AFRO-AMERICANS AND THE BALLOT
Unsafe Condition of the Voteless Citizen Noted.
TREND OF PUBLIC SENTIMENT.
Brief Review of the Reconstruction Period and the Beginning of the Nullification of the War Amendments to the Constitution—The Introduction of Jimcrow Laws.
The fifteenth amendment to the federal constitution extends the right of franchise to all citizens of the United States. It also declares that this right shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.
Claiming that the government has failed to carry out the provisions of the above amendment and the two preceding it with respect to the rights of the colored people, Bishop Alexander Walters of New York says:
"As was to be expected, the south opposed this legislation. Its training and traditions were all against. the political equality of the black man, and it found it difficult to adjust itself to the new condition. Notwithstanding the opposition the good work continued. Public and private schools were established and the black man encouraged to protect himself by the use of the ballot.
"I might add here in support of the enfranchisement of the freedman that a voteless citizen is a greatly handicapped one--a pariah in the community. Especially is this true when such a citizen is a member of a weaker race. This state of affairs continued until 1876, when a change came about. The Republicans had nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio for the presidency and the Democratic party had nominated Samuel J. Tilden of New York for the same office. The election was in doubt, and it was finally settled by a commission of fifteen--five Justices of the supreme court, five senators and five members from the house of representatives.
"The dispute was settled in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, who was declared president of the United States. It was asserted that a deal had been made between the North and the South by which President Hayes was to withdraw the troops from the South, permitting home rule to obtain."
"Equal rights to all and special privileges to none is the fundamental principle of Democracy, and the application of this principle to questions as they arise will solve them all in the interest of the plain people of our country; it seems to me it should be the constant effort of the men of your race, in season and out of season, to keep this great principle to the front, so that all the people, without regard to race, religion or previous condition, shall be equal before the law; and the door of opportunity under the star of hope of free America ever remain open. The sentiment in favor of this idea is growing apace throughout the country and means much for the future welfare of America. Democracy has no prejudice against any race, but wants to help all sorts and conditions of people to rise step by step to higher levels in the onward march of civilization."