Supreme Court waters down Voting Rights Act

Discussion in 'Politics and the Topics of the day' started by QueEx, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    June 22, 2009

    Supreme Court Narrows Part of Voting Rights Act

    In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court has struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    The Issue: Among other things, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the "VRA") requires 16 states, mainly in the South, with a history of discrimination in voting, to seek preclearance of any changes in their voting procedures (i.e., changing of voting/polling places, laws affecting voting).

    A small Texas water District alleged that the VRA is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held that Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 in Austin, Texas, can opt out of the preclearance requirement. A lower federal court that found it could not.
    The Effect: The states, cities, counties, etc., that the preclearance requirement applied to can now seek to "opt out" of that provision -- meaning -- they would no longer have to get Justice Department review of their voting changes, before they make changes.

    What Justice Roberts Said: Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the Court. He said, “When it was first passed, unconstitutional discrimination was rampant and the ‘registration of voting-age whites ran roughly 50 percentage points or more ahead’ of black registration in many covered states,” he noted, quoting from an earlier ruling involving the Voting Rights Act.

    "Things have changed in the South. Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirements." The Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs."

    (In other words, the fact that the VRA has been successful in preventing states, cities, counties, etc., from enacting discriminatory voting practices -- is not a good reason to make those states, cities, counties, etc., have to continue to comply with that part of the law).

    What About Uncle Clarence: Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented Monday, stating that he thought it inappropriate to sidestep the constitutional question in Northwest Austin Municipal District Number One v. Holder, No. 08-322, and that he thinks Section 5 is no longer constitutional. Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's only African-American, supported Monday's decision but said he would have gone farther and declared Section 5 to be unconstitutional.

    What Could Happen Now:
    • Those states which must comply with the VRA, can save time -- they can move forward with making voting changes, and not submit their proposed changes to the Justice Department for review and decision

    • Those states which must comply with the VRA can save money -- they would not have to pay the expense of having a submission prepared to be sent to the Justice Department

    • Those states which must now comply with the VRA can move forward with changes in their voting procedures that they feel are necessary. HOWEVER:

    • The changes can take effect; and, if they are discriminatory, those who believe the changes discriminate against them or cause them more hardship than others, will have to FILE A LAWSUIT and proceed through the courts to redress the adverse change -- AS OPPOSED TO PRESENT LAW -- where the voting change could NOT TAKE EFFECT unless the Justice Department first said it is okay.

  2. AristotlesOwn

    AristotlesOwn Active Member Registered

    Yeah, I read about this earlier today.

    "They would no longer have to get Justice Department review of their voting changes, before they make changes." - This is particularly troubling to me.
  3. LennyNero1972

    LennyNero1972 Sleeping Deity. BGOL Investor

    Interesting development. We'll see how this plays out.
  4. TheDynasty

    TheDynasty Certified Genius BGOL Investor

    Good thread.
  5. VegasGuy

    VegasGuy Active Member BGOL Investor

    Yes I agree.

  6. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    My guess: We're witnessing the beginning of the end of Section 5 of the VRA, unless, however, near-future appointees to the Supreme Court feel differently. The fact that the Court voted 8-1 to allow opt-outs is a clear sign of the future. I've done a lot of "preclearance work" and I know many, many jurisdictions would love to get rid of Section 5 -- so here comes the opt-out requests.

    Here in the south, many in government see preclearance as a pain in the ass and they detest the fact that somebody in D.C. has to tell them if its okay to move a polling place from one location to another, even if just a few blocks. On the other hand, I can honestly say that without preclearance, I've seen many changes that looked benign on their face, but if put into practice would have had the effect of diluting minority voting strenght.

    The difference: Before today, the Justice Department routinely stopped bad practices before they could take effect. After today, they can take effect and may only be remedied if someone files suit AND a court agrees that the new voting practice or procedure is a problem.

