Disfranchised - History

Disfranchised - History

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The Right of the Disenfranchised to Petition

The First Amendment protects five distinct freedoms: religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition. When asked to list these freedoms, most students omit the last, because it is so little regarded in our own time in comparison with the others. In antebellum America, however, the right to petition was once among the most controversial of these protected freedoms, because it was a political right belonging to all the people — and not simply to voters. Petitions allowed even the disenfranchised to participate in the political system because petitions were explicitly linked to the “redress of grievances,” they carried an innate recognition that nonvoters had interests and even rights that the government was obligated to respect. Because petitions were also by nature a relatively passive means of political engagement (and were often couched in the language of “requests” for consideration or privilege rather than “demands” of rights), they were also considered to be a perfect vehicle for women’s political expression.

Until the 1820s, women’s petitions were most commonly directed at state and local governments, but the issue of Indian removal under Andrew Jackson’s administration inspired reformers like Catharine Beecher to turn their efforts to petitioning Congress. Beecher was recruited by Jeremiah Evarts, the secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), to draft an appeal to the women of America on behalf of the Cherokee and other southeastern tribes. The letter was what is known as a “circular” because it was meant to be circulated among Beecher’s friends and then forwarded to their circles of influence, and so on.

Beecher argued that because women were the traditional keepers of private (and by extension, public) morality, they had a duty to speak against the injustice being done by the government. Sagely, she urged women to counsel their political representatives to uphold what was right as a matter of their own self-interest. Like the Biblical heroine Esther, she argued that if American women hesitated to take up the cause of the oppressed, they would be justly subject to divine punishment. By speaking, in contrast, even in the unprecedented national forum of petitioning Congress, they might yet ensure that they and their loved ones “may be saved from the awful curses denounced on all who oppress the poor and needy, by Him, whose anger is to be dreaded more than the wrath of man.”

As with earlier petitions to state and local governments, those inspired by Beecher’s Circular were relatively cautious in asserting a role for women in public discourse, framing all criticism in terms of traditional gender roles and a feminine duty to see to the needs of the poor and oppressed. Women continued to petition at the federal level throughout the next decade, applying a similar logic to the odious subject of slavery.

A particularly striking example of the connection between freedom of petition and the rights of the disenfranchised occurred after Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836, talks of annexation immediately followed, but were slowed by existing treaties with Mexico. During Congress’ first series of debates over the annexation of Texas in 1838, John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) attempted to present petitions signed by roughly four hundred women from Massachusetts against the admission of another slave state. Another congressman commented that he “considered it discreditable” for women to attempt to extend their political influence beyond their own households. Adams — whose mother had famously urged that the new nation ‘remember the ladies’ when carving out protections for personal rights and freedoms — refused to let such a comment stand. Over the next three weeks, he delivered a series of speeches addressing the question of women’s role in political life. Weaving together examples from the ancient world to the American Revolution, Adams’ argument highlights women’s essential public role in republican societies, as voices in the mix of democratic discussions, shaping policy even without formal electoral privileges.

Read more about women’s informal political activism through the power of petition in these documents from our forthcoming collection on Gender and Equality :

The principle of civil death was adopted into Anglo-Saxon law, and was then carried over to British colonies. The laws required people with some criminal offenses to forfeit property, inheritance and civil rights. Some of this was grounded in English philosopher John Locke’s theory of the social contract, which some would later interpret as a justification for felon disenfranchisement.

Following the Revolutionary war and independence, the colonies wrote constitutions and became states. Eleven of these state constitutions established forms of criminal disenfranchisement, citing “purity of the ballot box” and claiming that convicted criminals could commit election fraud, or otherwise sully the democratic process. By 1790, 10 of the original 13 states held that voting was restricted to property owners who, at the time, were wealthy white men.

Post-Reconstruction Suffrage

In 1883 the Democrats regained control of both houses of the General Assembly and in 1884 passed the Anderson-McCormick Act, named for William A. Anderson , of Lexington, and J. Marshall McCormick, of Warren County. Its purpose was to complete the destruction of the Readjuster coalition. The law authorized the General Assembly, with its new Democratic majority, to appoint all members of electoral boards in all counties and cities. Those boards in turn appointed all local voter registrars, who kept separate lists of white and black men who were registered to vote. The boards also appointed three election judges in each precinct or ward, and those judges appointed clerks to compile the results. The Anderson-McCormick Act, in effect, gave to Democratic Party workers command of the registration of voters, the conduct of elections, and the compilation and reporting of the results.

The law led to an increase in bribery, fraud, intimidation, violence, and corruption. In precincts with large numbers of Republican and African American voters, the Democratic officials could stuff ballot boxes, lose or destroy boxes or ballots, slow down voting so much that men were left standing in line when the polls closed, and employ other techniques to steal elections. A popular trick was for Democratic voters to bring ballots, or tickets, printed on tissue paper and deposit several ballots in the box at once. When the box was opened the judges would find more ballots than there were voters. Under the law, a blind-folded judge would then remove from the box enough ballots to make the numbers of voters and ballots equal but because parties supplied their voters with tickets printed on various kinds of paper or in different sizes, a dexterous judge could easily remove mostly Republican ballots and allow Democratic candidates to win.

Election corruption became so prevalent that a decade later the General Assembly passed the Walton Act of 1894, named for state senator Morgan L. Walton, who represented Page and Shenandoah Counties. It required for the first time in Virginia that the state supply official ballots that listed all of the candidates. The so-called Australian ballot (named after where it originated) allowed secrecy in voting and prevented judges from removing only Republican ballots from overstuffed ballot boxes. The Walton Act nevertheless achieved the same purpose as the Anderson-McCormick Act, but by other means. It required that the voter draw a line through the name of every candidate he did not intend to vote for and specified very precisely how long the line should be. That enabled the Democrats who counted the votes to measure more precisely when inspecting ballots cast for Republican candidates than when inspecting ballots cast for Democratic candidates. The law forbade the exhibition of sample ballots before the election, effectively disfranchising blind or illiterate voters, although the law allowed the judges, who were all Democrats, to appoint special constables to assist blind or illiterate voters, who very likely could not tell whether the special constable marked the ballot as the voter desired.

By the 1890s, a large proportion of black men and thousands of white Republicans in eastern Virginia were effectively disfranchised. Democrats regularly won overwhelming control of the General Assembly and most of the state’s congressional seats. During that decade, when the agrarian reform movement known as the Populist Movement threatened to rupture Democratic Party unity in Virginia, some Democrats employed the means by which they had contrived to win elections against Republicans to steal elections from other Democrats. The corruption led to enough demands for reform that a majority of the Democrats in the General Assembly passed a law in 1900 to hold a referendum on whether to summon a constitutional convention. A central objective of the supporters of the convention movement was to deprive African Americans of the suffrage and thereby eliminate the Democrats’ need to cheat in order to win.

Disfranchising Laws

In 1889 the Tennessee General Assembly passed four acts of self-described electoral reform that resulted in the disfranchisement of a significant portion of African American voters as well as many poor white voters. The timing of the legislation resulted from a unique opportunity seized by the Democratic Party to bring an end to what one historian described as the most “consistently competitive political system in the South.” (1)

In the political campaign of 1888, the Democrats waged a battle unparalleled in corruption and violence to gain quorum control over both houses of the legislature. With Republicans unable to stall or defeat antiparty measures, the disfranchising acts sailed through the 1889 general assembly, and Governor Robert L. Taylor signed them into law. Hailed by newspaper editors as the end of black voting, the laws worked as expected, and African American voting declined precipitously in rural and small town Tennessee. Many urban blacks continued to vote until so-called progressive reforms eliminated their political power in the early twentieth century.

The disfranchising acts included the Myers Law, the Lea Law, the Dortch Law, and the imposition of a poll tax. The Myers Law, named for Representative Thomas R. Myers of Bedford County, required voters in districts or towns that had cast more than five hundred votes in 1888 to register at least twenty days before every election. The Dortch Law, named for Representative Josiah H. Dortch, provided for the implementation of a secret ballot. Initially the Dortch Law, which applied to seventy-eight civil districts in thirty-seven counties, permitted voters to obtain assistance in marking their ballots if they had voted in 1857. It disfranchised black illiterate voters, while initially protecting older white illiterates. The Lea Law, named for Benjamin J. Lea, provided for separate ballot boxes for state and federal elections. It was intended to circumvent expected congressional legislation (the Lodge Election Bill) to supervise federal elections. When Congress failed to pass the Lodge Bill, the Tennessee State Legislature rescinded the Lea Act in 1893. The final act of disfranchisement came with the implementation of the poll tax. The Tennessee State Constitution of 1870 provided for a poll tax at the discretion of the general assembly, with revenues to be used for the common school fund. At the time, critics such as former president Andrew Johnson had recognized the potential harm inherent in the poll tax and vehemently protested it as a method to disfranchise the poor. Nevertheless, the provision remained in the constitution, and the 1889 legislature implemented the tax. Payment was required to vote, but no county officer came to collect the tax. Taxpayers could choose not to pay and suffered no penalty except giving up the right to vote in that year's election. Unlike some states, Tennessee's poll tax was not cumulative payment of a single year's tax permitted one to vote in that year.

Support for the new laws came from Democrats and members of the Farmers' Alliance. Later, as Alliancemen moved into the People's Party, they recognized the devastating effect the laws also had on poor whites and vowed to overturn them if elected. Yet successive legislatures expanded the reach of the disfranchising laws until they covered the state. In 1949 political scientist V. O. Key Jr. argued that the size of the poll tax did not inhibit voting as much as the inconvenience of paying it. County officers regulated the vote by providing opportunities to pay the tax (as they did in Knoxville), or conversely by making payment as difficult as possible. Such manipulation of the tax, and therefore the vote, created an opportunity for the rise of urban bosses and political machines. Urban politicians bought large blocks of poll tax receipts and distributed them to blacks and whites, who then voted as instructed.

The poll tax vexed would-be reformers and stifled change. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Tennessee Press Association led the fight to repeal the poll tax. In 1941 the Shelby County delegation, under the influence of Edward H. Crump, successfully fought back a legislative attempt to repeal the poll tax. Two years later the legislators rescinded the tax, only to have their action declared unconstitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Provisions for the poll tax were finally removed by the 1953 constitutional convention.

Who’s Really Disenfranchised?

Disenfranchised. The very word evokes strong reactions in us: we peer back through American history, thinking of young people, minorities, suffragettes, and even slaves. None of which, at one time or another, had the right to directly participate in our system of self-government. Heck, the Founding Fathers intentionally didn’t give the vote originally to anybody who wasn’t a white, land-owning male (though I’m guessing “powdered-wig-wearing” might have been a negotiable category).

And because of the power of this one word (and the sins of our forefathers), we are doomed to hear it each and every election cycle from now until the end of the republic (yes, my Star Wars-loving self just spazzed out as I wrote that last part). We see it on TV, we hear it in what passes for political debate. Leftists of all stripes invoke it, endlessly demagogue it and never, ever let any of us forget that there are disenfranchised among us (they’re kind of like that kid in The Sixth Sense: “I see dead people!)

Only now these downtrodden (note to self: be sure to trod someone down very soon) have somehow expanded to include not only all the usual suspects listed above, but also such groups as illegal aliens, who I suppose by the Left’s tortured logic somehow just had to be on the Framers’ white-male-lovin’ minds during that stuffy summer stretch of weeks in Philadelphia 235 years ago.

Ah, liberal guilt. It’s the Holy Grail of Leftists and Statists everywhere, the cup from which all social programs flow, magically and perpetually replenishing itself, and serving as the rationalization for all sorts of stupid things we as a country end up doing that have absolutely zero basis in reason. If you could somehow capture its energy, it’d be the ultimate Green Jobs program.

Does anybody else have what they call compassion fatigue here yet?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, 80 million ordinary citizens take the one extraordinarily conventional step every single day that makes the U.S. economic engine actually run. They go to work. Monday through Friday, and even sometimes on Saturdays.

They’ve been labeled the Silent Majority by Nixon (and ‘masses leading lives of quiet desperation’ before him by Thoreau), the middle class, the consumer class, the bourgeoisie. And yet their unfailing habit of playing by the rules, putting in overtime to put food on the table and pay their taxes has created the financial wonder of the modern world: the American economy.

This is to say nothing of those millions of mom-and-pop proprietors, the legal immigrant shopkeepers, those entrepreneurs who take the biggest financial and personal gambles and start their own small businesses. I’ll never forget the story from a friend in the Korean community who had to have his wedding reception first, prior to the ceremony that weekend, so the bulk of his guests could return to their dry cleaning businesses, their small corner markets, their stores.

Which brings us back to the whole concept of disenfranchisement. Just how much injustice is there still out there—much less every time the polls open? I mean, we’ve extended the right to vote and have your voice heard to pretty much every demographic group possible, and voter turnout still clocked in at right about sixty percent of the registered electorate (and that was considered high!). Barring (get it?) those illegal aliens, there simply aren’t any blocs of people remaining out there who aren’t allowed to pull a lever on Election Day.

Yet we have to hear these “dog-whistle”-type stories continually via the dying Leftist-run media: comparisons between having to show a government I.D. and Jim Crow laws having to simply sign and attest to the fact that you are who you say you are somehow becoming the equivalent, I suppose, of literacy tests once administered to Reconstruction-era blacks. As George Orwell said, control the language and you control the debate.

So we see the constant narrative of large numbers of people (poor people, brown people, black people, ‘undocumented’ people, you fill in the blank) being disenfranchised discussed obsessively every couple of years. This particular conceit happens to fit particularly well with the already-existing idea that all conservatives are racists. Rinse, repeat.

But if I can be so heretical and bold—who are the truly disenfranchised within our existing political system?

Beyond these calculated, cynical sideshows thrown up by the Left to make middle America uncomfortable with its past for immediate electoral/partisan gain, who is being taken advantage of here? It’s not ethnic groups, most of whom are represented coalitions, and part and parcel of urban political machines today. And it’s not the corrupt, crony capitalist class, who no matter what outrageous item on the menu they order, never have to pay the bill.

