Cast Down Your Bucket and Cast Your Ballot: African American Voting after Constitutional Disenfranchisement in Mississippi, 1892–1900

Sunday, January 5, 2020
3rd Floor West Promenade (New York Hilton)
Evan Ashford, State University of New York, Oneonta
How did disenfranchisement look when viewed from the African American perspective? Southern disenfranchisement has been researched extensively. However, little research focus on the African Americans who continued to vote in the aftermath of constitutional conventions which implemented voting obstacles. Southern disenfranchisement was not uniform. States varied in the number and type of requirements necessary for registration and voting. Voting represented the final frontier to American citizenship. Citizenship transformed the former slave into American citizen. This poster visualizes African American voting in Central Mississippi from 1892-I900 utilizing primary source data from registration books, poll books, and photographs. The poster opens discussion to how historians can research and interpret 19th century African American voting to add nuance and dimension to the disenfranchisement narrative prior to the 20th century and the beginning of the 1906 Niagara Movement. The number of African Americans who continued to vote in Mississippi deserves historical discussion to a state known mostly for its historical efforts to permanently remove African Americans from the voting arena. This poster shifts the focus to African American political, educational, and economic agency as it illustrates the relationship between societal pillars. Quantitative data in chart form will demonstrate how African Americans used education and landownership as methods to circumvent literacy tests and poll taxes. Charts will also illustrate voting activity during election years. Qualitative data in the form of county newspapers will demonstrate that African American voters were more than uneducated pawns with the inability to understand their role in the political process. The newspaper articles show political activism aligned with state and national Republican politics. The poster contains photographs of African American voters taken around the same time span of their voting activity. Photographs are used to humanize this historical period by allowing one to see the everyday voter in the historical context being studied. Post-1890 African American voting remains historically untapped from the African American perspective. Understanding the 20th century struggle for voting rights is enhanced by studying the voting efforts that occurred during the 19th century’s last decade.
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