  7. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    Obama needs to appoint two more justices beyond Sotomayor to return the high court to sanity because you can expect more rulings like this to come from this right leaning court.
  8. afro1

    afro1 BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    Good thread I would just like to clear up somethings up. The ability to Opt or Bail out has been apart of Section 5 for a while. It's just that you couldn't be a county or larger to do it. What they decided on Monday was to allow entities smaller than counties to opt out. They still have to follow the same process that has always been there. To opt out, entity will have to convince a federal panel that it has not discriminated against voters for the previous 10 years and engaged in "constructive efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters," according to the Justice Department.
  9. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    There in lies the “Catch 22.” The Justice Department is an arm of the Executive branch. The Attorney General decides which cases to investigate. The GW Bush administration has not investigated one civil rights case in its entire 8 years. And as we know of at least one civil rights violation over the last 5 years, the Jena 6 case, the GW Bush Justice department didn’t investigate that. I was investigated locally, which was not impartial. Using Justice Department data to make decisions would mean incomplete data. These, like all of this right wing supreme court’s rulings are an attempt to weaken civil rights laws. With the racial tensions and violence from the angry right as of late, you know there are plenty of civil rights and voter violations that are no being reported. Just look at the right’s attempt to discredit ACORN. I tell you, in Iran, the people take to the streets when they see political corruption. In the US we fail to see history as the example.
  10. afro1

    afro1 BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    I agree. We were apart of the defendants in the VRA law suit. We just successfully defeated a voter id law coming to Texas. One of our biggest concerns was that we could lose Section 5. We knew we would get a fairer shake with the Obama DOJ than we ever did with the Bush DOJ. That dude made things real bad and difficult for people.
  11. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    30 years of stacking the court to the corportist right. We must all remain vigilant.
  12. afro1

    afro1 BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    Never been one to back down from a good fight.
  13. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    New Supreme Court term: voting rights

    WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court is starting a new term that is shaping up to be as important as the last one, with the prospect of major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.

    A hot topic with appeals pending before the high court, and more soon to follow, is the future of a cornerstone law of the civil rights movement.

    In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly approved, and President George W. Bush signed, legislation extending for 25 more years a critical piece of the Voting Rights Act. It requires states and local governments with a history of racial and ethnic discrimination, mainly in the South, to get advance approval either from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington before making any changes that affect elections.

    The court spoke skeptically about the provision in a 2009 decision, but left it mostly unchanged. Now, however, cases from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas could prompt the court to deal head on with the issue of advance approval. The South Carolina and Texas cases involve voter identification laws; a similar Indiana law was previously upheld by the court.

    It is unclear when the justices will decide whether to hear arguments in those cases. Arguments themselves would not take place until next year.

  14. Greed

    Greed Active Member Registered

    Supreme Court halts use of key part of voting law

    Supreme Court halts use of key part of voting law
    By MARK SHERMAN | Associated Press
    14 mins ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A deeply divided Supreme Court threw out the most powerful part of the landmark Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, a decision deplored by the White House but cheered by mostly Southern states now free from nearly 50 years of intense federal oversight of their elections.

    Split along ideological and partisan lines, the justices voted 5-4 to strip the government of its most potent tool to stop voting bias — the requirement in the Voting Rights Act that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mainly in the South, get Washington's approval before changing the way they hold elections.

    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority of conservative, Republican-appointed justices, said the law's provision that determines which states are covered is unconstitutional because it relies on 40-year-old data and does not account for racial progress and other changes in U.S. society.

    The decision effectively puts an end to the advance approval requirement that has been used to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965, unless Congress can come up with a new formula that Roberts said meets "current conditions" in the United States. That seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

    President Barack Obama, the nation's first black chief executive, issued a statement saying he was "deeply disappointed" with the ruling and calling on Congress to update the law.

    But in the South, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said that, while the requirement was necessary in the 1960s, that was no longer the case. He said, "We have long lived up to what happened then, and we have made sure it's not going to happen again."

    The advance approval, or preclearance, requirement shifted the legal burden and required governments that were covered to demonstrate that their proposed election changes would not discriminate.

    Going forward, the outcome alters the calculus of passing election-related legislation in the affected states and local jurisdictions. The threat of an objection from Washington has hung over such proposals for nearly a half century. Unless Congress acts, that deterrent now is gone.

    That prospect has upset civil rights groups which especially worry that changes on the local level might not get the same scrutiny as the actions of state legislatures.

    Tuesday's decision means that a host of state and local laws that have not received Justice Department approval or have not yet been submitted can take effect. Prominent among those are voter identification laws in Alabama and Mississippi.

    Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, said his state's voter ID law, which a panel of federal judges blocked as discriminatory, also would be allowed to take effect.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting from the ruling along with the court's three other liberal, Democratic appointees, said there was no mistaking the court's action.

    "Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition" of the law, she said.

    Reaction to the ruling from elected officials generally divided along partisan lines.

    Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said in a news release, "The practice of preclearance unfairly applied to certain states should be eliminated in recognition of the progress Mississippi has made over the past 48 years."

