Tag Archives: Arizona

FDR had something to say about voting


votingFranklin D. Roosevelt once said

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

The Lovings ~~On June 12th, 1967, the Court’s ruling declared all laws against interracial marriage in the United States to be unconstitutional.


Mildred and Richard <b>Loving</b> visit Loving Day’s website.

================

The Loving Story:

Richard P. Loving, and his wife Mildred, shown in this January 26, 1965 photograph, will file a suit at Federal Court in Richmond, Va., asking for permission to live as husband and wife in Virginia. Both are from Carolin County, south of Fredericksburg, Va., and were married in Washington in 1958. Upon their return the interracial couple was convicted under the state’s miscegenation law that bans mixed marriages. They received a suspended sentence on the condition they leave the state, but they now want to return to Virginia. (AP Photo)

With fight for same-sex marriage such a regular point of conflict today, it’s easy to forget about the first fight for marriage equality: interracial marriage. But while anti-miscegenation laws may seem like a relic of the past, it wasn’t until 2000 that Alabama became the last state to adapt its constitutional laws on interracial marriage.

In 1967, the United States Supreme Court put an end to the prohibition of interracial marriage in the monumental case of Loving v. Virginia.

The case was sparked by Mildred Loving, née Jeter, who after discovering she was pregnant traveled with boyfriend Richard Loving and from their home in Virginia to Washington, D.C. They made the move to evade Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited them from marrying John was a white male while Mildred was black and Native American.

Five weeks after their nuptials, they returned to Virginia. An anonymous tip led to a police raid. Instead of finding them having sex, which was another criminal offense at the time, they caught them sleeping in their marital bed. The couple was taken to jail after Mildred pointed out their D.C. marriage certificate. It was used as evidence of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.”

The Lovings were sentenced to one year in prison, but it was suspended on the condition that the couple leaves Virginia and not return together for 25 years.

Initially they did just that, but by 1963, Mildred had enough and decided to write to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The letter inspired Kennedy to connect her with the ACLU, which took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 12th, 1967, the Court’s ruling declared all laws against interracial marriage in the United States to be unconstitutional.

While cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Rosa Parks’ stand against segregation are taught regularly in schools, the Loving case gets less attention. Thirty-six years after the trial, Ken Tanabe first learned of the case as a grad student and founded the Loving Day Project to commemorate the anniversary. He, like many others, discovered it by accident.

“I realized that I might not be alive today (along with millions of other Americans) if it wasn’t for this case and those that came before it,” Tanabe, who is mixed race, told AOL via email.

The project has since expanded from its humble roots in New York City across the nation and even around the world.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 11 percent of Americans do not interracial marriage. When the Lovings were arrested the numbers, disapproval ratings were 94 percent. The falling disapprove numbers may appear to be a victory, but Tanabe says they are still worth worrying about.

“When Barack Obama was elected president, some people thought that racism was ‘over.’ While his election was an important sign of progress, it’s dangerous to believe we can stop being vigilant and proactive,” Tanabe explained. “The stories surrounding Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and so many others are some well-known examples. Racism also affects interracial couples and multiracial people every day.”

Rather than remain mutually exclusive, Loving Day embraced, and been embraced, by the LGBTQ community. On the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, Mrs. Loving urged that gay men and lesbians should be allowed to marry. A march has been planned for this year’s Loving Day in Abilene, TX by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

“We see Loving Day as an educational resource for everyone to learn more about the history of marriage and understanding it as a civil rights issue,” said Tenebe.

National attention turned to Loving v. Virginia in 2011 when ‘The Loving Story’ premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was purchased by HBO. This year, Jeff Nichols, writer and director of the Matthew McCounghey flick ‘Mud,’ announced he will direct a new Hollywood “Loving” film starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.

===============================================================

Black History is American History

MLK jr. speech 5/17/1957 ~ Give Us the Ballot ~


“Give Us the Ballot, We Will Transform the South”

by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech given before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, May 17, 1957

Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of “separate-but-equal.” It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.

So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will “do justly and love mercy,” and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954.

<!–Read about recent allegations of voter disenfranchisement in Florida
and other states across the country in these articles.

17

–>

Learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and read more of his speeches and writings at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.

Resources: pbs.org

African Americans 15th Amendment and SCOTUS


www.crf-usa.org

Following the Civil War, Radical Republicans in Congress introduced a series of laws and constitutional amendments to try to secure civil and political rights for black people. This wing of the Republican Party was called “radical” because of its strong stance on these and other issues. The right that provoked the greatest controversy, especially in the North, concerned black male suffrage: the right of the black man to vote.

bhm15thAmendmentPgsm

In 1867, Congress passed a law requiring the former Confederate states to include black male suffrage in their new state constitutions. Ironically, even though African American men began voting in the South after 1867, the majority of Northern states continued to deny them this basic right.

In the North, the Republican’s once-huge voter majority over the Democratic Party was declining. Radical Republican leaders feared that they might lose control of Congress to the Democrats.

One solution to this problem called for including the black man’s vote in all Northern states. Republicans assumed the new black voters would vote Republican just as their brothers were doing in the South. By increasing its voters in the North and South, the Republican Party could then maintain its stronghold in Congress.

The Republicans, however, faced an incredible dilemma. The idea of blacks voting was not popular in the North. In fact, several Northern states had recently voted against black male suffrage.

In May 1868, the Republicans held their presidential nominating convention in Chicago and chose Ulysses S. Grant as their candidate. The Republicans agreed that African-American male suffrage continued to be a requirement for the Southern states, but decided that the Northern states should settle this issue for themselves.

Grant was victorious in the election of 1868, but this popular general won by a surprisingly slim margin. It was clear to Republican leaders that if they were to remain in power, their party needed the votes of black men in the North.

The 15th Amendment

When the new year began in 1869, the Republicans were ready to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the black man’s right to vote. For two months, Congress considered the proposed amendment. Several versions of the amendment were submitted, debated, rejected and then reconsidered in both the House and Senate.

Finally, at the end of February 1869, Congress approved a compromise amendment that did not even specifically mention the black man:

Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Once approved by the required two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, the 15th Amendment had to be ratified by 28, or three-fourths, of the states. Due to the reconstruction laws, black male suffrage already existed in 11 Southern states. Since almost all of these states were controlled by Republican reconstruction governments, they could be counted on to ratify the 15th Amendment. Supporters of the 15th Amendment needed only 17 of the remaining 26 Northern and Western states in order to succeed. At this time, just nine of these states allowed the black man to vote. The struggle for and against ratification hung on what blacks and other political interests would do.

The Blacks

Only days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April, 1865, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In his speech, Douglass explained why the black man wanted the right to vote “in every state of the Union”:

It is said that we are ignorant; admit it. But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag for the government, he knows enough to vote ….What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.

While Congress debated the 15th Amendment early in 1869, 150 black men from 17 states assembled for a convention in Washington, D.C. This was the first national meeting of black Americans in the history of the United States. Frederick Douglass was elected president of the convention.

The delegates praised the Republicans in Congress for passing the reconstruction laws and congratulated General Grant on his election to the White House. They also pledged their continued support of the Republican Party.

Those attending the convention also spent time meeting with members of Congress, encouraging them to pass a strong amendment guaranteeing black male suffrage nationwide. When the meeting adjourned, the delegates were confident that a new era of democracy for the black man was about to begin.

bhm15thamendmentcelebrationsm
A poster celebrates the passage of the 15th Amendment. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Democrats

The Democrats realized they were fighting for political survival. They feared ratification of the 15th Amendment would automatically create some 170,000 loyal black Republican voters in the North and West.

In debates over the amendment, Democrats argued against the ratification by claiming that the 15th Amendment restricted the states’ rights to run their own elections. The Democrats also charged the Republicans with breaking their promise of allowing the states, outside the South, to decide for themselves whether to grant black male suffrage. Democrat leaders cited the low level of literacy in the black population and they predicted black voters would be easily swayed by false promises and outright bribery.

Victory, Then Tragedy

Despite Democratic opposition, the Republicans steadily won ratification victories throughout 1869. Ironically, it was a Southern state, Georgia that clinched the ratification of the 15th Amendment on February 2, 1870.

On March 30, President Grant officially proclaimed the 15th Amendment as part of the Constitution. Washington and many other American cities celebrated. More than 10,000 blacks paraded through Baltimore. In a speech on May 5, 1870, Frederick Douglass rejoiced. “What a country — fortunate in its institutions, in its 15th Amendment, in its future.”