You’re part of that grand American tradition of holding up your end of the bargain. You’re that proud parent who works extra hours to give your child the best education available. You’re that citizen who foots ever-increasing taxes on everything from the car you drive to the property you “own”.

All the while believing that the men and women you send to your city council, your county board or commission, your state capital, or even Washington, D.C. are actually going to do what they said they would do. Then you watch and listen, year after year—it seems helplessly—as your voice gets drowned out by the chorus of shouts and cries…always for more spending, more government programs.

Call me crazy but I’d say that’s the textbook definition of disenfranchised.


Prior to the Civil War most of the victims of lynching in the South were white men. [4] During the Reconstruction era lynchings were used to enforce white supremacy and intimidate blacks by racial terrorism. [5] The rate of lynchings in the South has been strongly associated with economic strains, [6] although the causal nature of this link is unclear. [7] Low cotton prices, inflation, and economic stress are associated with higher frequencies of lynching.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declared that all born in the United States were citizens, and the Fifteenth that all citizens could vote, regardless "of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." These were regarded as self-destructive mistakes by many white Southerners. Some blamed freedmen for their own wartime hardships, post-war economic problems, and loss of social and political privilege. During Reconstruction, freedmen, and white people working in the South for civil rights, were attacked and sometimes lynched. Black voting was suppressed by violence as well as by poll taxes and literacy tests. Whites regained control of state legislatures in 1876, and a national compromise resulted in the removal of federal troops from the South in 1877. In later decades, violence continued around elections until blacks were disfranchised by the states from 1885 (see Florida Constitution of 1885) to 1908 through constitutional changes and laws that created barriers to voter registration across the South.

White Southern Democrats enacted Jim Crow laws to enforce blacks' second-class status (see Nadir of American race relations). During this period that spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lynchings reached a peak in the South. Georgia led the nation in the number of lynchings from 1900 to 1931 with 302 incidents, according to The Tuskegee Institute. However, Florida led the nation in lynchings per capita from 1900 to 1930. [8] [9] [10] Lynchings peaked in many areas when it was time for landowners to settle accounts with sharecroppers. [11]

There is no count of recorded lynchings that claims to be precise, and the numbers vary depending on the sources, the years considered, and the definition used to define an incident. The Tuskegee Institute has recorded the lynchings of 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites between 1882 and 1968, with the peak occurring in the 1890s, at a time of economic stress in the South and increasing political suppression of blacks. [12] A five-year study published in 2015 by the Equal Justice Initiative found that nearly 3,959 black men, women, and children were lynched in the twelve Southern states between 1877 and 1950. Over this period Georgia's 586 lynchings led all states. [13] [14] [15]

African Americans mounted resistance to lynchings in numerous ways. Intellectuals and journalists encouraged public education, actively protesting and lobbying against lynch mob violence and government complicity. Anti-lynching plays and other literary works [ which? ] were produced. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and related groups, organized support from white and black Americans, publicizing injustices, investigating incidents, and working for passage of federal anti-lynching legislation (which as of 2019 has still not passed). African-American women's clubs raised funds and conducted petition drives, letter campaigns, meetings, and demonstrations to highlight the issues and combat lynching. [16] In the great migration, particularly from 1910 to 1940, 1.5 million African Americans left the South, primarily for destinations in northern and mid-western cities, both to gain better jobs and education and to escape the high rate of violence. From 1910 to 1930 particularly, more blacks migrated from counties with high numbers of lynchings. [17]

From 1882 to 1968, "nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal law." [18] None succeeded in gaining passage, blocked by the Solid South—the delegation of powerful white Southerners in the Senate, which controlled, due to seniority, the powerful committee chairmanships. [18] During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, black activists were attacked and murdered throughout the South. The 1964 Mississippi Burning murders galvanized public support for passage of civil rights legislation that year and the next.

The term "Lynch's Law" apparently originated during the American Revolution when Patriot Charles Lynch, a Virginia justice of the peace, ordered extralegal punishment for Loyalists. [19] In the Pre-Civil War South, members of the abolitionist movement and other people opposing slavery were sometimes targets of lynch mob violence. [20]

During the Civil War, Confederate Home Guard units sometimes lynched white Southerners whom they suspected of being Unionists or deserters. One example of this was the hanging of Methodist minister Bill Sketoe in the southern Alabama town of Newton in December 1864.

A major motive for lynchings, particularly in the South, was the white society's efforts to maintain white supremacy after the emancipation of slaves following the American Civil War. It punished perceived violations of customs, later institutionalized as Jim Crow laws, which mandated racial segregation of whites and blacks, and second-class status for blacks. A 2017 paper found that more racially segregated counties were more likely to be places where whites conducted lynchings. [21] Economic competition was another major factor independent black farmers or businessmen were sometimes lynched or suffered destruction of their property. In the Deep South, the number of lynchings was higher in areas with a concentration of blacks in an area (such as a county), dependent on cotton at a time of low cotton prices, rising inflation, and competition among religious groups.

Whites sometimes lynched blacks for financial gain, and sometimes to establish political or economic dominance. These lynchings emphasized the new social order constructed under Jim Crow whites acted together, reinforcing their collective identity along with the unequal status of blacks through these group acts of violence. [22] In much of the Deep South, lynchings peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as white racists turned to terrorism to dissuade blacks from voting in a period of disenfranchisement. In the Mississippi Delta, lynchings of blacks increased beginning in the late 19th century as white planters tried to control former slaves who had become landowners or sharecroppers. Lynchings had a seasonal pattern in the Mississippi Delta they were frequent at the end of the year when sharecroppers and tenant farmers tried to settle their accounts.

In the 1890s, African-American journalist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells conducted one of the first thorough investigations of lynching cases. She found that black lynching victims were accused of rape or attempted rape about one-third of the time (although sexual infractions were widely cited as reasons for the crime). The most prevalent accusation was murder or attempted murder, followed by a list of infractions that included verbal and physical aggression, spirited business competition, and independence of mind among victims. Lynch mob "policing" usually led to white mobs murdering persons suspected of crimes or more casual infractions.

Lynchings also occurred in Western frontier areas where legal recourse was distant. In the West, cattle barons took the law into their own hands by hanging those whom they perceived as cattle and horse thieves. This was also related to a political and social struggle between these classes. [ citation needed ]

Lynchings were in part intended as a voter suppression tool. A 2019 study found that lynchings occurred more frequently in proximity to elections, in particular in areas where the Democratic Party faced challenges. [23]

Historians have debated the history of lynchings on the western frontier, which has been obscured by the mythology of the American Old West. In unorganized territories or sparsely settled states, law enforcement was limited, often provided only by a U.S. Marshal who might, despite the appointment of deputies, be hours, or days, away by horseback.

People often carried out lynchings in the Old West against accused criminals in custody. Lynching did not so much substitute for an absent legal system as constitute an alternative system dominated by a particular social class or racial group. Historian Michael J. Pfeifer writes, "Contrary to the popular understanding, early territorial lynching did not flow from an absence or distance of law enforcement but rather from the social instability of early communities and their contest for property, status, and the definition of social order." [24]

It is not known the exact number of people in the Western states/territories killed by lynching during the times of their occurrences. For Mexicans, there are, however, estimates of thousands of deaths that have gone undocumented and peaked in the 1850s and 1870s, then again in the 1910s, most likely due to the Mexican Revolution. The most recorded deaths were in Texas, with up to 232 killings, then followed by California (143 deaths), New Mexico (87 deaths), and Arizona (48 deaths) [ citation needed ] . Lynch mobs killed Mexicans for a variety of reasons, with the most common being accusations of murder and robbery.

California Edit

In September 1850, California became the 31st state of the United States.

Many of the Mexicans who were native to what would become a state within the United States were experienced miners, and they had great success mining gold in California. [25] Their success aroused animosity by white prospectors, who intimidated Mexican miners with the threat of violence and committed violence against some. Between 1848 and 1860, white Americans lynched at least 163 Mexicans in California. [25] On July 5, 1851, a mob in Downieville, California, lynched a Mexican woman named Josefa Segovia. [26] She was accused of killing a white man who had attempted to assault her after breaking into her home. [27]

The San Francisco Vigilance Movement has traditionally been portrayed as a positive response to government corruption and rampant crime, but revisionist historians have argued that it created more lawlessness than it eliminated. [28] [ page needed ] Four men were executed by the 1851 Committee of Vigilance before it disbanded. When the second Committee of Vigilance was instituted in 1856, in response to the murder of publisher James King of William, it hanged a total of four men, all accused of murder. [29]

During the same year of 1851, just after the beginning of the Gold Rush, these Committees lynched an unnamed thief in northern California. The Gold Rush and the economic prosperity of Mexican-born people was one of the main reasons for mob violence against them. Other factors include land and livestock, since they were also a form of economic success. In conjunction with lynching, mobs also attempted to expel Mexicans, and other groups such as the indigenous peoples of the region, from areas with great mining activity and gold. As a result of the violence against Mexicans, many formed bands of bandits and would raid towns. One case, in 1855, was when a group of bandits went into Rancheria and killed six people. When the news of this incident spread, a mob of 1,500 people formed, rounded up 38 Mexicans, and executed Puertanino. [ who? ] The mob also expelled all the Mexicans in Rancheria and nearby towns as well, burning their homes. [ citation needed ] [30]

On October 24, 1871, a mob rampaged through Old Chinatown in Los Angeles and killed at least 18 Chinese Americans, after a white businessman had inadvertently been killed there in the crossfire of a tong battle within the Chinese community.

After the body of Brooke Hart was found on November 26, 1933, Thomas Harold Thurman and John Holmes, who had confessed to kidnapping and murdering Hart, were lynched on November 26 or November 27, 1933. [31] [32]

Texas Edit

"Lynching in Texas", a project of Sam Houston State University, maintains a database of over 600 lynchings committed in Texas between 1882 and 1942. [33] Many of the lynchings were of people of Mexican heritage.

During the early 1900s, hostilities between Anglos and Mexicans along the "Brown Belt" were common. In Rocksprings, Antonio Rodriguez, a Mexican, was burned at the stake for allegedly killing a white woman, Effie Greer Anderson. This event was widely publicized and protests against the treatment of Mexicans in the U.S. erupted within the interior of Mexico, namely in Guadalajara and Mexico City. [34]

Members of the Texas Rangers were charged in 1918 with the murder of Florencio Garcia. Two rangers had taken Garcia into custody for a theft investigation. The next day they let Garcia go, and were last seen escorting him on a mule. Garcia was never seen again. A month after the interrogation, bones and Garcia's clothing were found beside the road where the Rangers claimed to have let Garcia go. The Rangers were arrested for murder, freed on bail, and acquitted due to lack of evidence. The case became part of the Canales investigation into criminal conduct by the Rangers. [35] : 80

Arizona Edit

In 1859, white settlers began to expel Mexicans from Arizona. The mob was able to chase Mexicans out of many towns, southward. Even though they were successful in doing so, the mob followed and killed many of the people that had been chased out. The Sonoita massacre was a result of these expulsions, where white settlers killed four Mexicans and one Native American.

In 1915, the lynching of the Leon brothers by deputies Fenter and Moore were no different than past or future lynching violence. However, the aftermath of this event was unusual. The perpetrators were arrested, tried, and convicted for the murders. Including the fact that these deaths were recorded, since, before 1915, there were no records of lynching. The conviction of the Rangers resulted in more mob violence where an estimated 500 Mexicans were killed. This was known as La Hora de Sangre or the Hour of Blood. No perpetrators were convicted for these deaths, which continued up until 1920. [36]

Wyoming Edit

Another well-documented episode in the history of the American West is the Johnson County War, a dispute in the 1890s over land use in Wyoming. Large-scale ranchers hired mercenaries to lynch the small ranchers.

Oregon Edit

Alonzo Tucker was a traveling boxer who happened to be heading north from California to Washington. Part of his travels led him to stay in Coos Bay, Oregon where he was lynched by a mob on September 18, 1902. He was accused by Mrs. Dennis for assault. After the lynching, Mrs. Dennis and her family quickly left town and headed to California. Alonzo Tucker is the only documented lynching of a black man in Oregon. [37]

Other lynchings include many Native Americans. [38]

After the Civil War, nearly four million slaves were emancipated in the South. They constituted a majority in some states, and in numerous counties in several states. The first Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 by confederate veterans in Tennessee chapters were formed by armed veterans throughout the South. Members were associated with insurgent violence against freedmen and their allies that included lynchings, but it more often consisted of direct, isolated attacks by secret groups against individuals. The first severe period of violence in the South was between 1868 and 1871. White Democrats attacked black and white Republicans to suppress their voting in elections. [40] To prevent ratification of new constitutions formed during Reconstruction, the opposition used various means to harass potential voters. Failed attacks led to a massacre during the 1868 elections, with the insurgents' murders of about 1,300 voters across various southern states ranging from South Carolina to Arkansas.

The lynchers sometimes murdered their victims, but sometimes whipped or physically assaulted them to remind them of their former status as slaves. [41] Often night-time raids of African-American homes were made in order to confiscate firearms. Lynchings to prevent freedmen and their allies from voting and bearing arms were extralegal ways of trying to enforce the previous system of social dominance and the Black Codes, which had been invalidated by the 14th and 15th Amendments in 1868 and 1870.

