We hope you enjoy our #VRABlackHistory Series 2024

From the Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance


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Please note, if you’d like to opt out from only the upcoming daily Black History Month Voting Rights Alliance #VRABlackHistory series, please email carnwine@tjcoalition.org. Unsubscribing at the bottom of this email unsubscribes you to all Transformers, not just from this special February Series.

1700’s – Early 1900’s

Voter Suppression & Voter Enfranchisement Efforts:


  • Early arguments for and against Black suffrage (7724-1735)
  • Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
  • The Reconstruction Congress of 1867
  • The 15th Amendment (1870)
  • History of Felon Disenfranchisement (1600’s – 1900’s)
  • The Federal Elections Bill (1890)
  • George H. White (1852-1918)

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The Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance, in honor of Black History Month, are reviving the daily special series devoted to sharing the legacies and stories of the sheroes, heroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage. This series was created in 2017 and will add 13 NEW articles this year. In addition to these daily newsletters all February long, this series also incorporates daily social media posts; an interactive calendar; and, website blog posts to spread the word broadly.


Feel free to publish on your social media outlets, with credit given to the Transformative Justice Coalition. If you’d like us to share you sharing this series, be sure to send any publications to carnwine@tjcoalition.org so we can repost!


We encourage everyone to share this series to your networks and on social media under the hashtag #VRABlackHistory and to use this series for school projects. You can also tweet us @TJC_DC to share your own facts.


Others can sign up for the daily articles at VotingRightsAlliance.org


Reporting by: Caitlyn Arnwine (formerly Caitlyn Cobb)This article was curated in 2024 with past #VRABlackHistory articles. There is no Source list at the bottom of this article because the sources are the articles clearly linked throughout the article, and all source lists for those articles are at the bottoms of those articles themselves.


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Today, February 10th, 2024, we highlight several Voter Suppression and Voter Enfranchisement Efforts that took place between the 1700’s and early 1900’s. This is by no means a comprehensive list.


This #VRABlackHistory Series, there will be approximately 13 new articles. As a result, some of your favorite and important past articles may not be included in favor of the new articles and more recent articles. So, in order for all our sheroes, heroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage to still get their dues, below are the collection of past articles outlining the fight for Black suffrage from the 1700’s – the early 1900’s.


As this series has always gone in chronological order, other articles will cover voter suppression and voter enfranchisement efforts only through the early 1900’s, as later in this series will discuss more events that took place after these dates. Excluded from this article are also articles that were released as their own articles this year, such as the Black Massacres, the Insurrections, and the First National Women’s Conference.

An Early Fight for Black Suffrage (1724 – 1735)

The beauty of documented law is that it stands in opposition to attempts to deny or erase America’s racial history.


Many erroneously think that the fight for Black suffrage (voting rights) didn’t occur until around 1870, when the 15th Amendment was passed, granting African-American men with the right to vote. However, that is just not true. In fact, some Black people were voting in the early 1700’s. A number of early State Constitutions allowed for freed Black men to vote, including “those of Delaware (1776), Maryland (1776), New Hampshire (1784), and New York (1777)” (footnotes omitted). In fact, in “some early American towns such as Baltimore had more blacks than white voting in elections”.


How did we go from freed Black men having many of the same rights as Whites and Black men being able to vote in several places in the early 1600’s and 1700’s to things like the Dred Scott decision and places like Virginia disenfranchising entire races?

SOURCE: Today We Honor an Early Fight for Black Suffrage #VRABlackHistory

Today we honor an early fight for Black suffrage. In 1723-1724, Richard West, who was Legal Counsel for the Board of Trade, questioned the Virginia General Assembly as to why they took away voting rights from freed Black men.


This article exemplified the complexities of the fight for Black suffrage during a colonial era built on the immoral institution of slavery.

Read More

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Today, We Honor Sojourner Truth #VRABlackHistory

Today, February 3rd, 2022, we honor Sojourner Truth, who was not only “one of the first African American women to win a lawsuit in the United States”, but was also a powerful advocate of the suffrage movement for Black and all women.

Read More

Please note that the first button in the article no longer works. However, in my research for a replacement source, I did find on https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/ the most accurate version of Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a woman’ speech”.

