Rayford W. Logan of Howard University, writes about the nadir in The betrayal of the Negro. The period goes from 1877-1901 according to Logan, but according to Professor Jenkins it should go from 1877-1919. Political reconstruction ended in 1877. Rutherford B Hayes agrees to remove remaining troops from the south, but more significantly the date makes the end of political reconstruction. World War One ended in 1919 and the date also marks the beginning of race riots, or domestic terrorism that occurs predominantly in the south. This essay will examine the events between the end of reconstruction and the end of World War I to prove that the period between 1877-1919 should be considered the Nadir, or low point, for African Americans..
The post Civil War reconstruction marks a period of optimism for racial equality. It seemed like things were moving in the right direction for African Americans. The 14th amendment passed in 1868 gave African Americans citizenship rights and laid foundation for African American males 21 years or older to participate in the political process. The 15th amendment passed in 1870 directly gave African American males 21 years or older the right to vote.
During reconstruction, the Republican party was the dominant party in the south. Most African Americans at the time identified with the Republican Party. With the majority of the southern population being African American and now having the right to vote, the power looked as if it would stay in the hands of the Republicans for some time. The democrats, noticing this, implemented different methods to disfranchise African American voters. Various intimidations techniques were implemented for example moving voting booths, confusing voters, and getting in their way. The individuals who wanted to disfranchise African Americans had to get around the 15th amendment, which said that you could not prevent any individual, male and 21 years of age or older, on the basis of race, creed, or color.
By using literacy tests, which were intelligence tests that certain states required to be taken in order to vote, it has nothing to do with race, but with intelligence. Weather or not someone passed a literacy test depended on who was administering the test. If the administrator wanted the person to pass, they would pass. In other words the system was corrupt. Some African Americans who were aptly educated could not pass. The literacy tests that came into play after the reconstruction helped sway, in the southern states, for several years after. These literacy tests hid behind racism to sway power in the southern states to the democratic party.
Another way to disfranchise African Americans was to set taxes at the polls, which needed to be paid in order for someone to vote. Taxes were set at such a rate that poor people could not pay them. Since a disproportionate amount of black people were poor, this eliminated much of the black vote. Some white people were effected by these poll taxes, much like they would be effected by the literacy tests, however, losing those few white votes wouldn’t matter because they were votes from poor, stupid whites. It was the black vote, which was the political threat, that politicians wanted to get rid of. If a politician wanted certain people to vote who may not have otherwise done so because of the poll tax, the politician could pay the tax for them. Again this system was corrupt, and the federal government knew what the objective was, but failed to act on it.