Although some states took action against the Klan, the South needed federal help. President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress passed the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, intended to suppress the vigilante violence of the Klan. This authorized the government to prosecute crimes committed by groups such as the Klan, as well as the use of federal troops to control violence. The administration began holding grand juries and prosecuting Klan members. In addition, it used martial law in some counties in South Carolina, where the Klan was the strongest. [42] Under attack, the Klan dissipated. Vigorous federal action and the disappearance of the Klan had a strong effect in temporarily reducing the numbers of murders. [42]

From the mid-1870s onward, violence rose as insurgent paramilitary groups in the Deep South worked to suppress black voting and turn Republicans out of office. In Louisiana, the Carolinas, and Florida especially, the Democratic Party relied on paramilitary "White Line" groups, such as the White Camelia, White League and Red Shirts to terrorize, intimidate and assassinate African-American and white Republicans in an organized drive to regain power. In Mississippi and the Carolinas, paramilitary chapters of Red Shirts conducted overt violence and disruption of elections. In Louisiana, the White League had numerous chapters they carried out goals of the Democratic Party to suppress black voting. Grant's desire to keep Ohio in the Republican aisle and his attorney general's maneuvers led to a failure to support the Mississippi governor with Federal troops. [43] The campaign of terror worked. In Yazoo County, Mississippi, for instance, with an African-American population of 12,000, only seven votes were cast for Republicans in 1874. In 1875, Democrats swept into power in the Mississippi state legislature. [43]

Once Democrats regained power in Mississippi, Democrats in other states adopted the Mississippi Plan to control the election of 1876, using informal armed militias to assassinate political leaders, hunt down community members, intimidate and turn away voters, and effectively suppress black suffrage and civil rights. In state after state, Democrats swept back to power. [44] From 1868 to 1876, there were 50–100 lynchings annually.

Following white Democrats' regaining political power in the late 1870s and the end of Reconstruction, legislators gradually increased statutory barriers to voter registration and voting. [ citation needed ] From 1890 to 1908, most of the Southern states, starting with Mississippi, created new constitutions with further provisions: poll taxes, literacy and understanding tests, and increased residency requirements, that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. [ citation needed ] Forcing them off voter registration lists also prevented them from serving on juries, whose members were limited to voters. [ citation needed ] Although challenges to such constitutions made their way to the Supreme Court in Williams v. Mississippi (1898) and Giles v. Harris (1903), the states' provisions were upheld.

Most lynchings from the late 19th through the early 20th century were of African Americans in the South. [12] [45] Other victims included white immigrants, and, in the Southwest, Latinos. Of the 468 lynching victims in Texas between 1885 and 1942, 339 were black, 77 white, 53 Hispanic, and 1 Native American. [46]

The murders reflected the tensions of labor and social changes, as the whites imposed Jim Crow rules, legal segregation and white supremacy. The lynchings were also an indicator of long economic stress due to falling cotton prices through much of the 19th century, as well as financial depression in the 1890s. In the Mississippi bottomlands, for instance, lynchings rose when crops and accounts were supposed to be settled. [11]

In the Mississippi Delta region Edit

The late 1800s and early 1900s in the Mississippi Delta showed both frontier influence and actions directed at repressing African Americans. After the Civil War, 90% of the Delta was still undeveloped. [11] Both whites and blacks migrated there for a chance to buy land in the backcountry. It was frontier wilderness, heavily forested and without roads for years. [11] Before the start of the 20th century, lynchings often took the form of frontier justice directed at transient workers as well as residents. [11] Thousands of workers were brought in by planters to do lumbering and work on levees. [ citation needed ]

Whites accounted for just over 12 percent of the Delta region's population, but made up nearly 17 percent of lynching victims. So, in this region, they were lynched at a rate that was over 35 percent higher than their proportion in the population, primarily due to being accused of crimes against property (chiefly theft). Conversely, blacks were lynched at a rate, in the Delta, lesser than their proportion of the population. However, this was unlike the rest of the South, where blacks comprised the majority of lynching victims. In the Delta, they were most often accused of murder or attempted murder, in half the cases, and 15 percent of the time, they were accused of rape, meaning that another 15 percent of the time they were accused of a combination of rape and murder, or rape and attempted murder. [11]

A clear seasonal pattern to lynchings existed with colder months being the deadliest. As noted, cotton prices fell during the 1880s and 1890s, increasing economic pressures. "From September through December, the cotton was picked, debts were revealed, and profits (or losses) realized. Whether concluding old contracts or discussing new arrangements, [landlords and tenants] frequently came into conflict in these months and sometimes fell to blows." [11] During the winter, murder was most cited as a cause for lynching. After 1901, as economics shifted and more blacks became renters and sharecroppers in the Delta, with few exceptions, only African Americans were lynched. The frequency increased from 1901 to 1908 after African Americans were disfranchised. "In the twentieth century Delta vigilantism finally became predictably joined to white supremacy." [48]

Conclusions of numerous studies since the mid-20th century have found the following variables affecting the rate of lynchings in the South: "lynchings were more numerous where the African American population was relatively large, the agricultural economy was based predominantly on cotton, the white population was economically stressed, the Democratic Party was stronger, and multiple religious organizations competed for congregants." [49]

Other ethnicities Edit

According to the Tuskegee Institute, of the 4,743 people lynched between 1882 and 1968, 1,297 were listed as "white". The Tuskegee Institute, which kept the most complete records, documented victims internally as "Negro", "white", "Chinese", and occasionally as "Mexican" or "Indian", but merged these into only two categories of black or white in the tallies it published. Mexican, Chinese, and Native American lynching victims were tallied as white. Particularly in the West, minorities such as Chinese, Native Americans, Mexicans, and others were also lynching victims. The lynching of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the Southwest was long overlooked in American history, when attention was focused on the treatment of African Americans in the South. [50] [51] [25]

In modern scholarship, researchers estimate that 597 Mexicans were lynched between 1848 and 1928. Mexicans were lynched at a rate of 27.4 per 100,000 of population between 1880 and 1930. This statistic was second only to that of the African-American community, which endured an average of 37.1 per 100,000 of population during that period. Between 1848 and 1879, Mexicans were lynched at an unprecedented rate of 473 per 100,000 of population. [25]

After their increased immigration to the U.S. in the late 19th century, Italian Americans in the South were recruited for laboring jobs. On March 14, 1891, 11 Italian immigrants were lynched in New Orleans, Louisiana, for their alleged role in the murder of David Hennessy, an ethnic Irish New Orleans police chief. [52] This incident was one of the largest mass lynchings in U.S. history. [53] A total of twenty Italians were lynched during the 1890s. Although most lynchings of Italian Americans occurred in the South, Italians did not comprise a major portion of immigrants or a major portion of the population as a whole. Isolated lynchings of Italians also occurred in New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

On February 21, 1909, a riot targeting Greek Americans occurred in Omaha, Nebraska. Many Greeks were looted, beaten and businesses were burnt.

Between the 1830s and 1850s the majority of those lynched were whites. More whites were lynched than blacks for the years 1882–1885. By 1890s, the number of blacks lynched yearly grew to a number significantly more than that of whites and vast majority of victims were black from then on. White people were mostly lynched in the Western states and territories, although there were over 200 cases in the South. According to the Tuskegee Institute, in 1884 near Georgetown, Colorado, there was one instance of 17 "unknown white men" being hanged as cattle thieves in a single day. In the West, lynchings were often done to establish law and order. [54] [12] [55]

Enforcing Jim Crow Edit

After 1876, the frequency of lynching decreased somewhat until the later 19th century. White Democrats had regained political control of the state legislatures. Lynching was extrajudicial punishment, used by the society to terrorize freedmen and whites alike. Southern Republicans in Congress sought to protect black voting rights by using Federal troops for enforcement. But a congressional deal to elect Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as President in 1876 (in spite of his losing the popular vote to New York Democrat Samuel J. Tilden) included a pledge to remove Federal troops from the South. The Redeemers, many of whom had been members of such paramilitary groups as the White Cappers, the Knights of the White Camelia, the White League, and the Red Shirts, which supported white Democrats, had used terrorist violence and assassinations in order to suppress black and Republican voting and regain control of the state legislatures.

Lynchings were public demonstrations of white power and a means to exert social control. Racial tensions had an economic base. In attempting to reconstruct the plantation economy, planters were anxious to control labor. In addition, agricultural depression was widespread, and the price of cotton kept falling after the Civil War into the 1890s. A labor shortage occurred in many parts of the Deep South, most especially in the Mississippi Delta, which was being rapidly developed for agriculture. Southern attempts to recruit immigrant labor were unsuccessful, as immigrants would quickly leave field labor. Lynchings erupted when farmers tried to terrorize the laborers, especially when time came to settle and they were unable to pay wages, but tried to keep laborers from leaving. [ citation needed ]

More than 85 percent of the estimated 5,000 lynchings in the post–Civil War period occurred in the Southern states. With economic strains across the Deep South and a low price for cotton, 1892 was a peak year when 161 African Americans were lynched. The passage of Jim Crow laws, beginning in the 1890s completed the revival of white supremacy in the South. Terror and lynching were believed to be used to enforce both these formal laws and a variety of unwritten rules of conduct meant to assert white domination. In most years from 1889 to 1923, 50 to 100 lynchings occurred annually across the South. They were at a peak in the last decade of the 19th century, but remained high for years. [ citation needed ]

The frequency of lynchings rose during years of poor economy and low prices for cotton, demonstrating that more than social tensions generated the catalysts for mob action against the underclass. [6] Researchers have studied various models to determine what motivated lynchings. One study of lynching rates of blacks in Southern counties between 1889 and 1931 found a relation to the concentration of blacks in parts of the Deep South: where the black population was concentrated, lynching rates were higher. Such areas also had a particular mix of socioeconomic conditions, with a high dependence on cotton cultivation. [59]

The stated ideology of whites about lynching was directly connected with denial of political and social equality, and sexual fears of white men it was expressed by Benjamin Tillman, a South Carolina governor and U.S. Senator, speaking on the floor of the Senate in 1900:

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. [60]

Henry Smith, an alcoholic African-American handyman accused of murdering a policeman's daughter, was a noted lynching victim because of the ferocity of the attack against him and the huge crowd that gathered. [61] He was lynched at Paris, Texas, in 1893 for killing Myrtle Vance, the three-year-old daughter of a Texas policeman, after the policeman had assaulted Smith. [62] Smith was not tried in a court of law. A large crowd followed the lynching, as was common then in the style of public executions. Henry Smith was fastened to a wooden platform, tortured for 50 minutes by red-hot iron brands, and burned alive while more than 10,000 spectators cheered. [61]

Fewer than one percent of lynch mob participants were ever convicted by local courts and they were seldom prosecuted or brought to trial. By the late 19th century, trial juries in most of the southern United States were all white because African Americans had been disenfranchised, and only registered voters could serve as jurors. Often juries never let the matter go past the inquest.

Such cases happened in the North as well. In 1892, a police officer in Port Jervis, New York, tried to stop the lynching of a black man who had been wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman. The mob responded by putting the noose around the officer's neck as a way of scaring him, and completed killing the other man. Although at the inquest the officer identified eight people who had participated in the lynching, including the former chief of police, the jury determined that the murder had been carried out "by person or persons unknown". [63]

In Duluth, Minnesota, on June 15, 1920, three young African-American traveling circus workers were lynched after having been accused of having raped a white woman and were jailed pending a grand jury hearing. A physician's subsequent examination of the woman found no evidence of rape or assault. The alleged motive and action by a mob were consistent with the "community policing" model. [ further explanation needed ] [64]

Although the rhetoric surrounding lynchings frequently suggested they were to protect the virtue and safety of white women, the actions basically arose out of white attempts to maintain domination in a rapidly changing society and their fears of social change. [55] Victims were the scapegoats for peoples' attempts to control agriculture, labor, and education, as well as a reaction to economic stresses during downturns when cotton prices dropped, and larger disasters such as the boll weevil. [ citation needed ] In 1903, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a new, popular children's game: "The Game of Lynching". "Imaginary mayor gives order not to harm imaginary mob, and an imaginary hanging follows. Fire contributes realistic touch." "It has crowded out baseball", and if it continues, "may deprive of some of its prestige the game of football." [65]

Photographic records and postcards Edit

At the start of the 20th century in the United States, lynching was photographic sport. People sent picture postcards of lynchings they had witnessed. A writer for Time magazine noted in 2000,

Even the Nazis did not stoop to selling souvenirs of Auschwitz, but lynching scenes became a burgeoning subdepartment of the postcard industry. By 1908, the trade had grown so large, and the practice of sending postcards featuring the victims of mob murderers had become so repugnant, that the U.S. Postmaster General banned the cards from the mails. [70]

In the post–Reconstruction era South, lynching photographs were printed for various purposes, including postcards, newspapers and event mementos. [71] Typically these images depicted an African-American lynching victim and all or part of the crowd in attendance. Spectators often included women and children. The perpetrators of lynchings were not identified. [72] At one particular lynching, it is said that nearly 15,000 people were in attendance. [71] Often lynchings were advertised in newspapers prior to the event in order to give photographers time to arrive early and prepare their camera equipment. [73] After the lynching, photographers would sell their pictures as-is or as postcards, sometimes costing as much as fifty cents a piece, or $9, as of 2016. [72]

Though some photographs were sold as plain prints, others contained captions. These captions were either straightforward details—such as the time, date and reasons for the lynching—while others contained polemics or poems with racist or otherwise threatening remarks. [73] An example of this is a photographic postcard attached to the poem "Dogwood Tree," which says: "The negro now/By eternal grace/Must learn to stay in the negro's place/In the Sunny South, the land of the Free/Let the WHITE SUPREME forever be." [74] Such postcards with explicit rhetoric such as "Dogwood Tree" were typically circulated privately or mailed in a sealed envelope. [75] Other times these pictures simply included the word "WARNING". [73]

In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed, which banned the publication of "obscene matter as well as its circulation in the mails". [73] In 1908, Section 3893 was added to the Comstock Act, stating that the ban included material "tending to incite arson, murder, or assassination". [73] Although this act did not explicitly ban lynching photographs or postcards, it banned the explicit racist texts and poems inscribed on certain prints. According to some, these texts were deemed "more incriminating" and caused their removal from the mail instead of the photograph itself because the text made "too explicit what was always implicit in lynchings". [73] Some towns imposed "self-censorship" on lynching photographs, but section 3893 was the first step towards a national censorship. [73] Despite the amendment, the distribution of lynching photographs and postcards continued. Though they were not sold openly, the censorship was bypassed when people sent the material in envelopes or mail wrappers. [75]

Resistance Edit

African Americans emerged from the Civil War with the political experience and stature to resist attacks, but disfranchisement and imposition of Jim Crow in the South at the turn of the 20th century closed them out of the political system and judicial system in many ways. Advocacy organizations compiled statistics and publicized the atrocities, as well as working for enforcement of civil rights and a federal anti-lynching law. From the early 1880s, the Chicago Tribune reprinted accounts of lynchings from other newspapers, and published annual statistics. These provided the main source for the compilations by the Tuskegee Institute to document lynchings, a practice it continued until 1968. [76]

In 1892, journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett was shocked when three friends in Memphis, Tennessee, were lynched. She learned it was because their grocery store had competed successfully against a white-owned store. Outraged, Wells-Barnett began a global anti-lynching campaign that raised awareness of these murders. She also investigated lynchings and overturned the common idea that they were based on black sexual crimes, as was popularly discussed she found lynchings were more an effort to suppress blacks who competed economically with whites, especially if they were successful. As a result of her efforts at education, black women in the U.S. became active in the anti-lynching crusade, often in the form of clubs that raised money to publicize the abuses. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in 1909, Wells became part of its multi-racial leadership and continued to be active against lynching. The NAACP began to publish lynching statistics at their office in New York City.

