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One way African Americans were deprived of their right to vote was through the use of poll taxes. A poll tax was a payment a person would have to make in order to vote. African Americans were the poorest members of society so many could not afford this tax. Another way African Americans were deprived of their right to vote was through literacy tests. A person would have to show that he could read and write in order to vote. African Americans were the least educated members of society so many could not pass this test. Many times these tests were rigged so African Americans would fail them. To allow poor, illiterate whites to vote, grandfather clauses were passed which allowed anyone whose father or grandfather was eligible to vote before 1867 would not have to pay the tax or take the test. Since no African Americans were allowed to vote prior to the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1867, the grandfather clause would not apply to them, but would allow poor, illiterate whites to vote. Finally, organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan were established which used violence or the threat of violence to keep African Americans from voting.
Although African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment, many Southern states came up with creative ways to prevent them from doing so. One method was by the imposition of poll taxes. Since many Blacks were poor share croppers, they could not pay the tax. This remained the case until poll taxes were prohibited by the Twenty Fourth Amendment. Others imposed lengthy residency requirements at a time when many sharecroppers were forced to be transient. The most effective--and heinous--method was the requirement that potential voters be able to read and understand a portion of the State Constitution. White voters were given a simple question, if any at all, and Blacks given a question which was exceptionally difficult. Still another method was to disenfranchise those guilty of certain crimes which were presumed to be common among African Americans, including Wife beating and public drunkenness. All this in an attempt to prevent people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote.
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