How was African-Americans' right to suffrage compromised after Reconstruction ended?

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After Reconstruction ended, African Americans' right to vote, given in the 15th Amendment, was abridged in the South. Local voting commissions imposed laws that restricted their right to vote. These restrictions included grandfather clauses that prohibited people from voting if their grandfathers had not voted. As African Americans' ancestors had been enslaved, grandfather clauses restricted their right to vote. In addition, literacy tests, often made harder for blacks than whites, restricted black people's rights to vote, as did poll taxes, in which people had to pay to vote. Whites also used intimidation and violence to restrict the right to vote. Black people who insisted on registering to vote were often met with the threat of violence or actual violence though organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and later through White Citizens' Councils. They were also often not allowed to work if they tried to register to vote.

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African Americans' right to vote was essentially taken completely away after Reconstruction ended.  It was not legal to simply take the right to vote away from them, so Southern whites found other ways.  These included:

  • Literacy tests.  These prevented illiterate blacks from voting and could be manipulated to prevent even those who could read.
  • Poll taxes.  By making people pay to vote, the Southern governments could prevent poor blacks from voting.
  • White primaries.  In this tactic, the political parties claimed to be private organizations that could prevent blacks from voting in their primaries.  Since the Democrats won essentially all elections in the South in those days, this prevented blacks from voting in any meaningful elections.

In these ways, it became essentially impossible for African Americans to vote.

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