In 1898 Alexander Manly of Wilmington, North Carolina, directly challenged popular ideas about lynching in an editorial in his newspaper The Daily Record. He noted that consensual relationships took place between white women and black men, and said that many of the latter had white fathers (as he did). His references to miscegenation lifted the veil of denial. Whites were outraged. A mob destroyed his printing press and business, ran black leaders out of town and killed many others, and overturned the biracial Populist-Republican city government, headed by a white mayor and majority-white council. Manly escaped, eventually settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1903, writer Charles W. Chesnutt of Ohio published the article "The Disfranchisement of the Negro", detailing civil rights abuses as Southern states passed laws and constitutions that essentially disenfranchised African Americans, excluding them wholesale from the political system. He publicized the need for change in the South. Numerous writers appealed to the literate public. [77]

In 1904, Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, published an article in the magazine North American Review to respond to Southerner Thomas Nelson Page. She analyzed and refuted with data his attempted justification of lynching as a response to assaults by black men on white women. Terrell showed how apologists like Page had tried to rationalize what were violent mob actions that were seldom based on assaults. [79] African American newspapers such as the Chicago Illinois Newspaper "The Chicago Whip" [80] and the NAACP magazine The Crisis would not just merely report lynchings, they would denounce them as well. Indeed in 1919, the NAACP would publish "Thirty Years of Lynching" and hang a black flag outside its office. [ citation needed ]

Federal action limited by the Solid South Edit

In 1900, as the 56th Congress considered proposals for apportioning its seats among the 45 states following the 1900 Federal Census, Representative Edgar D. Crumpacker (R-IN) filed an independent report urging that the Southern states be stripped of seats due to the large numbers of voters they had disfranchised. He noted this was provided for in Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provided for stripping representation from states that reduced suffrage due to race. [81] However, concerted opposition of the Southern Democratic bloc was aroused, and the effort failed.

From 1896 until 1900, the House of Representatives with a Republican majority had acted in more than thirty cases to set aside election results from Southern states where the House Elections Committee had concluded that "black voters had been excluded due to fraud, violence, or intimidation". However, in the early 1900s, it began to back off, after Democrats won a majority, which included Southern delegations that were solidly in Democratic hands.

President Theodore Roosevelt made public statements against lynching in 1903, following George White's murder in Delaware, and in the 1906 State of the Union Address on December 4, 1906. When Roosevelt suggested that lynching was taking place in the Philippines, Southern senators (all white Democrats) demonstrated their power by a filibuster in 1902 during review of the "Philippines Bill". In 1903 Roosevelt refrained from commenting on lynching during his Southern political campaigns.

Durbin had successfully used the Indiana National Guard to disperse lynchers, and publicly declared that an African-American man accused of murder was entitled to a fair trial. Roosevelt's efforts cost him political support among white people, especially in the South. Threats against him increased so that the Secret Service added to the size of his bodyguard detail. [82]

Great Migration Edit

In what has been viewed as multiple acts of resistance, tens of thousands of African Americans left the South annually – especially from 1910 to 1940 – seeking jobs and better lives in industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest in a movement that was called the "Great Migration". [55] More than 1.5 million people went North during this phase of the Great Migration. They refused to live under the rules of segregation and the continual threat of violence, and many secured better educations and futures for themselves and their children, while adapting to the drastically different requirements of industrial cities. Northern industries such as the Pennsylvania Railroad and others, and stockyards and meatpacking plants in Chicago and Omaha, vigorously recruited southern workers. For instance, by 1923, the Pennsylvania Railroad had hired 10,000 black men from Florida and Georgia to work at their expanding yards and tracks. [83]

The rapid influx of blacks disturbed the racial balance within Northern cities, exacerbating hostility between black and white Northerners. The Red Summer of 1919 was marked by hundreds of deaths and higher casualties across the U.S. as a result of race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities, such as the Chicago race riot of 1919 and the Omaha race riot of 1919. Stereotypic schemas of Southern blacks were used to attribute issues in urban areas, such as crime and disease, to the presence of African Americans. Overall, African Americans in Northern cities experienced systemic discrimination in a plethora of aspects of life. Within employment, economic opportunities for blacks were routed to the lowest-status and restrictive in potential mobility. Within the housing market, stronger discriminatory measures were used in correlation to the influx, resulting in a mix of "targeted violence, restrictive covenants, redlining and racial steering". [84]

Resistance Edit

African-American writers used their talents in numerous ways to publicize and protest against lynching. In 1914, Angelina Weld Grimké had already written her play Rachel to address racial violence. It was produced in 1916. In 1915, W. E. B. Du Bois, noted scholar and head of the recently formed NAACP, called for more black-authored plays.

African-American women playwrights were strong in responding. They wrote ten of the 14 anti-lynching plays produced between 1916 and 1935. The NAACP set up a Drama Committee to encourage such work. In addition, Howard University, the leading historically black college, established a theater department in 1920 to encourage African-American dramatists. Starting in 1924, the NAACP's major publications The Crisis and Opportunity sponsored contests to encourage black literary production. [85]

New Klan Edit

In 1915, three events highlighted racial and social tensions: distribution of D.W. Griffith's film, The Birth of a Nation the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, in Atlanta, Georgia and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan near Atlanta.

D. W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, glorified the original Klan as protecting southern women during Reconstruction, which he portrayed as a time of violence and corruption, following the Dunning School interpretation of history. The film aroused great controversy. It was popular among whites in the South, but was protested against by the NAACP and other civil rights groups, who achieved banning it in some cities, and it garnered much national publicity.

In 1915, Leo Frank, an American Jew, was lynched near Atlanta, Georgia. Frank had been convicted in 1913 for the murder of Mary Phagan, a thirteen-year-old girl employed by his pencil factory. There were a series of appeals, but all failed. The final appeal was a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. After Governor John M. Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment, a group of men, calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan, kidnapped Frank from a prison farm in Milledgeville in a planned event that included cutting the prison's telephone wires. They transported him 175 miles back to Marietta, near Atlanta, where they lynched him in front of a mob.

On November 25, 1915, two months after Frank was lynched, a group led by William J. Simmons burned a cross on top of Stone Mountain, inaugurating a revival of the Ku Klux Klan. The event was attended by 15 charter members and a few aging survivors of the original Klan. [86]

The Klan and their use of lynching was supported by some public officials like John Trotwood Moore, the State Librarian and Archivist of Tennessee from 1919 to 1929. [87] Moore "became one of the South's more strident advocates of lynching." [87]

The Klan grew after that due to majority of white Protestants' anxieties and fears over the rapid pace of change and economic and social competition. It promoted itself as a fraternal organization for ethnic Northern Europeans in new urban environments. Many African-American migrants moved north in the Great Migration, resulting in labor shortages in most of the rural South. In addition, they also migrated to some rapidly growing Southern industrial cities. At the same time, the United States was receiving millions of immigrants from Mexico, the Middle East, East Asia, and southern and eastern Europe who settled in northeastern, midwestern, and western industrial cities. As a result, the Klan grew rapidly and became most successful and strongest in those cities that had a rapid pace of growth from 1910 to 1930, such as southern cities of Atlanta, Georgia Birmingham, Alabama and Dallas, Texas and non-southern cities of Detroit, Michigan Indianapolis, Indiana Chicago, Illinois Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado. It reached a peak of membership and influence about 1925. In some cities, non-Protestant leaders' actions to publish names of Klan members and override its secrecy provided enough publicity to sharply reduce membership. [88]

1919 was one of the worst years for lynching with at least seventy-six people were killed in mob or vigilante related violence. Of these, more than eleven African American veterans who had served in the recently completed war were lynched in that year. [89] : 232

Continuing resistance Edit

The NAACP mounted a strong nationwide campaign of protests and public education against The Birth of a Nation. As a result, some city governments prohibited the release of the film. In addition, the NAACP publicized production and helped create audiences for the 1919 releases, The Birth of a Race and Within Our Gates, African-American–directed films that presented more positive images of blacks.

On April 1, 1918, U.S. Representative Leonidas C. Dyer of St. Louis, Missouri, introduced the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Dyer was concerned over increased lynching, mob violence, and disregard for the "rule of law" in the South. The bill made lynching a federal crime, and those who participated in lynching would be prosecuted by the federal government. It did not pass due to a Southern filibuster, and the Senate would not pass anti-lynching legislation until 2018 (the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act).

On 1919, the new NAACP organized the National Conference on Lynching to increase support for the Dyer Bill.

In 1920, the black community succeeded in getting its most important priority in the Republican Party's platform at the National Convention: support for an anti-lynching bill. The black community supported Warren G. Harding in that election, but were disappointed as his administration moved slowly on a bill. [90]

Dyer revised his bill and re-introduced it to the House in 1921. It passed the House on January 22, 1922, due to "insistent country-wide demand", [90] and was favorably reported out by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Action in the Senate was delayed, and ultimately the Democratic Solid South filibuster defeated the bill in the Senate in December. [91] In 1923, Dyer went on a midwestern and western state tour promoting the anti-lynching bill he praised the NAACP's work for continuing to publicize lynching in the South and for supporting the federal bill. Dyer's anti-lynching motto was "We have just begun to fight," and he helped generate additional national support. His bill was defeated twice more in the Senate by Southern Democratic filibuster. The Republicans were unable to pass a bill in the 1920s. [92]

African-American resistance to lynching carried substantial risks. In 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a group of African-American citizens attempted to stop a lynch mob from taking 19-year-old assault suspect Dick Rowland out of jail. In a scuffle between a white man and an armed African-American veteran, the white man was killed. Whites retaliated by rioting, during which they burned 1,256 homes and as many as 200 businesses in the segregated Greenwood district, destroying what had been a thriving area. Confirmed dead were 39 people: 26 African Americans and 13 whites. Recent investigations suggest the number of African-American deaths may have been much higher, up to 300. [93] Rowland was saved, however, and was later exonerated.

The growing networks of African-American women's club groups were instrumental in raising funds to support the NAACP's public education and lobbying campaigns. They also built community organizations. In 1922, Mary Talbert headed the anti-lynching crusade to create an integrated women's movement against lynching. [79] It was affiliated with the NAACP, which mounted a multi-faceted campaign. For years the NAACP used petition drives, letters to newspapers, articles, posters, lobbying Congress, and marches to protest against the abuses in the South and keep the issue before the public.

While the second Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly in cities, underwent major change, [ clarification needed ] and achieved some political power, many state and city leaders, including white religious leaders such as Reinhold Niebuhr in Detroit, acted strongly and spoke out publicly against the organization. Some anti-Klan groups published members' names and quickly reduced the energy in their efforts. As a result, in most areas, after 1925 Klan membership and organizations rapidly declined. Cities passed laws against wearing of masks, and otherwise acted against the Klan. [94] [ page needed ]

In 1930, Southern white women responded in large numbers to the leadership of Jessie Daniel Ames in forming the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. She and her co-founders obtained the signatures of 40,000 women to their pledge against lynching and for a change in the South. The pledge included the statement:

In light of the facts we dare no longer to. allow those bent upon personal revenge and savagery to commit acts of violence and lawlessness in the name of women.

Despite physical threats and hostile opposition, the women leaders persisted with petition drives, letter campaigns, meetings, and demonstrations to highlight the issues. [16] By the 1930s, the number of lynchings had dropped to about ten per year in Southern states.

In the 1930s, communist organizations, including a legal defense organization called the International Labor Defense (ILD), organized support to stop lynching (see Communist Party USA and African Americans). The ILD defended the Scottsboro Boys, as well as three black men accused of rape in Tuscaloosa in 1933. In the Tuscaloosa case, two defendants were lynched under circumstances that suggested police complicity. The ILD lawyers narrowly escaped lynching. Many Southerners resented them for their perceived "interference" in local affairs. In a remark to an investigator, a white Tuscaloosan said, "For New York Jews to butt in and spread communistic ideas is too much." [41]

Federal action and Southern resistance Edit

Anti-lynching advocates such as Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White campaigned for presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. They hoped he would lend public support to their efforts against lynching. Senators Robert F. Wagner and Edward P. Costigan drafted the Costigan–Wagner Bill in 1934 to require local authorities to protect prisoners from lynch mobs. Like the Dyer Bill, it made lynching a Federal crime in order to take it out of state administration.

Southern Senators continued to hold a hammerlock on Congress. Because of the Southern Democrats' disfranchisement of African Americans in Southern states at the start of the 20th century, Southern whites for decades had nearly double the representation in Congress beyond their own population. Southern states had Congressional representation based on total population, but essentially only whites could vote and only their issues were supported. Due to seniority achieved through one-party Democratic rule in their region, Southern Democrats controlled many important committees in both houses. Southern Democrats consistently opposed any legislation related to putting lynching under Federal oversight. As a result, Southern white Democrats were a formidable power in Congress until the 1960s.

In the 1930s, virtually all Southern senators blocked the proposed Costigan–Wagner Bill. Southern senators used a filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill. Some Republican senators, such as the conservative William Borah from Idaho, opposed the bill for constitutional reasons (he had also opposed the Dyer Bill). He felt it encroached on state sovereignty and, by the 1930s, thought that social conditions had changed so that the bill was less needed. [95] He spoke at length in opposition to the bill in 1935 and 1938. 1934 saw 15 lynchings of African Americans with 21 lynchings in 1935, 8 in 1936, and 2 in 1939.

A lynching in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, changed the political climate in Washington. [96] On July 19, 1935, Rubin Stacy, a homeless African-American tenant farmer, knocked on doors begging for food. After resident complaints, deputies took Stacy into custody. While he was in custody, a lynch mob took Stacy from the deputies and murdered him. Although the faces of his murderers could be seen in a photo taken at the lynching site, the state did not prosecute the murder. [97]

Stacy's murder galvanized anti-lynching activists, but President Roosevelt did not support the federal anti-lynching bill. He feared that support would cost him Southern votes in the 1936 election. He believed that he could accomplish more for more people by getting re-elected.

In 1937, the lynching of Roosevelt Townes and Robert McDaniels gained national publicity, and its brutality was widely condemned. [98] Such publicity enabled Joseph A. Gavagan (D-New York) to gain support for anti-lynching legislation he had put forward in the House of Representatives it was supported in the Senate by Democrats Robert F. Wagner (New York) and Frederick Van Nuys (Indiana). The legislation eventually passed in the House, but the Solid South of white Democrats blocked it in the Senate. [99] [100]

In 1939, Roosevelt created the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department. It started prosecutions to combat lynching, but failed to win any convictions until 1946. [101]

Second Great Migration Edit

The industrial buildup to World War II acted as a "pull" factor in the second phase of the Second Great Migration starting in 1940 and lasting until 1970. Altogether in the first half of the 20th century, 6.5 million African Americans migrated from the South to leave lynchings and segregation behind. Unlike the first round, composed chiefly of rural farmworkers, the second wave included more educated workers and their families who were already living in Southern cities and towns. In this migration, many left for Western cities in addition to Northeastern and Midwestern cities, as defense industries recruited tens of thousands to higher-paying, skilled jobs. They settled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle.

Federal action Edit

In 1946, the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department gained its first conviction under federal civil rights laws against a lyncher. Florida constable Tom Crews was sentenced to a $1,000 fine (equivalent to $13,300 in 2020) and one year in prison for civil rights violations in the killing of an African-American farm worker.

In 1946, a mob of white men shot and killed two young African-American couples near Moore's Ford Bridge in Walton County, Georgia, 60 miles east of Atlanta. This lynching of four young sharecroppers, one a World War II veteran, shocked the nation. The attack was a key factor in President Harry S. Truman's making civil rights a priority of his administration. Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the crime, they were unable to prosecute. It was the last documented lynching of so many people in one incident. [101]

In 1947, the Truman administration published a report entitled To Secure These Rights which advocated making lynching a federal crime, abolishing poll taxes, and other civil rights reforms. The Southern Democratic bloc of senators and congressmen continued to obstruct attempts at federal legislation. [102]

In the 1940s, the Klan openly criticized Truman for his efforts to promote civil rights. Later historians documented that Truman had briefly made an attempt to join the Klan as a young man in 1924, when it was near its peak of social influence in promoting itself as a fraternal organization. When a Klan officer demanded that Truman pledge not to hire any Catholics if he were re-elected as county judge, Truman refused. He personally knew their worth from his World War I experience. His membership fee was returned and he never joined the Klan. [103]

Lynching and the Cold War Edit

International media, including the media in the Soviet Union, covered racial discrimination in the U.S. [47] [104] Deeming American criticism of the Soviet Union's human rights abuses as hypocrisy, the Soviets would respond with "And you are lynching Negroes". [105] In his 1934 book Russia Today: What Can We Learn from It?, Sherwood Eddy wrote: "In the most remote villages of Russia today Americans are frequently asked what they are going to do to the Scottsboro Boys and why they lynch Negroes." [106]

In a meeting with President Harry Truman in 1946, Paul Robeson urged him to take action against lynching. In 1951, Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress made a presentation entitled "We Charge Genocide" to the United Nations. They argued that the U.S. government was guilty of genocide under Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention because it failed to act against lynchings. [ citation needed ] The first year on record with no lynchings reported in the United States was 1952. [107]

In the early Cold War years, the FBI was worried more about possible communist connections among anti-lynching groups than about the lynching crimes. For instance, the FBI branded Albert Einstein a communist sympathizer for joining Robeson's American Crusade Against Lynching. [108] J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI for decades, was particularly fearful of the effects of communism in the United States. He directed more attention to investigations of civil rights groups for communist connections than to Ku Klux Klan activities against the groups' members and other innocent blacks. [ citation needed ]

Civil rights movement Edit

By the 1950s, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Membership in the NAACP increased in states across the country. The NAACP achieved a significant U.S. Supreme Court victory in 1954 ruling that segregated education was unconstitutional. A 1955 lynching that sparked public outrage about injustice was that of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago. Spending the summer with relatives in Money, Mississippi, Till was killed for allegedly having wolf-whistled at a white woman. Till had been badly beaten, one of his eyes was gouged out, and he was shot in the head before being thrown into the Tallahatchie River, his body weighed down with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His mother insisted on a public funeral with an open casket, to show people how badly Till's body had been disfigured. News photographs circulated around the country, and drew intense public reaction. The visceral response to his mother's decision to have an open-casket funeral mobilized the black community throughout the U.S. [109] The state of Mississippi tried two defendants, but they were speedily acquitted by an all-white jury. [110]

In the 1960s the civil rights movement attracted students to the South from all over the country to work on voter registration and integration. The intervention of people from outside the communities and threat of social change aroused fear and resentment among many whites. In June 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared in Neshoba County, Mississippi. They had been investigating the arson of a black church being used as a "Freedom School". Six weeks later, their bodies were found in a partially constructed dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi. James Chaney of Meridian, Mississippi, and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman of New York City had been members of the Congress of Racial Equality. They had been dedicated to non-violent direct action against racial discrimination. The investigation also unearthed the bodies of numerous anonymous victims of past lynchings and murders.

The United States prosecuted 18 men for a Ku Klux Klan conspiracy to deprive the victims of their civil rights under 19th-century Federal law, in order to prosecute the crime in Federal court. Seven men were convicted but received light sentences, two men were released because of a deadlocked jury, and the remainder were acquitted. In 2005, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen, one of the men who had earlier gone free, was retried by the state of Mississippi, convicted of three counts of manslaughter in a new trial, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Killen died in 2018 after serving 12 + 1 ⁄ 2 years.

Because of J. Edgar Hoover's and others' hostility to the civil rights movement, agents of the FBI resorted to outright lying to smear civil rights workers and other opponents of lynching. For example, the FBI leaked false information in the press about the lynching victim Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered in 1965 in Alabama. The FBI said Liuzzo had been a member of the Communist Party USA, had abandoned her five children, and was involved in sexual relationships with African Americans in the movement. [111]

After the civil rights movement Edit

Incidents Edit

Although lynchings have become rare following the civil rights movement and changing social norms, some lynchings have still occurred. In 1981, two Klan members in Alabama randomly selected a 19-year-old black man, Michael Donald, and murdered him, in order to retaliate for a jury's acquittal of a black man who was accused of murdering a white police officer. The Klansmen were caught, prosecuted, and convicted (one of the Klansmen, Henry Hayes, was sentenced to death and executed on June 6, 1997). A $7 million judgment in a civil suit against the Klan bankrupted the local Klan subgroup, the United Klans of America. [112]

In 1998, Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russel Brewer, and ex-convict John William King murdered James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. Byrd was a 49-year-old father of three, who had accepted an early-morning ride home with the three men. They attacked him and dragged him to his death behind their truck. [113] The three men dumped their victim's mutilated remains in the town's segregated African-American cemetery and then went to a barbecue. [114] Local authorities immediately treated the murder as a hate crime and requested FBI assistance. The murderers (two of whom turned out to be members of a white supremacist prison gang) were caught and stood trial. Brewer and King were both sentenced to death (with Brewer being executed in 2011, and King being executed in 2019). Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

On June 13, 2005, the U.S. Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact a federal anti-lynching law in the early 20th century, "when it was most needed". Before the vote, Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu noted: "There may be no other injustice in American history for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility." [115] The resolution was passed on a voice vote with 80 senators cosponsoring, with Mississippians Thad Cochran and Trent Lott being among the twenty U.S. senators abstaining. [115] The resolution expressed "the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States". [115]

In February 2014 a noose was placed on the statue of James Meredith, the first African-American student at the University of Mississippi. [116] A number of nooses appeared in 2017, primarily in or near Washington, D.C. [117] [118] [119]

In August 2014 Lennon Lacy, a teenager from Bladenboro, North Carolina, who had been dating a white girl, was found dead, hanging from a swing set. His family believes he was lynched, but the FBI stated, after investigation, that it found no evidence of a hate crime. The case is featured in a 2019 documentary about lynching in America, Always in Season. [120]

In May 2017, Mississippi state representative Karl Oliver of Winona stated that Louisiana lawmakers who supported the removal of Confederate monuments from their state should be lynched. Oliver's district includes Money, Mississippi, where Emmett Till was murdered. Mississippi leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties quickly condemned Oliver's statement. [121]

In 2019, Goodloe Sutton, then editor of a small Alabama newspaper, The Democrat-Reporter, got national publicity by saying in an editorial that the Ku Klux Klan was needed to "clean up D.C." [122] Asked what he meant by "cleaning up D.C.", he suggested lynching: "We'll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them." "When asked if he felt it was appropriate for the publisher of a newspaper to call for the lynching of Americans, Sutton doubled down on his position: …'It's not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we're talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?'" He denied that the Klan was a racist and violent organization, comparing it to the NAACP. [123]

On January 6, 2021 the rioters during the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol shouted "Hang Mike Pence!" in an attempt to lynch the Vice-President for refusing to overturn the 2020 United States Presidential Election in favor of President Donald Trump while they built a gallows on the Capitol lawn. [124]

A 2017 study found that exposure to lynchings in the post-Reconstruction South "reduced local black voter turnout by roughly 2.5 percentage points." [125] Another 2017 study found supportive evidence of Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck's claim that lynchings were "due to economic competition between African-American and white cotton workers". [126] The study found that lynchings were associated with greater black out-migration from 1920 to 1930, and higher state-level wages. [126] A 2014 study by economist Lisa D. Cook found that lynchings and other forms of racial violence targeting African Americans over the period 1870–1940 to lower innovation among African Americans. [127]

Statistics for lynchings have traditionally come from three sources primarily, none of which covered the entire historical time period of lynching in the United States. Before 1882, no reliable statistics are assembled on a national level. In 1882, the Chicago Tribune began to systematically tabulate lynchings. In 1908, the Tuskegee Institute began a systematic collection of lynching reports under the direction of Monroe Work at its Department of Records, drawn primarily from newspaper reports. Monroe Work published his first independent tabulations in 1910, although his report also went back to the starting year 1882. [128] Finally, in 1912, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People started an independent record of lynchings. The numbers of lynchings from each source vary slightly, with the Tuskegee Institute's figures being considered "conservative" by some historians. [55]

Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, defined conditions that constituted a recognized lynching, a definition which became generally accepted by other compilers of the era:

1. There must be legal evidence that a person was killed.
2. That person must have met death illegally.
3. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing.
4. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race, or tradition. [129] [130]

The records of Tuskegee Institute remain the single most complete source of statistics and records on this crime since 1882 for all states, although modern research has illuminated new incidents in studies focused on specific states in isolation. [131] As of 1959, which was the last time that Tuskegee Institute's annual report was published, a total of 4,733 persons had died by lynching since 1882. The last lynching recorded by the Tuskegee Institute was that of Emmet Till in 1955. In the 65 years leading up to 1947, at least one lynching was reported every year. 1882 to 1901 saw the highest period of lynchings, with an average of over 150 each year. 1892 saw the most number of lynchings in a year: 231. After 1924 cases steadily declined, with less than 30 a year. [132]

1892 saw the highest relative rate for lynching: 3.25 per one million people. Lynchings were most common in the latter 19th century and greatly reduced following the 1920s. [50] [54] The decreasing rate of yearly lynchings was faster outside the South and for white victims of lynching. Lynching became more of a Southern phenomenon and a racial one that overwhelmingly affected black victims. [2]

Opponents of legislation often said lynchings prevented murder and rape. As documented by Ida B. Wells, the most prevalent accusation against lynching victims was murder or attempted murder. Rape charges or rumors were present in less than one-third of the lynchings such charges were often pretexts for lynching blacks who violated Jim Crow etiquette or engaged in economic competition with whites. Other common reasons given included arson, theft, assault, and robbery sexual transgressions (miscegenation, adultery, cohabitation) "race prejudice", "race hatred", "racial disturbance" informing on others "threats against whites" and violations of the color line ("attending white girl", "proposals to white woman"). [133]

1892. According to the Tuskegee Institute, 38% of victims of lynching were accused of murder, 16% of rape, 7% for attempted rape, 6% were accused of felonious assault, 7% for theft, 2% for insult to white people and 24% were accused of miscellaneous offenses or no offense. [2]

In 1940, Sociologist Arthur F. Raper investigated one hundred lynchings after 1929 and estimated that approximately one-third of the victims were falsely accused. [2]

Tuskegee Institute's method of categorizing most lynching victims as either black or white in publications and data summaries meant that the murders of some minority and immigrant groups were obscured. In the West, for instance, Mexican, Native Americans, and Chinese were more frequent targets of lynchings than were African Americans, but their deaths were included among those of whites. Similarly, although Italian immigrants were the focus of violence in Louisiana when they started arriving in greater numbers, their deaths were not tabulated separately from whites. In earlier years, whites who were subject to lynching were often targeted because of suspected political activities or support of freedmen, but they were generally considered members of the community in a way new immigrants were not. [25]

There were also black-on-black lynchings, with 125 recorded between 1882 and 1903, and there were four incidences of whites being killed by black mobs. The rate of black-on-black lynchings rose and fell in similar pattern of overall lynchings. There were also over 200 cases of white-on-white lynchings in the South before 1930. [54]

The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, reported 3,959 American victims of "racial terror lynchings" in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950, and also provided a map of the murders. [134]

For most of the history of the United States, lynching was rarely prosecuted, as the same people who would have had to prosecute and sit on juries were generally on the side of the action or related to the perpetrators in the small communities where many lived. When the crime was prosecuted, it was under state murder statutes. In one example in 1907–09, the U.S. Supreme Court tried its only criminal case in history, 203 U.S. 563 (U.S. v. Sheriff Shipp). Shipp was found guilty of criminal contempt for doing nothing to stop the mob in Chattanooga, Tennessee that lynched Ed Johnson, who was in jail for rape. [135] In the South, blacks generally were not able to serve on juries, as they could not vote, having been disfranchised by discriminatory voter registration and electoral rules passed by majority-white legislatures in the late 19th century, who also imposed Jim Crow laws.

