Southern Voting Barriers Essay

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The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed saying that every man would have the right to vote regardless of their race. It was meant to give the right to vote to the African American citizens. Even after this was passed however, states in the South were still able to find ways to keep African Americans from voting. It was easy to still deny their right to vote because the amendment only says that laws cannot be made making race a requirement for voting. The most effective barriers created by the South to prevent African Americans from voting were grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and white-only primaries because they were legal and therefore did not directly keep a certain race from voting. After the Fifteenth …show more content…

The grandfather clause was determined to be unconstitutional while states were able to continue giving literacy tests because they were applied to both blacks and whites (Corbin 43). The Supreme Court ruled in 1859 in the case Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections that requirements for voting would be completely left up to the states to decide as long as they do not discriminate against race (Pendergast et al. 307). The states also used the argument that by having literacy tests, it promoted voting done only by intellectuals who were able to understand politics (Corbin 43). When literacy tests were created, they were designed to prevent African Americans from voting (Hay 106). At the time, two-thirds of all African Americans had very little education and were illiterate while three-fourths of whites were literate and could easily pass such a test (Hay 107). Therefore, literacy tests made it so that any white male that wanted to vote could and that any average African American could not because they were not smart enough to pass. This still did not violate the Constitution in anyway because it did not restrict voting based upon race (Hay 84). A literacy test would usually require a person to read, write, and understand the Constitution while having proof of their education. When taking the test, whites would receive help from the test administrator, and an easier version, or sometimes would even be excused from it all together (Hay 107).

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