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The undermining of the first reconstruction : lessons for the second

Kousser, J. Morgan (1981) The undermining of the first reconstruction : lessons for the second. Humanities Working Paper, 64. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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As Congress considers whether to renew, amend, or scuttle the Voting Rights Act, what relevant lessons can we draw from the historical record of the First (nineteenth century) Reconstruction and its undermining? The federal voting rights machinery, more sophisticated and stringent than is usually believed, represented an attempt, parallel to the VRA, to protect citizens' political rights. It was finally outflanked, as the VRA may be. The promises of southern leaders in the l870s, convincing to some credulous Yankees of the period, are also echoed in the debate a century later. There were four stages in the nineteenth and early twentieth century attack on black voting rights: the Klan stage, the dilution stage, the disfranchisement stage, and the lily-white stage. Concentrating on the second and fourth of these, which are less well known than the other two, I detail sixteen mechanisms of nineteenth century southern vote dilution (most of which are still in use) and attempt to counter the argument that the so-called "Progressive Era" in the South was a "race-proof" period and that therefore any election schemes adopted at that time could not have been intended to disadvantage blacks. Finally, I draw parallels between Supreme Court decisions around the turn of the century and the recent decisions which climaxed with ~ v. Bolden. The possibility that the Supreme Court may again emasculate federal protection of black voting rights should give pause to any Congressperson who believes that he or she can safely let the VRA lapse because the courts can be relied upon to secure these rights.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Additional Information:Written Testimony of Dr. J. Morgan Kousser, Professor of History and Social Science, California Institute of Technology, Prepared for Hearing on Renewal of the Voting Rights Act Before The Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Judiciary Committee, June 24, 1981
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:64
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090814-110251466
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kousser, J. Morgan. The undermining of the first reconstruction: lessons for the second. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1981. Humanities Working Paper, No. 64.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15031
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:17 Aug 2009 16:48
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:54

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