    But Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only black lawmaker in Mississippi's congressional delegation, said the ruling "guts the most critical portion of the most important civil rights legislation of our time."

    Alabama Gov. Bentley, a Republican, pointed to his state's legislature — 27 percent black, similar to Alabama's overall population — as a sign of the state's progress.

    The court challenge came from Shelby County, Ala., a Birmingham suburb.

    The prior approval requirement had applied to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covered certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan. Coverage was triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics.

    Obama, whose historic election was a subtext in the court's consideration of the case, pledged that his administration would continue to fight discrimination in voting. "While today's decision is a setback, it doesn't represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination," the president said. "I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls."

    Congress essentially ignored the court's threat to upend the voting rights law in a similar case four years ago. Roberts said the "failure to act leaves us today with no choice."

    Congressional Democrats said they are eager to make changes, but Republicans were largely noncommittal.

    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he expects Republicans to block efforts to revive the law, even though a Republican-led Congress overwhelmingly approved its latest renewal in 2006 and President George W. Bush signed it into law.

    "As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don't have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance. It is confounding that after decades of progress on voting rights, which have become part of the American fabric, the Supreme Court would tear it asunder," Schumer said.

    Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department "will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action, using every legal tool that remains available to us, against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling by hindering eligible citizens' full and free exercise of the franchise."

    Those federal tools include other permanent provisions of the Voting Rights Act that prohibit discrimination and apply nationwide. But they place the burden of proof on the government and can be used only one case at a time.

    The Obama administration and civil rights groups said there is a continuing need for the federal law and pointed to the Justice Department's efforts to block voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas last year, as well as a redistricting plan in Texas that a federal court found discriminated against the state's large and growing Hispanic population.

    The justices all agreed that discrimination in voting still exists.

    But Roberts said that the covered states have largely eradicated the problems that caused them to be included in the first place.

    "The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs," the chief justice said.

    Ginsburg countered that Congress had found that the prior approval provision was necessary "to prevent a return to old ways."

    Instead, "the court today terminates the remedy that proved to be best suited to block that discrimination," she said in a dissent that she read aloud in the packed courtroom.

    Ginsburg said the law continues to be necessary to protect against what she called subtler, "second-generation" barriers to voting. She identified one such effort as the switch to at-large voting from a district-by-district approach in a city with a sizable black minority. The at-large system allows the majority to "control the election of each city council member, effectively eliminating the potency of the minority's votes," she said.

    Justice Clarence Thomas was part of the majority, but wrote separately to say anew that he would have struck down the advance approval requirement itself.
    Civil rights lawyers condemned the ruling.

    "The Supreme Court has effectively gutted one of the nation's most important and effective civil rights laws. Minority voters in places with a record of discrimination are now at greater risk of being disenfranchised than they have been in decades," said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

    The decision comes five months after Obama started his second term in the White House, re-elected by a diverse coalition of voters.

    The high court is in the midst of a broad re-examination of the ongoing necessity of laws and programs aimed at giving racial minorities access to major areas of American life from which they once were excluded. The justices issued a modest ruling Monday that preserved affirmative action in higher education and will take on cases dealing with anti-discrimination sections of a federal housing law and another affirmative action case from Michigan next term.

    The Alabama county's lawsuit acknowledged that the measure's strong medicine was appropriate and necessary to counteract decades of state-sponsored discrimination in voting, despite the Fifteenth Amendment's guarantee of the vote for black Americans.

    But it asked whether there was any end in sight for a provision that intrudes on states' rights to conduct elections and was considered an emergency response when first enacted in 1965.

    The county noted that the 25-year extension approved in 2006 would keep some places under Washington's oversight until 2031. And, the county said, it seemed not to account for changes that include the elimination of racial disparity in voter registration and turnout or the existence of allegations of race-based discrimination in voting in areas of the country that are not subject to the provision.
  15. ronmch20

    ronmch20 Well-Known Member BGOL Investor

    Re: Supreme Court halts use of key part of voting law

    Watered down??? I'd say more like gutted. :smh:
  16. Greed

    Greed Active Member Registered

    The Precedent Behind the Court’s VRA Decision

    The Precedent Behind the Court’s VRA Decision
    The Supreme Court didn’t strike down the key part of the Voting Rights Act not because they don’t believe race should be taken into account in the law—but because that part of the law has been allowed to stretch on indefinitely, writes Richard H. Pildes.
    by Richard Pildes
    Jun 26, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