Starting in 1909, federal legislators introduced more than 200 bills in Congress to make lynching a Federal crime, but they failed to pass, chiefly because of Southern legislators' opposition. [136] Because Southern states had effectively disfranchised African Americans at the start of the 20th century, the white Southern Democrats controlled all the apportioned seats of the South, nearly double the Congressional representation that white residents alone would have been entitled to. They were a powerful voting bloc for decades and controlled important committee chairmanships. The Senate Democrats formed a bloc that filibustered for a week in December 1922, holding up all national business, to defeat the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It had passed the House in January 1922 with broad support except for the South. Representative Leonidas C. Dyer of St. Louis, the chief sponsor, undertook a national speaking tour in support of the bill in 1923, but the Southern Senators defeated it twice more in the next two sessions.

Under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department tried, but failed, to prosecute lynchers under Reconstruction-era civil rights laws. The first successful federal prosecution of a lyncher for a civil rights violation was in 1946. By that time, the era of lynchings as a common occurrence had ended. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. succeeded in gaining House passage of an anti-lynching bill, but it was defeated in the Senate, still dominated by the Southern Democratic bloc, supported by its disfranchisement of blacks.

From 1882 to 1968, ". nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal law." [18] The Southern Democratic block in the Senate prevented the passage of any anti-lynching bill during this period. In 2005, by a resolution sponsored by senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and George Allen of Virginia, and passed by voice vote, the Senate made a formal apology for its failure to pass an anti-lynching law "when it was most needed". [18]

On December 19, 2018, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously in favor of the "Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018" which, for the first time in U.S. history, would make lynching a federal hate crime. [137] [138] The legislation had been reintroduced to the Senate earlier that year as Senate Bill S. 3178 by the three African-American U.S. senators, Tim Scott, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker. [139] As of June 2019 [update] the bill, which failed to become law during the 115th U.S. Congress, had been reintroduced as the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. The House of Representatives voted 410-4 to pass it on February 26, 2020. [140]

As of June 4, 2020, while protests and civil unrest over the murder of George Floyd were occurring nationwide, the bill was being considered by the Senate, with Senator Rand Paul preventing the bill from being passed by unanimous consent. Paul opposes the bill's language for being overly broad, including attacks which he felt were not extreme enough to qualify as "lynching", stating that "this bill would cheapen the meaning of lynching by defining it so broadly as to include a minor bruise or abrasion" and has proposed an amendment that would apply a "serious bodily injury standard" for a crime to be considered as lynching. [141] [142] [143]

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer criticized Rand Paul's position, saying on Twitter that "it is shameful that one GOP Senator is standing in the way of seeing this bill become law." Senator Kamala Harris added that "Senator Paul is now trying to weaken a bill that was already passed — there's no reason for this" while speaking to have the amendment defeated. [143] [141]

As of June 6th, 2021, no legislation has passed both houses of Congress.

State laws Edit

In 1933, California defined lynching, punishable by 2–4 years in prison, as "the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer", with the crime of "riot" defined as two or more people using violence or the threat of violence. [144] It does not refer to lynching homicide, and has been used to charge individuals who have tried to free someone in police custody – leading to controversy. [145] [146] In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation by Senator Holly Mitchell removing the word "lynching" from the state's criminal code without comment after it received unanimous approval in a vote by state lawmakers. Mitchell stated, "It's been said that strong words should be reserved for strong concepts, and 'lynching' has such a painful history for African Americans that the law should only use it for what it is - murder by mob." The law was otherwise unchanged. [144]

In 1899, Indiana passed anti-lynching legislation. It was enforced by Governor Winfield T. Durbin, who forced investigation into a 1902 lynching and removed the sheriff responsible. In 1903 he sent militia to bring order to a race riot which had broken out on Independence Day in Evansville, Indiana. In 1920, 600 men attempted to remove a black prisoner from Marion County Jail, but were prevented by the city's police. [147] [148] Lawrence Beitler photographed the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in 1930 [149] in Marion, Indiana. Seeing this image inspired Abel Meeropol to write the song "Strange Fruit", [150] which was popularized by singer Billie Holiday. In reaction to these murders, Flossie Bailey pushed for passage [151] of the 1931 Indiana anti-lynching law. [152] The law provided for the immediate dismissal of any sheriff who allowed a jailed person to be lynched, and allowed the victim's family to sue for $10,000. However, local authorities failed to prosecute mob leaders. In one case when a sheriff was indicted by Indiana's attorney general, James Ogden, the jury refused to convict. [147] [148]

In an odd turn, in 1951 South Carolina passed a law criminalizing second-degree lynching, which it defined as "any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person and from which death does not result shall constitute the crime of lynching in the second degree and shall be a felony. Any person found guilty of lynching in the second degree shall be confined at hard labor in the State Penitentiary for a term not exceeding twenty years nor less than three years, at the discretion of the presiding judge." [153] By 2003, however, all but two of the state's 46 counties charged blacks with second-degree lynching out of proportion to their representation in the population. In the prior 5 years, 4,000 adults were charged, and 136 were convicted. Black suspects were convicted of this assault charge at twice the rate of white suspects. 1,400 juvenile lynching charges were filed, and, in 2002, 231 black youths were convicted, ten times as many as white youths. [154] In 2006, five white teenagers were given various sentences for second-degree lynching in a non-lethal attack on a young black man in South Carolina. [155] In 2010, the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission voted to rename the law "assault and battery by a mob," and to soften consequences for situations in which no one was killed or seriously injured in an attack by two or more people on a single victim. [156] [157]

The 1935 New York anti-lynching exhibitions were held in support of the Costigan-Wagner Bill, with many artworks depicting lynching in various ways.

Literature and film Edit

    's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an 1885 novel, depicts attempted (although failed) lynching as a minor episode. 's The Virginian, a 1902 seminal novel in the genre of Western novels in the United States, dealt with a fictional treatment of the Johnson County War and frontier lynchings in the West.
  • Tracked by Bloodhounds or, A Lynching at Cripple Creek, a 1904 silentcrime dramashort film directed by Harry Buckwalter. 's Rachel (1914) was the first play about the toll of racial violence directed at African-American families it was produced in 1916.
  • Following the commercial and critical success of D. W. Griffith's film, Birth of a Nation (1915), which glorified the Ku Klux Klan for its violence during Reconstruction, African-American director and writer Oscar Micheaux responded in 1919 with the film Within Our Gates. The climax of the film is the lynching of a black family after one member of the family is wrongly accused of murder. Considered a commercial failure, the film was an inductee of the 1992 National Film Registry list. [158] 's play, Climbing Jacob's Ladder, was about a lynching it was performed [when?] by the Krigwa Players (later called the Negro Experimental Theater), a Harlem theatre company. 's short story "Dry September" (1931) tells the story of a lynch mob forming in response to an alleged offense against a white woman. 's 1932 book Wild Pilgrimage (printed in woodblock prints, with no text) includes three prints of the lynching of several black men.
  • In Irving Berlin's 1933 musical, As Thousands Cheer,Ethel Waters sang a ballad about lynching, "Supper Time". She wrote in her 1951 autobiography, His Eye Was on the Sparrow: "if one song could tell the story of an entire race, that was it."
  • Murder in Harlem (1935), by director Oscar Micheaux, was one of three films he made based on events in the controversial trial of Leo Frank, a northern Jewish man convicted of murder of a Georgia factory girl. He portrayed the character analogous to Frank as guilty and set the film in New York, removing sectional conflict as one of the cultural forces in the trial. Micheaux's first version was a silent film, The Gunsaulus Mystery (1921). Lem Hawkins Confession (1935) was also related to the Leo Frank trial. [159] 's short story "The Vigilante" (1936) is retrospectively concerned with a lynching as seen by one of the chief participants in it. The story is based on historical events, namely the 1933 lynchings of John Maurice Holmes and Thomas Harold Thurmond in San Jose, California, on November 16, 1933. [160]
  • The film They Won't Forget (1937) was inspired by the Frank case it featured the Leo Frank character portrayed as a Christian.
  • In Fury (1936), the German expatriate Fritz Lang depicts a lynch mob burning down a jail in which Joe Wilson (played by Spencer Tracy) was held as a suspect in a kidnapping, a crime for which Wilson was soon after cleared. Lang had left Germany after the Nazis came to power. The story was based on a 1933 lynching in San Jose, California. This had been recorded on newsreel footage and was an event in which Governor of CaliforniaJames Rolph refused to intervene.
  • In Walter Van Tilburg Clark's 1940 novel, The Ox-Bow Incident, two drifters are drawn into a Western posse formed to find the murderer of a local man. After suspicion centered on three innocent cattle rustlers, they were lynched, an injustice that deeply affected the drifters. The novel was adapted as a 1943 film by the same name. It symbolized a wartime defense of United States' values, seen to be based on law, versus the characterization of Nazi Germany as mob rule. 's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), featured a black man, Tom Robinson, who is wrongfully accused of rape and narrowly escapes lynching. After having been wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury, Robinson is later killed while attempting to escape from prison. The novel was adapted as a 1962 film of the same name starring Gregory Peck.
  • "Going to Meet the Man" (1965) is a short story by James Baldwin that includes an account of a particularly horrific lynching.
  • The 1968 film Hang 'Em High, set on the Western frontier, stars Clint Eastwood.
  • The 1988 film Mississippi Burning includes a depiction of a black man being lynched. depicted several lynchings in his Killing Mr. Watson trilogy (first volume published in 1990), set in Florida of the late 19th century. [161]
  • "A Party Down at the Square" (first published in 1997) is a short story by Ralph Ellison that describes a lynching from the point of view of a white boy from Cincinnati. [162]
  • Vendetta, a 1999 HBO film starring Christopher Walken and directed by Nicholas Meyer, is based on events that took place in New Orleans in 1891. After the acquittal of 18 Italian-American men falsely accused of the murder of police chief David Hennessy, a lynch mob attacked them, killing 11 by shooting or hanging in one of the largest mass lynchings in United States history. 's musical Parade tells the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man lynched near Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1900s after being convicted of murder of a young factory girl in a highly biased trial.
  • The 2014 biopic Get On Up about the life of American singer James Brown features a scene in which a young Brown finds the body of a lynched man hanging from a tree near Brown's childhood home. 's film The Hateful Eight (2015), set in the Reconstruction era, features a finale with a detailed depiction of the lynching of a white woman identified as a working-class racist Southerner, with graphic focus on her suffering, prompting some debate among critics about whether it is a political commentary on racism and hate in America or simply sensational and sexist exploitation. [163][164][165]

"Strange Fruit" Edit

Among artistic works that grappled with lynching was the song "Strange Fruit", written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1939 and recorded by Billie Holiday. In part it goes:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

(1856) Sara G. Stanley Addresses The Convention Of Disfranchised Citizens Of Ohio

In January 1856, Sara G. Stanley, representing the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society of Delaware, Ohio, addressed the all-male Convention of Disfranchised Citizens of Ohio who met at the Columbus City Hall. She called upon the forty delegates who included among their ranks John Mercer Langston, Peter H. Clarke and Charles H. Langston, to relentlessly pursue full citizenship rights. Her address appears below.

To the Convention of Disfranchised Citizens of Ohio:

Gentlemen:—Convened as you are in the Capital City of our State—A State great in wealth, power, and political influence, an avowed devotee of Freedom, and a constituent part of a Christian Democratic Confederacy—to concoct measures for obtaining those rights and immunities of which unjust legislation has deprived you, we offer this testimonial of our sympathy and interest in the cause in which you are engaged—a cause fraught with infinite importance—and also express our earnest hope that such determination and invincible courage may be evinced by you in assembly as are requisite to meet the exigencies of the times.

Truth, Justice and Mercy, marshaling their forces, sounds the tocsin which summon the warrior in his burnished armor to the conflict against Error and Oppression. On earth’s broad arena—through Time’s revolving cycles—this warfare has been continuous and now here, in this most brilliant star in the galaxy of nations, where Christianity and civilization, with their inestimable accompaniments and proclivities, have taken their abode and add their benign light to her stellate brightness—bands of her offspring, in very truth her own, despised, persecuted and crushed, assemble in scattered fragments to take the oath of fealty to Freedom, and swear eternal enmity to Oppression to enter into a bond sacred and inviolable, ever to wage interminable intellectual and moral war against the demon,, and to demand the restoration of their birthright, Liberty—kindred of Deity. Nor is the path to victory strewn with flowers obstacles formidable, and apparently insurmountable, arise ominously before even the most hopeful and ardent.

As the Alpine avalanche sweeps tumultously [sic] adown the mountain, overwhelming the peasant and his habitation, so the conglomeration of hatred and prejudice against our race, brought together by perceptible accumulation, augmented and fostered by religion and science united, sweeps with seeming irresistible power toward us, menacing complete annihilation. But, should these things exercise a retarding influence upon our progressive efforts? Let American religion teach adoration to the demon Slavery, whom it denominates God: at the end, the book of record will show its falsity or truth. Let scientific research produce elaborate expositions of the inferiority and mental idiosyncrasy of the colored race one truth, the only essential truth, is incontrovertible:—The Omnipotent, Omniscient God’s glorious autograph—the seal of angels—is written on our brows, that immortal characteristic of Divinity—the rational, mysterious and inexplicable soul, animates our frames.

Then press on! Manhood’s prerogatives are yours by Almighty fiat. These prerogatives American Republicanism, disregarding equity, humanity, and the fundamental principles of her national superstructure, has rendered a nonentity, while on her flag’s transparencies and triumphal arches, stood beautifully those great, noble words: Liberty and Independence—Free Government—church and State! And still they stand exponents of American character—her escutcheon wafts them on its star-spangled surface, to every clime—each ship load of emigrants from monarchical Europe, shout the words synonymous with Americans, their first paean in “the land of the free.” Briery mountain, sparkling water, glassy lake, give back the echoes, soft and clear as if the melody was borrowed from the harps of angels. But strange incongruity! As the song of Freedom verberates and reverberates through the northern hills, and the lingering symphony quivers on the still air and then sinks away into silence, a low deep wail, heavy with anguish and despair, rises from the southern plains, and the clank of chains on human limbs mingles with the mournful cadence.

What to the toiling millions there, is this boasted liberty? What to us is this organic body—this ideal reduced to reality—this institution of the land?—A phantom, shadowy and indistinct—a disembodied form, impalpable to our sense or touch. In the broad area of this Republic there is no spot, however small or isolated, where the colored man can exercise his God-given rights. Genius of America! How art thou fallen, oh Lucifer, son of the morning how art thou fallen!

In view of these things, it is self-evident, and above demonstration that we, as a people, have every incentive to labor for the redress of wrongs. On our native soil, consecrated to freedom, civil liberties are denied us, and we are by compulsion subject to an atrocious and criminal system of political tutelage deleterious to the interest of the entire colored race, and antagonistical to the political axioms of the Republic.

Intuitively, then, we search for the panacea for the manifold ills which we suffer. One, and only one, exists and when each individual among us realizes the absolute impossibility for him to perform any work of supererogation in the common cause, the appliances will prove its own efficacy it is embodied in one potent word—ACTION. Let unanimity of action characterize us let us reject the absurd phantasy of non-intervention let us leave conservatism behind, and substitute a radical, utilitarian spirit, let us cultivate our moral and mental faculties, and labor to effect a general diffusion of knowledge, remembering that “ascendancy naturally and properly belongs to intellectual superiority.”

Let “Excelsior” be our watchword it is the inspiration of all great deeds, and by the universal adoption of this policy we will soon stand triumphantly above the ignorance and weakness of which slavery is the inevitable concomitant—will soon reach that apex of civilization and consequent power to which every earnest, impassioned soul aspires.

Continued and strenuous effort is the basis of all greatness, moral, intellectual, and civil. “Work, man,” says Carlyle, “work! Work! Thou has all eternity to rest in.”

To you, gentlemen, as representatives of the oppressed thousands of Ohio, we look hopefully. This convening is far from being nugatory or unimportant. “Agitation of thought is the beginning of truth,” and furthermore, by pursuing such a line of policy as you in your wisdom may deem expedient, tending toward that paramount object, the results may transcend those attending similar assemblies which have preceded it. Sure, you are numerically small but the race is not always gained by the swift, nor the battle by the strong, and it has become a truism that greatness is the legitimate result of labor, diligence, and perseverance.

It was a Spartan mother’s farewell to her son, “Bring home your shield or be brought upon it.” To you we would say, be true, be courageous, be steadfast in the discharge of your duty. The citadel of Error must yield to the unshrinking phalanx of your duty. The citadel of Error must yield to the closets, we kneel in tearful supplication in your behalf. As Christian wives, mothers and daughters, we invoke the blessing of the King, Eternal and Immortal, “who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, who made the heavens with all their host,” to rest upon you, and we pledge ourselves to exert our influence unceasingly in the cause of Liberty and Humanity.

Again we say, be courageous be steadfast unfurl your banner to the breeze—let its folds float proudly over you, bearing the glorious inscription, broad and brilliant as the material universe: “God and Liberty!” SARA G. STALEY,


United States Edit

Efforts made by Southern states of the United States to prevent black citizens voting began after the end of the Reconstruction Era in 1877. They were enacted by Southern states at the turn of the 20th century. Their actions were designed to thwart the objective of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, enacted in 1870 to protect the suffrage of freedmen. [2]

Democrats were alarmed by a late 19th-century alliance between Republicans and Populists that cost them some elections in North Carolina. Democrats added to previous efforts and achieved widespread disfranchisement by law: from 1890 to 1908, Southern state legislatures passed new constitutions, constitutional amendments, and laws that made voter registration and voting more difficult, especially when administered by white staff in a discriminatory way. They succeeded in disenfranchising most of the black citizens, as well as many poor whites in the South, and voter rolls dropped dramatically in each state. The Republican Party was nearly eliminated in the region for decades, and the Democrats established one-party control throughout the southern states. [3]

In 1912, the Republican Party was split when Theodore Roosevelt ran against the party nominee, Taft. In the South by this time, the Republican Party had been hollowed out by the disfranchisement of African Americans, who were largely excluded from voting. Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected as the first southern president since 1856. He was re-elected in 1916, in a much closer presidential contest. During his first term, Wilson satisfied the request of Southerners in his cabinet and instituted overt racial segregation throughout federal government workplaces, as well as racial discrimination in hiring. During World War I, American military forces were segregated, with black soldiers poorly trained and equipped.

Disfranchisement had far-reaching effects in Congress, where the Democratic Solid South enjoyed "about 25 extra seats in Congress for each decade between 1903 and 1953". [nb 1] [4] Also, the Democratic dominance in the South meant that southern Senators and Representatives became entrenched in Congress. They favored seniority privileges in Congress, which became the standard by 1920, and Southerners controlled chairmanships of important committees, as well as leadership of the national Democratic Party. [4] During the Great Depression, legislation establishing numerous national social programs were passed without the representation of African Americans, leading to gaps in program coverage and discrimination against them in operations. In addition, because black Southerners were not listed on local voter rolls, they were automatically excluded from serving in local courts. Juries were all white across the South.

Political disfranchisement ended with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which authorized the federal government to monitor voter registration practices and elections where populations were historically underrepresented, and to enforce constitutional voting rights. The challenge to voting rights has continued into the 21st century, as shown by numerous court cases in 2016 alone, though attempts to restrict voting rights for political advantage have not been confined to the Southern states. Another method of seeking political advantage through the voting system is the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, as was the case of North Carolina, which in January 2018 was declared by a federal court to be unconstitutional. [5] Such cases are expected to reach the Supreme Court. [6]

Recent Edit

State governments have had the right to establish requirements for voters, voter registration, and conduct of elections. Since the founding of the nation, legislatures have gradually expanded the franchise (sometimes following federal constitutional amendments), from certain propertied white men to almost universal adult suffrage of age 18 and over, with the notable exclusion of people convicted of some crimes. [7] Expansion of suffrage was made on the basis of lowering property requirements, granting suffrage to freedmen and restoring suffrage in some states to free people of color following the American Civil War, to women (except Native American women) in 1920, all Native Americans in 1924, and people over the age of 18 in the 1970s. Public interest groups focus on fighting disfranchisement in the United States amid rising concerns that new restrictions on voting are become more common. [8]

Washington, D.C. Edit

When the District of Columbia was established as the national capital, with lands contributed by Maryland and Virginia, its residents were not allowed to vote for local or federal representatives, in an effort to prevent the district from endangering the national government. Congress had a committee, appointed from among representatives elected to the House, that administered the city and district in lieu of local or state government. Residents did not vote for federal representatives who were appointed to oversee them.

In 1804, US Congress cancelled holding US Presidential elections in Washington, D.C. or allowing residents to vote in them. Amendment 23 was passed by Congress and ratified in 1964 to restore the ability of District residents to vote in presidential elections.

In 1846, the portion of Washington, D.C. contributed from Virginia was "retrocessioned" (returned) to Virginia to protect slavery. People residing there (in what is now Alexandria), vote in local, Virginia and US elections.

Congress uses the same portion of the US Constitution to exclusively manage local and State level law for the citizens of Washington, D.C. and US military bases in the US. Until 1986, military personnel living on bases were considered to have special status as national representatives and prohibited from voting in elections where their bases were located. In 1986, Congress passed a law to enable US military personnel living on bases in the US to vote in local and state elections.

The position of non-voting delegate to Congress from the District was reestablished in 1971. The delegate cannot vote for bills before the House, nor floor votes, but may vote for some procedural and committee matters. In 1973, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act reestablished local government after a hundred-year gap, with regular local elections for mayor and other posts. They do not elect a US senator. People seeking standard representation for the 600,000 District of Columbia residents describe their status as being disfranchised in relation to the federal government. They do vote in presidential elections.

Until 2009, no other NATO (US military allies) or OECD country (US industrialized allies) had disfranchised citizens of their respective national capitals for national legislature elections. No US state prohibits residents of capitals from voting in state elections either, and their cities are contained within regular representative state and congressional districts. [ citation needed ]

Puerto Rico Edit

U.S. federal law applies to Puerto Rico, although Puerto Rico is not a state. Due to the Federal Relations Act of 1950, all federal laws that are "not locally inapplicable" are automatically the law of the land in Puerto Rico (39 Stat. 954, 48 USCA 734). [9] According to ex-Chief of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Jose Trias Monge, "no federal law has ever been found to be locally inapplicable to Puerto Rico. [10] Puerto Ricans were conscripted into the U.S. armed forces they have fought in every war since they became U.S. citizens in 1917. [11] Puerto Rico residents are subject to most U.S. taxes.

Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico pay some U.S. federal taxes [12] and contribute to Social Security, Medicare and other programs through payroll taxes. But, these American citizens have no Congressional representation nor do they vote in U.S. presidential elections.

Juan Torruella and other scholars argue that the U.S. national-electoral process is not a democracy due to issues related to lack of voting rights in Puerto Rico and representation. [13] Both the Puerto Rican Independence Party and the New Progressive Party reject Commonwealth status. The remaining political organization, the Popular Democratic Party has officially stated that it favors fixing the remaining "deficits of democracy" that the Clinton and Bush administrations publicly recognized through Presidential Task Force Reports.

Denmark Edit

Citizens of Denmark are in general not allowed to vote in Danish elections if they reside outside the country for more than two years. [14]

United Kingdom Edit

British citizens are in general not allowed to vote in UK General Elections or referendums if they reside outside the country for more than 15 years. (See the section on the UK in the article on the right of expatriates to vote in their country of origin for further details and sources.)

When the United Kingdom left the European Union on 31st January 2020, there were an estimated 1.8 million British citizens living in other EU member states. The vast majority of these British citizens have since been permanently and irrevocably removed from electoral registers and stripped of all democratic voting rights. Brexit has caused the single largest disfranchisement in European history.

In February 2018, the Overseas Electors Bill was presented to Parliament, with a view to abolishing the 15-year limit and the requirement to have registered to vote before leaving the UK. The Bill, which ran out of time due to the 2019 general election, would have granted all British expatriates the unlimited right to vote, as long as they have lived in the UK at some point in their lives. [15] [16] The issue became a hotly debated topic among British expatriates who have lived in other EU Member States for more than 15 years and were thus barred from voting in the referendum on European Union membership, despite arguably being more affected by the result than British people living in the UK. [17]

The current Conservative Government, elected in December 2019, pledged to remove the 15-year rule and to allow British expatriates to keep their UK vote for life. [18]

Failure to make adequate provision for disabled electors can result in the selective disfranchisement of disabled people. Accessibility issues need to be considered in electoral law, voter registration, provisions for postal voting, the selection of polling stations, the physical equipment of those polling stations and the training of polling station staff. This disfranchisement may be a deliberate facet of electoral law, a consequence of a failure to consider the needs of anyone other than non-disabled electors, or an ongoing failure to respond to identified shortcomings in provision.

Note that in the case of disabled voters the issue may be actual loss of the franchise of someone previously able to vote, rather that ab initio disfranchisement. This may result from the transition from non-disabled to disabled, from changes in the effects of a disability, or changes in the accessibility of the electoral process.

Access issues Edit

Access presents special difficulties for disabled voters.

  • Eligibility—Some nations restrict the franchise based on measured intellectual capacity. Potential voters with learning impairments, mental health issues, or neurological impairments may also find themselves barred from voting by law.
  • Registration—Registration difficulties may disfranchise disabled people through inadequate access provisions. For instance the United Kingdom (UK) Electoral Register is updated annually by a largely paper-based process this provides poor accessibility to people with visual or learning impairments.
  • Postal Voting—Postal voting for disabled voters requires ballots that are appropriate for visually impaired voters. The lack of a private, accessible voting booth makes postal voting inappropriate for others with specific physical and other disabilities.
  • Polling Stations—Polling stations must offer the same physical accessibility that apply to other public facilities (parking, ramps, etc.) There must be sufficient polling stations to minimize queueing, which discriminates against those with mobility, pain or fatigue-based impairments. In 2005, 68% of polling stations in the UK were potentially inaccessible to disabled voters. [19]
  • Equipment—Polling stations must be clearly signposted. Low-to-the-ground polling booths and voting equipment must be available. Equipment must enable independent voting by visually and/or physically impaired voters. In 2005, 30% of UK polling stations were not in compliance with the law that requires a large print ballot and a physical template. [19]
  • Staff—Staff must understand the necessity of taking steps to ensure access and be able to show voters how to use equipment such as physical templates, as well as in "disability etiquette" to avoid patronizing these voters.

Campaigns for improvement Edit

The disability rights movement in the UK has increased attention on electoral accessibility. Campaigns such as Scope's 'Polls Apart' have exposed violations at polling stations. [19]

The exclusion from voting of people otherwise eligible to vote due to conviction of a criminal offense is usually restricted to the more serious class of crimes. In some common law jurisdictions, those are felonies, hence the popular term felony disenfranchisement. In the US, those are generally crimes of incarceration for a duration of more than a year and/or a fine exceeding $1000. Jurisdictions vary as to whether they make such disfranchisement permanent, or restore suffrage after a person has served a sentence, or completed parole or probation. [20] Felony disenfranchisement is one among the collateral consequences of criminal conviction and the loss of rights due to conviction for criminal offense. [21]

Proponents have argued that persons who commit felonies have 'broken' the social contract, and have thereby given up their right to participate in a civil society. Some argue that felons have shown poor judgment, and that they should therefore not have a voice in the political decision-making process. [22] Opponents have argued that such disfranchisement restricts and conflicts with principles of universal suffrage. [23] It can affect civic and communal participation in general. [20] Opponents argue that felony disenfranchisement can create political incentives to skew criminal law in favor of disproportionately targeting groups who are political opponents of those who hold power.

