When slavery was still an institution, African Americans had absolutely no voting power. After the Civil War, they were emancipated; however, as they were not specifically defined as 'citizens,' they were still denied the right to vote by southern governments. Even after the Fourteenth Amendment, when they were defined as citizens, the south put big restrictions in their way: Poll Taxes, a tax that must be paid to vote; Literacy tests, which forced the mostly illiterate former slaves to take a reading/writing test; and Grandfather clauses, which stated that if a citizen's grandfather had been eligible to vote, then that individual could vote. Seeing as most former slaves were illiterate, and their grandfathers certainly had not been able to vote, African Americans were continually denied suffrage. Finally, in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was adopted, which did not allow the right to vote to be withheld on the basis of race, color, or "previous condition of servitude." This allowed the former slaves to vote, but one large group still could not vote...
The plight of women and voting has been a constant struggle. Though some of the earlier legislation spoke of "people," it really meant "males." Through constant pressure and attempts, women were finally allowed to vote in the June of 1919 by the Nineteenth Amendment. This brought an end to the historical domination of politics by the male population and brought a whole new aspect to elections. A help to the women's suffrage movement was the Industrial Revolution; as women began to work in factories, society realized that the issues that affected men affect women equally.
Copyright © 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern