Attacks on Electoral System
There were other attacks on the electoral system as it relates to Black people. In 1870, Southern Democrats declared the election of Mississippi Harim Revels, the first African American senator, null and void, forcing a second vote.
One of the most important and egregious examples of intimidation and violence occurred in the 1876 Presidential election:
“The 1876 United States presidential election was the 23rd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 7, 1876, in which Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes faced Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. It was one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history and gave rise to the Compromise of 1877 by which the Democrats conceded the election to Hayes in return for an end to Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. After a controversial post-election process, Hayes was declared the winner.”(Wikipedia)
For emphasis let me repeat what was important about this intimidation and violence of the electoral process of Black people and the electoral process is that it was a major setback to significant gains that had been made. At that time sixteen persons were in Congress, two Senators from Mississippi of all places. The success of the former slave masters in their person winning the presidency gave the former slave masters the encouragement to continue their reprehensible violent acts in denying African Americans access or participation in the electoral process.
For the next almost century every conceivable method was used of course bombings, lynching, confiscation of properties, Jim Crow laws, etc. It wasn’t until 1965 that another serious voter rights bill was passed. President Johnson said at the time as he was signing the bill that he had just given the South to the Republicans for a generation. The President was right about one thing, the South became Republicans but he was wrong about a generation. It has been more like several generations— remember that in the last election Georgia went Democratic. The Dixiecrats had made it clear if the voting rights legislation was passed, they would leave the Democratic party. They had had a stranglehold over legislation by virtue of their control over the Committees in Congress which dealt with civil and political rights. And it will always be remembered how voter rights came to be implemented.
It was after, what has come to be known as Bloody Sunday, as marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama on their way to the Capitol. The violence by law enforcement personnel was so vicious that it shamed white Americans into action resulting in the passage of the voting rights bill to speak or to write of intimidation and violence related to the electoral process cannot be complete without mentioning the Mississippi Summer Project. The project was under the leadership of Robert Moses and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized the project. The call went out for primarily students during their summer break to come to Mississippi in a voter registration drive. Three students were savagely murdered- Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney. Another example of the long history of murder and intimidation is the disruption of the electoral process to keep Black people away from the polls.
Perhaps one of the strongest arguments for involvement in the electoral process, including voting, is the great length to which white racists were prepared to go to keep Black people from participating. If voting didn’t mean that much or if the electoral process meant little to nothing then again, why would racists go through all of the trouble to keep Black people from the polls? No, the racists knew the power of participation in the electoral process. It's strange sometimes how our enemies know more about us including our potential power and how to achieve our goals than we do. I am thinking of our Black United Front days. We knew how powerful and effective we were but we didn’t know how effective and powerful we were. Had we known we could've accomplished far more than we did. It is always true that the slave masters and oppressors keep information from their victims that would empower them.
Juneteenth, a holiday in some states came as a result of enslaved persons not knowing they were free. The word had not reached them of the Emancipation Proclamation and those who benefited from their enslavement were not about to inform them.
To come at the subject of empowerment another way is to think of what we could have done if we had understood our potential and how to organize to accomplish great advancement. I’ve been reading Charles Blow, New York Times writer and author, latest book, The Devil You Know, A Black Power Manifesto, he writes about the immigration of Black people from the South. There were those who argued that “the Great Migration” should have never happened. There were many who felt that we should have stayed in the South and developed our political potential of course others argued that the racists would never allow any kind of Black progress. Mr. Blow pointed out:
“Consider this in the first Census after the Civil War, three Southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama) were majority Black. In Florida, blacks were less than two percentage points a way of constituting a majority. In Alabama it was less than three percent; in Georgia, just under four percentage points.
But, as previously noted, during and after the Great Migration the percentages plummeted. Black births in those states barely kept pace with the departures, so the Black population was stagnant as the white population boomed. In Alabama, for instance, the population was roughly evenly split between Black and White in 1880; when the migration ended in 1970, whites in the State outnumbered Blacks three-to-one. This was true for the South as a whole. From 1910 to 1970, the Black population in the South grew by only thirty-six percent; the white population swelled to two and half times its 1910 size.
Now imagine an alternative scenario: if the Great Migration hadn't happened those Black people had remained in the South until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It is possible that African Americans would dominate the politics of the deep South. They could control or be the driving force in electing as many as twelve U.S. Senators.
Consider another way, forty-four percent of Black people in America now live outside the South. However, hypothetically speaking, if just half of them moved back South and were strategically arrayed, it would be enough to make Black people the largest racial group in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina a contiguous band of Black people that would upend America’s political calculus and exponentially increase Black political influence.”
The Nation of Islam and the Republic of New Africa understanding the numerical strength or the numbers of Black people in those states even at present have made their demand on owning or controlling some of the states and the Republic of New Africa has been organizing in some of the Southern states. All of this is to say that people of African Ancestry have potential power in their numbers- if only we would have exercised it.
We saw in the Presidential election just passed, that it was really Black power that saved the Presidential campaign of Mr. Joe Biden and urged him and played a pivotal role, some would say, an indispensable role in his victory. It is going to be interesting to see if Black people will be rewarded commensurate with their efforts to ensure victory for Mr. Biden. Particularly black women whose presence in different parts of the campaign was essential.
As an aside in many instances where white supremacist racists employed violence to prevent participation. The courts ruled in their favor. For example in the “Equal Justice Initiative: In 1883, the US Supreme Court in United States v. Harris refused to permit congress to criminalize acts of terrorist groups; Ku Klux Klan (KKK)”.
Most whites at the time and to a significant degree today believed what Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney said, “Black people had no rights white people were bound to respect”. So, in too many instances the Supreme Court has not been our friend. As pointed out it did change the tide of American history with Brown v. The Board of Education (1954).
Hence, there is nothing new about the attack on Capitol Hill, and still at the center of it all are the people of African Ancestry. Mr. Trump’s fraudulent argument was aimed at those states where the Black population was overwhelming. He and his supporters knew what they were doing when they highlighted the Black districts in their verbal and legal arguments that the election was rigged or fraudulent and therefore stolen from Mr. Trump. Finally, think what would’ve happened if America would have corrected the violence, intimidation, and disruption and denied Black people their right to vote. Think what America would look like today. One thing is for certain, I believe we wouldn’t have had a violent insurrection on Capitol Hill.
To be continued...