In Western countries, felony disenfranchisement can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman traditions: removal of the franchise was commonly imposed as part of the punishment on those convicted of "infamous" crimes, as part of their "civil death", whereby these persons would lose all rights and claim to property. Most medieval common law jurisdictions developed punishments that provided for some form of exclusion from the community for felons, ranging from execution on sight to exclusion from community processes. [24]

Most democracies give convicted criminals the same voting rights as other citizens. Significant exceptions include the United States and the United Kingdom.

Asia & Oceania Edit

Australia Edit

At Federation in Australia the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 denied the franchise to vote to anyone 'attainted of treason, or who had been convicted and is under sentence or subject to be sentenced for any offence . punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer'. [25]

In 1983 this disqualification was relaxed and prisoners serving a sentence for a crime punishable under the law for less than a maximum five years were allowed to vote. [26] A further softening occurred in 1995 when the loss of voting rights was limited to those serving a sentence of five years or longer, [25] [26] although earlier that year the Keating Government had been planning legislation to extend voting rights to all prisoners. [27] Disenfranchisement does not continue after release from jail/prison. [28]

The Howard Government legislated in 2006 to ban all prisoners from voting. In 2007, the High Court of Australia in Roach v Electoral Commissioner found that the Australian constitution enshrined a limited right to vote, [29] which meant that citizens serving relatively short prison sentences (generally less than three years) cannot be barred from voting. [30] [31] The threshold of three years or more sentence will only result in removal of a prisoner's right to vote in federal elections. Depending on the threshold of exclusion which is distinct in each state, a prisoner may be able to vote in either state elections or federal elections. For example, prisoners in New South Wales serving a sentence of longer than one year are not entitled to vote in state elections. [32]

New Zealand Edit

In New Zealand, people who are in prison are not entitled to enroll while they are in prison. Persons who are convicted of electoral offenses in the past 3 years cannot vote or stand for office. In November 2018, the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled that such restrictions are inconsistent with the nation's Bill of Rights. [33]

India Edit

In India, according to section 62 amendment 5 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in the Indian Constitution, all prisoners, including prisoners on parole, and detained prisoners, are disqualified from voting. This law has been challenged several times, most notably in the Praveen Kumar Chaudhary vs Election Commission of India case. This is done to retain the so-called "Purity of the ballot box". India does not have any postrelease restrictions on voting. [34]

Taiwan Edit

In Taiwan the abrogation of political rights is a form of punishment used in sentencing, available only for some crimes or along with a sentence of death or imprisonment for life. Rights that are suspended in such a sentence include the right to take public office (including those by elections, national exams, or direct appointment). [35]

China Edit

In China, there is a similar punishment of Deprivation of Political Rights.

Hong Kong Edit

On 8 December 2008, Leung Kwok Hung (Long Hair), member of Hong Kong's popularly elected Legislative Council (LegCo), and two prison inmates, successfully challenged disenfranchisement provisions in the LegCo electoral laws. The court found blanket disfranchisement of prisoners to be in violation of Article 26 of the Basic Law and Article 21 of the Bill of Rights and the denial to persons in custody of access to polling stations as against the law. The government introduced a bill to repeal the provisions of the law disenfranchising persons convicted of crimes (even those against the electoral system) as well as similar ones found in other electoral laws, and it made arrangements for polling stations to be set up at detention centers and prisons. LegCo passed the bill, and it took effect from 31 October 2009, even though no major elections were held until the middle of 2011.

Europe Edit

In general, during the recent centuries, the European countries have increasingly made suffrage more accessible. This has included retaining disenfranchisement in fewer and fewer cases, including for criminal offenses. Moreover, most European states, including most of those outside the European Union, have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, and thereby agreed to respect the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. [36] In the case Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2) the Court in 2005 found general rules for automatic disfranchisements resulting from convictions to be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. This ruling applied equally for prisoners and for ex-convicts. It did not exclude the possibility of disfranchisement as a consequence of deliberation in individual cases (such as that of Mohammed Bouyeri [ citation needed ] ). The United Kingdom has not respected this Court opinion, although it is a signatory to the Convention (see below).

Germany Edit

In Germany, all convicts are allowed to vote while in prison unless the loss of the right to vote is part of the sentence courts can only apply this sentence for specific "political" crimes (treason, high treason, electoral fraud, intimidation of voters, etc.) and for a duration of two to five years. [37] All convicts sentenced to at least one year in prison automatically lose the right to be elected in public elections for a duration of five years, and lose all positions they held as a result of such an election.

In Germany the law calls on prisons to encourage prisoners to vote. Only those convicted of electoral fraud and crimes undermining the "democratic order", such as treason, are barred from voting while in prison. [38] In Germany the disenfranchisement by special court order lasts 2–5 years after which the right to vote is reinstated.

Ireland Edit

For elections in the Republic of Ireland, there is no disenfranchisement based on criminal conviction, and prisoners remain on the electoral register at their pre-imprisonment address. [39] Prior to 2006, the grounds for postal voting did not include imprisonment, and hence those in prison on election day were in practice unable to vote, although those on temporary release could do so. [40] [41] In 2000 the High Court ruled that this breached the Constitution, and the government drafted a bill extending postal voting to prisoners on remand or serving sentences of less than six months. [42] However, in 2001, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court ruling and the bill was withdrawn. [42] [43] Following the 2005 ECHR ruling in the Hirst case, the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2006 was passed to allow postal voting by all prisoners. [39] [40] [44]

To comply with the judgment in Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2), the Republic of Ireland passed a statute allowing convicted prisoners to have postal votes. [45]

Italy Edit

In Italy, the most serious offenses involve the loss of voting rights, while for less serious offenses disqualification the judge can choose if there will be some disenfranchisement. Recently, however, the 'decree Severino' added a loss of only the right to stand for an election, against some offenders above a certain threshold of imprisonment: [46] it operates administratively, with fixed duration and without intervention of the court. Many court actions have been presented, but the electoral disputes follows antiquated rules and the danger of causes seamless in terms of eligibility [47] and incompatibility [48] is very high, also at local level. [49]

United Kingdom Edit

The United Kingdom suspends suffrage of some but not all prisoners. For example, civil prisoners sentenced for nonpayment of fines can vote. Prior to the judgment in Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2), convicted prisoners had the right to vote in law but without assistance by prison authorities, voting was unavailable to them. In Hirst, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that First Protocol Article 3 requires Member States to proactively support voting by authorized inmates. [50] In the UK, as of 2009 this policy is under review [51] as in other European countries like Italy. [52]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, former Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, stated that the ruling may result in some, but not all, prisoners being able to vote. [53] The consultation is to be the subject of Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court. [ when? ] Separate challenges by the General Secretary of the Association of Prisoners, Ben Gunn, by way of petition to the European Union Parliament, and John Hirst to the Committee of Ministers are underway. [ when? ]

In the United Kingdom, prohibitions from voting are codified in section 3 and 3A of the Representation of the People Act 1983. [54] Excluded are incarcerated criminals [55] (including those sentenced by courts-martial, those unlawfully at large from such sentences, and those committed to psychiatric institutions as a result of a criminal court sentencing process). Civil prisoners sentenced (for non-payment of fines, or contempt of court, for example), and those on remand unsentenced retain the right to vote.

The UK is subject to Europe-wide rules due to various treaties and agreements associated with its membership of the European Community. The Act does not apply to elections to the European Parliament. Following Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2) (2005), [56] in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled such a ban to be disproportionate, the policy was reviewed by the UK government. In 2005 the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, stated that the review may result in the UK allowing some prisoners to vote. [53] In 2010 the UK was still reviewing the policy, following an "unprecedented warning" from the Council of Europe. [57] The UK government position was then that:

It remains the government's view that the right to vote goes to the essence of the offender's relationship with democratic society, and the removal of the right to vote in the case of some convicted prisoners can be a proportionate and proper response following conviction and imprisonment. The issue of voting rights for prisoners is one that the government takes very seriously and that remains under careful consideration. [57]

Parliament voted in favor of maintaining disenfranchisement of prisoners in 2011 in response to Government plans to introduce legislation. Since then the Government has repeatedly stated that prisoners will not be given the right to vote in spite of the ECHR ruling. [58]

In response to the ECHR ruling, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling produced a draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill for discussion by a Joint Committee, incorporating two clear options for reform and one which would retain the blanket ban. [59]

In an attempt to put an end to the embittered standoff between the Human Rights Court and national courts, in 2017 the Government promised to marginally extend the franchise. [60]

Other European countries Edit

Several other European countries permit disenfranchisement by special court order, including France and the Netherlands. [61]

In several other European countries, no disenfranchisements due to criminal convictions exist. European countries that allow inmates to vote (as of 2012) include Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. [62]

Moreover, many European countries encourage people to vote, such as by making pre-voting in other places than the respective election locales easily accessible. This often includes possibilities for prisoners to pre-vote from the prison itself. This is the case for example in Finland. [63]

Middle East Edit

Israel Edit

Inmates are allowed to vote in Israel and ballot boxes are present in prisons on election day. They do not suffer disfranchisement following release from prison after serving their sentence, parole, or probation. Neither courts nor prison authorities have the power to disqualify any person from exercising the right to vote in national elections, whatever the cause of imprisonment.

North America Edit

Canada Edit

Canada allows inmates to vote. [64] [65] Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants "every citizen of Canada" the right to vote, without further qualification, a right upheld as to inmates in Sauvé v Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) [2002].

United States Edit

Many states intentionally retract the franchise from convicted felons, but differ as to when or if the franchise can be restored. In those states, felons are also prohibited from voting in federal elections, even if their convictions were for state crimes.

Maine and Vermont allow prison inmates as well as probationers and parolees to vote. [66]

Twenty states (Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) do not allow persons convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence, but automatically restore the franchise to the person upon completion of a sentence. [66] In Iowa, in July 2005, Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order restoring the right to vote for all persons who have completed supervision, which the Iowa Supreme Court upheld on October 31, 2005. [67]

Five states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York, and South Dakota) allow probationers to vote, but not inmates or parolees. [66]

Eight states (Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming) allow some, but not all, persons with felony convictions to vote after having completed their sentences. [66] Some have qualifications of this: for example, Delaware does not restore the franchise until five years after release of a person. [68] Similarly, Kentucky requires that the person take action to gain restoration of the franchise. [67]

One state (Virginia) permanently disfranchises persons with felony convictions. [66] In Virginia, former Governor Terry McAuliffe used his executive power to restore voting rights to about 140,000 people with criminal backgrounds in the state. [69]

Disfranchisement due to criminal conviction, particularly after a sentence is served, has been opposed by the Sentencing Project, an organization in the United States working to reduce arbitrary prison sentences for minor crimes and to ameliorate the negative effects of incarceration to enable persons to rejoin society after completing sentences. Its website provides a wealth of statistical data that reflects opposing views on the issue, and data from the United States government and various state governments about the practice of felony disfranchisement.

Such disenfranchisement policy currently excludes one in six African-American males. For example, in the 1998 elections, at least 10 states formally disenfranchised 20 percent of African-American voters due to felony convictions (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1999). Excluding felons provided “a small but clear advantage to Republican candidates in every presidential and senatorial election from 1972 to 2000” (Manza & Uggen, 2006, p. 191). In addition, felon disenfranchisement may have changed the course of history by costing Al Gore the 2000 presidential election (Uggen & Manza, 2002). Similarly, if not for felon disenfranchisement, Democratic senatorial candidates would likely have prevailed in Texas (1978), Kentucky (1984 and 1992), Florida (1988 and 2004), and Georgia (1992) (Manza & Uggen, 2006, p. 194). [70]

Other countries Edit

In some countries, such as China and Portugal, disfranchisement due to criminal conviction is an exception, meted out separately in a particular sentence. Losing voting rights is usually imposed on a person convicted of a crime against the state (see civil death) or one related to election or public office.

Peru allows inmates to vote. [ citation needed ]

In South Africa the constitution protects the right of prisoners to vote. The Constitutional Court has struck down two attempts by the government to deny the vote to convicted criminals in prison. [71]

Most countries or regions set a minimum voting age, and disenfranchise all citizens younger than this age. [72] The most common voting age is 18, though some countries have minimum voting ages set as young as 16 or as old as 21.


Citywide elections cost more money to run and, opponents say, can disenfranchise communities of color.

The President’s insistence that no ballot is counted after Tuesday could disenfranchise a large number of service members and impact the outcome of the election.

We know that three justices — Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch — are willing to disenfranchise voters who failed to predict that the Supreme Court would change the rules in the future.

In an interview with The Washington Post earlier Thursday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said a ruling against the state could disenfranchise an unknown number of state voters.

The Postal Service warned all but four states that they have deadlines that could disenfranchise voters.

And who can blame them for feeling disenfranchised when they see their efforts dwarfed by the mega donors.

Brute is the story of Mac and Jesse, two disenfranchised teens who turn to robbing houses as a form of recreation and quick cash.

Doar agreed that this was a case about “arrogance,” but not of the 1,600 voters now disenfranchised , or of the Justice Department.

When the rule of law and political transition fail to bring about change, disenfranchised and marginalized groups take up arms.

Having played mostly female and trans characters has made him somewhat of a celebrity among the disenfranchised .

Disenfranchised or citizens, allies or aliens, pell-mell the lot of them in we will squeeze.

It returned two members to parliament from 1307 until 1832, but was disenfranchised by the Reform Act.

People write to the Cambridge Magazine saying that every one over forty should be disenfranchised and interned, if not shot.

The constitution can scarcely be called a democratic one, for at least 7000 citizens were disenfranchised .

At least, it would have disenfranchised all Ravick's permanently unemployed "unemployed hunters."

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