View the Source, Learn More, and hear the most accurate version of Sojourner’s Speech here

“The popular but inaccurate version was written and published in 1863, (12 years after Sojourner gave the “Ain’t I a woman” speech), by a white abolitionist named Frances Dana Barker Gage. Curiously, Gage not only changed all of Sojourner’s words but chose to represent Sojourner speaking in a stereotypical ‘southern black slave accent’, rather than in Sojourner’s distinct upper New York State low-Dutch accent. Frances Gage’s actions were well intended and served the suffrage and women’s rights movement at the time; however, by today’s standards of ethical journalism, her actions were a gross misrepresentation of Sojourner Truth’s words and identity.”


I will be sure to update the original article and add new information for Sojourner Truth next year!

The Reconstruction Congress of 1867


The Reconstruction Congress of 1867 passed several measure to promote the Black Franchise:


  1. The District of Columbia Suffrage Bill
  2. The Territorial Suffrage Act
  3. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867


The District of Columbia Suffrage Bill was the “first [federal] law in American history that granted African-American men the right to vote.”


Two days after this bill granting Black (male) citizens in DC the right to vote, Congress passed the Territorial Suffrage Act, which allowed African Americans in the Western territories to vote. What may have led to the passage of the Territorial Suffrage Act was a group of Colorado Black people who were angry with Colorado’s suffrage restriction. They petitioned the territorial governor and members of Congress for the right to vote. This agitation eventually helped Congress pass the Territorial Suffrage Act in 1867. Don’t let anyone say that petitioning doesn’t work.


The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 were a collection of several pieces of legislation which were meant to enforce the enfranchisement efforts.

Source: Today We Honor the Reconstruction Congress of 1867 #VRABlackHistory

Today, February 4th, 2023, we honor the Reconstruction Congress of 1867, which passed several measures to promote Black enfranchisement.


“Following the end of the Civil War, the United States Congress forged a plan to reconstruct the war-torn country. Three dynamic measures were passed in 1867.”


Read More

The Fifteenth Amendment (1870)

SOURCE: Today we honor the Fifteenth Amendment #VRABlackHistory

Today, February 6th, 2023, we honor the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlaws discrimination in voting rights on the basis of race, color, and previous condition of servitude; thereby advancing suffrage for African Americans (although only men could vote at that time). This was the last and most hard fought for of all the Reconstruction Congress’ Constitutional Amendments to confer full citizenship upon the formerly enslaved. The intention of this amendment was to codify, permanently, the right to vote for all freed men. Immediately, the impact of this amendment proved transformative as freed men exercised the right to vote, and in coalition, elected several hundred African-Americans to office throughout the nation. 

Read More

African-American men seeking to vote were often met with obstacles, brutal opposition, and skepticism; yet, still they participated in the franchise in record numbers.


Due to the infamous 1877 Hayes-Tilden Compromise, which- among other things- removed the federal troops from the South, this period of African-American voting power lasted only from 1870-1901. Although brief, this era of voting would be instrumental in inspiring the continued fight for Black suffrage for decades to come.


The legal power of the Fifteenth Amendment would be largely dormant for many years until its rejuvenation in the modern Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century.


Fifteenth Amendment Fun Facts:


  • “One day after it was ratified, Thomas Mundy Peterson (1824-1904) of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, became the first black person to vote under the authority of the 15th Amendment.”


  • In 1997, Tennessee was the last state to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment.

Understanding Felon Disenfranchisement Laws &

The Individuals Affected, Part 1:


The History of Felon Disenfranchisement (1600’s – Present)

In America, an estimated 6.1 million people with past felony convictions are denied the right to vote in a practice known as felon disenfranchisement.


Though every other country used to have stricter voter disenfranchisement laws than America, America now has the strictest felon disenfranchisement laws in the entire world, with 48 of the 50 states having some kind of felon disenfranchisement laws, and 2 of those states permanently banning individuals with certain past felony convictions from voting. One must wonder why a nation that is only 238 years old has the broadest range of disenfranchisement offenses in comparison to all other nations. The answer is in America’s history.


Like most things in America, the practice of felon disenfranchisement originally came from England, and England adopted it from Greece and Rome.


Around the time of the Revolutionary War, roughly around 1764-1776, there were many heated debates about voting, especially since the idea of a new nation was not a widely accepted view, and was often rejected, as states wanted to maintain their independence. The main issue was whether voting was a right, guaranteed to all citizens, or a privilege, “one that the state could legitimately grant or curtail in its own interest”. If voting was a natural right, then all (including slaves) in the new America should possess this right; however, if voting was made a state right, then it could potentially be too flexible, and the founding fathers had a “notion that suffrage requirements ought to be durable and difficult to change”.


How did Jim Crow laws evolve from this?

The 13th (1865), 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Amendments had unintended consequences of allowing the Southern states to enact more restrictive felon disenfranchisement laws. These laws were specifically enacted to maintain Confederate White Supremacy. How did Constitutional amendments meant to enfranchise and free enslaved African Americans result in the exact opposite?

SOURCE: Today, We Remember the History of Felon Disenfranchisement (1600’s – Present) #VRABlackHistory 2023

Today, February 19th, 2023, we remember the history of felon disenfranchisement as part of a 2-part article reviewing felon disenfranchisement and the individuals affected. This is meant to be an informative overview of the past and current state of felon disenfranchisement in America, and around the globe. This article delves into the origins of felon disenfranchisement laws that stem from Greece; how felon disenfranchisement laws made their way to the United States in the 1600’s and evolved through the Revolutionary War; and, the exceptions and difficulties created by the 13th Amendment, the first and second sections of the 14th Amendment, and the 15th Amendment. The racist past of felon disenfranchisement is also be looked at, including: why felonies became a broad-brush political tool to disenfranchise Black voters; the origins of the American policing, and how it disproportionately affects African Americans; how Jim Crow laws came to be discriminatory disenfranchisement laws; and, how felon disenfranchisement is the lasting effect of the Jim Crow Laws.

Read More

The Final Attempt: the Federal Elections Bill (1890)

SOURCE: Today, we remember The Fight for the Federal Elections Bill #VRABlackHistory

Today, February 10th, 2022, we remember the fight for the Federal Elections Bill (also known as “The Lodge Bill, or to its opponents “The Force Bill”). The Lodge Bill would have given more oversight in elections and provided much-needed enforcement of the 15th Amendment in the South. Following the 1877 Hayes-Tilden compromise, this bill represented the last attempt by the U.S. Congress in the 19th Century to protect African-American suffrage.

Read More

The Lodge Bill was passed in the House, but was defeated in the Senate because of Democratic filibusters, which wasn’t only a means of stalling, but was also a means of shaming Western Republicans into voting against the Lodge Bill.


It is almost eerie how the fight over this bill reveals issues mirroring those of today in the 1800’s, including but not limited to: priorities of political parties shifting; Congressional gridlock; immigration; public shame tactics; the mistreatment of Native Americans and Chinese immigrants; Georgia majorly suppressing votes of Black people; and, the battle between doing what is good for the economy and one group, and doing what is best for the social good, especially when

George H. White (1852-1918)


White represents the last of the 22 African-American men who, since 1870, “had served reconstructed southern states in Congress.” While he was last; he certainly was not least, and it is our pleasure to lift up and honor a man who so earnestly loved the law, his country, and his race.


“In January 1901, at the beginning of a new century, George H. White was ending his term as a Congressman from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Realizing that he was bringing to a close a thirty two year period when nearly forty Southern African Americans sat in Congress, White used the occasion of his farewell address to remind that body and the nation of the reason for his defeat and the elimination of black representation in the nation’s capital. He also predicted that African Americans would return to Congress. His prediction became a reality when in 1928, Oscar DePriest was elected to represent a Chicago congressional district.”


What made White’s farewell address even more commendable was that it wasn’t supposed to even be a farewell address. White was on the House floor “considering the bill (H. R. 13801) [that would make] appropriations for the Department of Agriculture for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1902″. White says in this speech that, because he had been denied the chance a couple days earlier to speak, he had taken this chance while he was on the House floor and had the attention of all the Congressmen to divert from the subject of the bill- leaving the bill to be discussed by more knowledgeable agriculturists- and instead use his five minutes to “enter a plea for the colored man, the colored woman, the colored boy, and the colored girl of this co

Today We Honor George H. White #VRABlackHistory

Today, February 8th, 2022, we honor George H. White, who was a lawyer and a Republican African-American Congressman from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District (1899-1901). The Black massacres of the 1860’s- 1880’s were over voting. While many more massacres occurred after 1880’s, the extreme concentration of Black massacres during this time period were specifically targeted against Black men exerting their right to vote under 15th amendment. Despite the horror that yesterday’s article showed, I purposefully have inserted this article after it to provide a contrast: that even when everything seems hopeless, progress still finds a way to rise as a phoenix.

Read More
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