    The Supreme Court’s decision holding unconstitutional a part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of most symbolically charged decisions in the court’s history. First enacted in 1965, the part of the law the Court today struck down today—Section 4—was critical in breaking the back of the massive disfranchisement of African-Americans in the South that had been locked into place since the 1890s. This part of the Act had created a regime wholly unique in American history. From 1965, those states and local governments that had massively disfranchised these voters could not make any change at all to any aspect of their voting systems—changes as small as the hours polls were open, to changes as big as how election districts for Congress, the state legislature, and local governments were designed—without getting the federal government’s approval in advance. In essence, this system froze Southern electoral arrangements into place until the federal government approved any changes. The federal government then sent federal voter registration officials into the South to take over registering voters, and this system began the process of tearing down discriminatory barriers to the vote.

    Over the years, Congress remained the key actor. The question was how long this regime would remain in place and how it would be adapted over time to changing circumstances. Section 4 was unique because it singled out particular parts of the country for this dramatic federal control over their voting systems. At the time, it made nearly obvious sense to single out the six states covered, all of which were part of the old Confederacy. By 1975, nine states were covered (Texas, Alaska, and Arizona were added). And that’s when the system became locked into place. The parts of the country singled out in this way by 1975 have essentially remained covered ever since. Congress itself built in an original mechanism to force itself to update the statute: Congress had to decide to re-authorize Section 4 after five years, which it did, and Congress has had to revisit this part of the law regularly to keep it alive. Each time Congress did so, though, it did not change the formula in any way; by 2006, this system had been in place for 41 years. Congress was required to revisit the issues again in 2006, and this time it extended Section 4 for another 25 years—until 2031. And just as in the past, Congress did not change in any way the formula for which areas were to be covered under this unique regime. Thus, the same nine states that were covered as of 1975 based on their recent voting practices remained covered until 2031.

    Now the story shifts to the court. Ever since the court’s first confrontation in the modern era with race-conscious public policies in the late 1970s, a majority of the court has decided cases on the following central principle: race can legitimately be taken into account for certain acceptable public purposes (colorblindness is not constitutionally required, in other words), but that has to be done in a way that ensures that these policies do not last indefinitely. That’s why the court said no to quotas, even as it said race could be taken into account as one factor in academic admissions. To the court, quotas were rigid and ran a much greater risk of being locked into place indefinitely. It’s also the reason the court said race could be used to remedy specific discrimination, but not to respond to more general ideas of societal discrimination—if the latter were constitutionally permissible, the majority of the court thought it would license race-based policies indefinitely. It’s the reason why Justice Sandra O’Connor wrote for the majority ten years ago that race-based preferences in academic admissions should end in 25 years. And that brings us to today’s decision on the VRA.

    To the majority of the court, when Congress re-enacted Section 4 until 2031, with no change at all to the formula that had put these areas under federal control no later than 1975, it was hard to see when this part of the VRA would end and when it would be updated to changing realities about where problems of race and voting rights remained most acute. The court held that by 2006, Congress had a constitutional obligation to examine contemporary evidence and to explain why it continued to make sense to single out the areas that had become covered in 1975 from now until 2031.

    The effect of the Court’s decision is that Section 4 cannot be used until Congress updates the pattern of areas to be covered and excluded with contemporary information about where problems of racial discrimination in the vote remain uniquely prevalent. Congress could do this by updating the formula or enacting other forms of protection for the right to vote (whether Congress will in fact do so in the short-term is another question). But even if Congress does not act, there are many other existing sources of law—state and federal—that can be used today to protect the right to vote. There will be enormous fears fueled by the court’s decision of regression on this most fundamental of American rights. How effective these other legal protections will turn out to be now remains to be seen.
  17. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    The activist Supreme Court. Typical of republicans/conservative hypocrisy.
  18. Upgrade Dave

    Upgrade Dave BGOL Veteran Former Donor


    The most nakedly political decision since Citizens United. This court keeps finding ways to disgrace themselves.
  19. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    This is how conservatives/republicans govern. From the bench!
  20. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

  21. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

  22. Upgrade Dave

    Upgrade Dave BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    And where are our more conservative/libertarian brothers/sisters on this one?
    Myself, T1, Que, and Camille can't be the only ones to see this and want to comment.
  23. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator


  24. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    Karl Rove: Bush Was Skeptical of Voting Rights Act

    Karl Rove, the most prominent Republican strategist in the country, admitted that the Grand Old Party will be unlikely to reclaim the White House if it does not find a way to expand support among minority voters. But he also applauded the Supreme Court's recent decision on voting rights in Shelby County v. Holder, which is expected to have a disproportionate impact on minority voter turnout in future elections.