The jubilation over victory did not last long. While Republicans acquired loyal black voters in the North, the South was an entirely different matter. The Ku Klux Klan and other violent racist groups intimidated black men who tried to vote, or who had voted, by burning their homes, churches and schools, even by resorting to murder.

When the election for president in 1876 ended with a dispute over electoral votes, the Republicans made a deal with the Southern Democrats. First, the Southerners agreed to support Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes for president. In turn, the Republicans promised to withdraw troops from the South and abandon federal enforcement of black’s rights, including the right to vote.

Within a few years, the Southern state governments required blacks to pay voting taxes, pass literacy tests and endure many other unfair restrictions on their right to vote. In Mississippi, 67 percent of the black adult men were registered to vote in 1867; by 1892 only 4 percent were registered. The political deal to secure Hayes as president rendered the 15th Amendment meaningless. Another 75 years passed before black voting rights were again enforced in the South.

For Discussion and Writing

  1. What was the “Republican dilemma” in 1868?
  2. During the ratification of the 15th Amendment, women’s suffrage leaders were told that it was “the Negro’s hour.” What did this mean? How did Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony respond to this argument? Do you think they did the right thing? Why or why not?

For Further Reading

Douglass, Frederick. Frederick Douglass; selections from his writings, edited, with an introduction, by Philip S. Foner. New York International Press, 1964.

Gillette, William. The Right to Vote: Politics and Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1965.


A C T I V I T Y


Voting Rights Convention

In this activity, you will have a chance to re create history by going back to the year 1868 to participate in a voting rights convention. You will be assigned to a group that had a particular viewpoint on voting rights in 1868. Your group and four others at the convention will write a voting rights amendment to recommend to Congress. In this way, your class will have the opportunity to improve upon the original 15th Amendment that was passed by Congress early in 1869. For the purposes of this activity, it does not matter what your own sex or race is when you are assigned to one of the convention groups listed below.

Voting Rights Convention Groups: Republicans, Blacks, Abolitionists, Woman Suffragists, Democrats

  1. At random, assign each student to one of the five groups listed above.
  2. You should first re read the section of the article relating to your group (For example, Republicans should read “The Republican Dilemma.”)
  3. Next, discuss with your group what you think your purpose should be at this voting rights convention. For example, is your group in favor of a voting rights amendment? If so, what should it include? Write your purpose on a sheet of paper and have your teacher check it.
  4. Now re read the section titled, “The 15th Amendment.” If you are a member of the “Blacks” or “Abolitionists” also re-read the last section, “Victory, Then Tragedy.”
  5. With the other members of your group, write your own voting rights amendment. Remember to pay attention to the views and purpose of your group at this convention. You can use the wording of the actual 15th Amendment as a guide, but try to change or improve it from your group’s point of view.
  6. All the amendments written at the convention should now be put on the board. Each group with a proposed amendment should explain it to the entire convention. Members of other groups may ask questions or argue against it at this time.
  7. Finally, the convention members should vote on which voting rights amendment to recommend to Congress. However, the rules of the convention require that in order for an amendment to be recommended, two thirds of the convention members must approve it. If none of the proposed amendments receives at least two thirds of the convention votes, the group members should try to negotiate a compromise amendment that will attract the support of the other groups.
  8. After completing this activity, contrast your convention’s amendment with the original 15th Amendment. How are they different? Is the convention amendment better? Why? If the convention amendment had been ratified in 1870, would it have made any difference to black voters, women or other groups in American society?

Return to Black History Month Home Page

Carter Woodson ~ American historian


Carter G. Woodson

To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. The first celebration occurred on Feb. 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist/editor Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded to a month. Since then, U.S. presidents have proclaimed February as National African-American History Month.

 

In the fall of 1870, a handful of students made their way through the northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital, and through the doors of D.C.’s “Preparatory High School for Colored Youth,” the country’s first public high school for African American children. The students and teachers who graced its hallways would be heard through the years in the halls of Congress, in the highest ranks of the United States military, at the heart of our civil rights movement, and in the upper echelons of medical and scientific study.

One such voice was that of Carter G. Woodson; a journalist, author, historian, and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). It was through his work with the ASNLH that Woodson spearheaded the celebration of “Negro History Week” in America, which served as the precursor to Black History Month, which was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Woodson taught us that, “those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

Find out more about Carter G. Woodson.