party
C. Whig Party
D. Free Soil Party
6. African Americans have the highest representation of any ethnic minority group in the United States Congress.
1. [A] 1869.
The U.S. Congress Passed the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869, which gave African American men the right to vote. However, by 1896, the state of Louisiana passed “grandfather clauses” that effectively barred former slaves and their descendants from voting. This action dramatically lowered the number of black voters—only 4% voted in 1873, down from 44.8% voting four years earlier in 1869. Soon other southern states followed suit—Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia established their own grandfather clauses. By 1940, only 3% of African Americans eligible to vote were registered. Jim Crow laws greeted African Americans at the polls in the form of literacy tests and poll taxes. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law; some of the provisions were permanent outlawing barriers to political participation by all racial and ethnic minorities. Jurisdictions that had a history of discriminatory practices in voting were subject to federal approval before they could make changes in their election laws. In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as did President Gerald Ford in 1975. However in 2011, that requirement came into question and many states, many that had had histories of voter discrimination, began legislating an array of voting restrictions once again. In the 2013 Supreme Court decision of Shelby v. Holder, the Court dismantled the requirement that states with a history of voting discrimination get federal approval before they changed their election laws. Native American Cultures. (2015). Source:
ACLU. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/files/VRATimeline.html?redirect=timeline-history-voting-rights-act
2. [D] 1960s
African American women legally received the right to vote along with all women with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. However, by the 1930s, southern states enacted laws and vigilantes took the law into their own hands that prevented African American women in the south, for the most part, from voting. African American women in the south did not start voting in significant numbers until the 1960s.
National Women’s History Museum. Retrieved from https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/AfricanAmericanwomen.html
3. [C] Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells (officially Ida B. Wells-Barnett, 1862-1931) refused to march in a segregated unit of African American women in the 1913 suffrage parade. Instead, she waited for the parade to start and then slipped in with her state’s delegation. Ida Wells founded the first black women’s suffrage organization in Chicago in 1913, the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, focusing exclusively on suffrage. She had a gift for language, which she used both in writing and oratory to challenge injustices, such as discrimination, sexism as well as lynching. When three of her friends were lynched, she wrote an expose about the lynchings calling for African Americans to leave Memphis, Tennessee. She enraged the white population to the point that they ran her out of town. She headed north to Chicago where she took up a tireless dedication to fight for equality and fairness.
National Women’s History Museum. Retrieved from https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/AfricanAmericanwomen.html; https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/WellsBarnett.html
4. [B] False
Pinckney Pinchback (1837 – 1921) was appointed governor of the State of Louisiana serving a short term from 1872 to 1873, the first person of African American descent to serve in a U.S. state’s highest elected office. He fought in the Civil War on the Union side, and became a captain in the army. After the war, he returned to New Orleans and entered politics as a Republican. In 1968, he became a delegate to Louisiana’s state constitutional convention and helped draft its new constitution. Later that year, he won his election to become a state senator. In 1871, the lieutenant governor died and Pinchback, as president of the senate, assumed his role because the elected governor, Henry Warmoth, was under impeachment proceedings. Pinchback served officially for 36 days, December 1872 to January of 1873, and approved ten legislative bills. He continued to rise in Louisiana politics and was elected to the United States Senate, but was denied his seat due to an election embroiled by racial tensions. He died at the age of 84 in Washington, DC in 1921. Pinchback’s father was a white Mississippi planter and his mother a freed black slave. When his father died in 1848, his mother moved her family of nine children to Ohio to avoid any future effort to return them to slavery. Pinchback began working as a cabin boy on Mississippi River steamboats at the age of 12 to support his family, and rose to become a ship steward. He married Nina Hawthorne at the age of 21 and the couple became parents of four children.
5. [B] The Republican Party
African Americans were attracted to the Republican Party first because President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, freed the slaves in the American states. The Republican Party got its start when two anti-slavery parties, the Conscience Whigs and the Free Soil Democrats joined forces to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory to slavery and future admission to the United States as slave states. The party did not organize in the South, apart from St. Louis and a few areas adjacent to free states, but focused its organizing on the Northeast and Midwest. The Republican Party was influenced by the ethnic and religious group members that joine it, which resulted in the party focusing on purging sins, particularly alcoholism, polygamy and slavery.
Boundless.com. African Americans as a Political Force. Retrieved from https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/government-15/the-u-s-political-system-116/african-americans-as-a-political-force-648-8122/
Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Republican_Party#Organizational_beginnings_.281854.29
6. [B] False
It is only true in the House of Representatives, not in the Senate.