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The Easter Massacre and Legal Abstraction [Book Review]

Kousser, J. Morgan (2003) The Easter Massacre and Legal Abstraction [Book Review]. H-Net Reviews . ISSN 1538-0661.

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When the largest peacetime massacre of African-Americans in nineteenth century America took place on Easter Sunday, 1873, in Colfax, Louisiana, the U.S. government possessed the tools to prosecute the murderers. The First Enforcement Act, passed 62 days after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibited private individuals, as well as state officials, from taking any of a series of specific actions aimed at prohibiting or discouraging anyone qualified to vote in a state or local election from voting or from performing any prerequisites to voting. After all, what was the use of removing the word “white” from state suffrage laws if the states disfranchised blacks by other means or offered no protection to African-Americans who sought to vote or to assume offices to which they were legally elected? And the law clearly applied to the “Colfax Massacre” of at least 105 black men, about 50 of whom where executed after surrendering to the well-organized group of about 300 armed whites, because the massacre was the direct result of a disputed election. After an election in which they had almost surely won a majority of the votes, local black Republican candidates had attempted a peaceful occupation of the Grant Parish court house. Their slaughter was not a conventional assault that a local or state government could be expected to handle, but the climactic event in a struggle for control of local government -- Columbus Nash, the Democratic candidate for sheriff, led the white mob.

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Alternate Title:Reconstruction and Black Suffrage: Losing the Vote in Reese and Cruikshank
Additional Information:Book Review of: Robert Goldman. Reconstruction and Black Suffrage: Losing the Vote in Reese and Cruikshank. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001. xiv + 182 pp. ISBN 9780700610693 (paper); ISBN 9780700610686 (cloth). Review Published on H-Pol (January, 2003).
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Official Citation:Citation: J. Morgan Kousser. Review of Goldman, Robert, Reconstruction and Black Suffrage: Losing the Vote in Reese and Cruikshank. H-Pol, H-Net Reviews. January, 2003. URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:41929
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Deposited On:06 Nov 2013 22:03
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:53

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