    Although President George W. Bush, whom Rove served as a senior adviser, signed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act into law in 2006 and is often commended by civil rights supporters for doing so, Rove admitted that the Bush White House was always skeptical of the need for such a renewal.

    "Bush did sign the renewal of this specific provision because Congress passed it," Rove said, but "we were dubious about it." Rove's remarks were in response to a question from The Root about the possibility that the GOP could experience a backlash because of the Supreme Court's Shelby ruling, similar to the one the party experienced after its push for voter-ID laws before the last election. Rove said, "I don't think there will be a big backlash. The idea that there are 13 states of the old Confederacy that are somehow still bastions of racism is ridiculous in our age."


    So much for GOP diversity . . .
  25. Upgrade Dave

    Upgrade Dave BGOL Veteran Former Donor

    I'm sitting down with my legs crossed like Ed Bradley on "60 Minutes" waiting to see what happens.

    I heard Joe Scarborough telling this disingenuous, intellectually dishonest...f--k it, this lie on his show this morning, reminding me why I stopped watching his show.
    That wasn't what pre-clearance was about and they know it.
    First, when the hell Arizona part of the Confederacy? But it was covered by Section 4, while Tennessee was not. Pre clearance was based on state's actions, not just in 1965 but as recent as 2012.
  26. muckraker10021

    muckraker10021 Superstar ***** BGOL Investor

    “Civilization or Barbarism” is the axiom that defines our progress as human beings as we evolve from our self-described primitive cultural existence on this planet— Earth.

    On June 1452 Catholic Pope Nicholas V issued a papal bull entitled Dum Diversas which declared African people and the people today described as ‘American Indians’ as ‘non-humans’ and therefore incapable of becoming Catholics. Africans & Indians were classified as heathens and their enslavement was therefore NOT a sin in the eyes of the church. The papal declaration in 1452 would be the equivalent of a unanimous 9-0 ruling by today’s U.S. Supreme Court. This ruling legally sanctioned the African slave trade and codified and entrenched “white skin supremacy”, as the Raison d'être for white skinned elites worldwide. Queen Elizabeth 1, ancestor of the current queen of England got involved in the African slave trade in the 1500’s with her own personal ships, including one named “Jesus of Lubeck”.

    What is the relevance of this sad-to-say mostly forgotten, not taught in school, history with today’s RepubliKlan voter suppression fervor?


    The same motives that drove the white supremacists in the 13th & 14th centuries, drive them today.

    Let us now go back to a more recent time in history, America in the 1870’s. Even among Black Americans, this time in the U.S. —the “reconstruction” period after the civil war is scarcely mentioned. Today everyone talks about the modern civil rights era of the 1950’s & 1960’s. That is the reference point everyone uses when discussing Black progress versus ‘white supremacy’ in America. No one talks about the civil rights act of 1870. No one talks about the 90 year period of “Jim Crow” laws which invalidated the “reconstruction” period and reasserted the primacy of ‘white supremacy”.

    The SCOTUS arguments today for the majority opinion which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are no different than the “white supremacist” arguments of the 1870’s advocating for the suppression of Black peoples access to the ballot and Black peoples ability to hold elected office. Chief justice Roberts who thinks he is the slickest smartest guy in the room; — his rationale in the majority opinion he wrote is right out of 1870's.

    Below is an excerpt from the book Capitol Men
    The debates heard today over affirmative action, police profiling, school integration, economic parity, and reparations for slavery would be largely familiar to Americans of the 1870s and 1880s, when newspapers carried, almost daily, stories of black citizens denied their rights, when black congressmen pleaded with their white colleagues to treat seriously the terror tactics of Southern vigilantism, and when <SPAN STYLE="background-color:YELLOW"><b>a justice of the Supreme Court inquired, in an infamous ruling, how long those recently emerged from slavery would continue to be "the special favorite of the laws."</b></span>

    Current efforts to safeguard civil rights and the rights of the accused, in an age of terrorism and illegal immigration, have their antecedents in the post-Civil War struggle for national standards of citizenship and personal freedom as well as guarantees of due process.


    The must read book that is excerpted below is Capitol Men. If you don’t have it in your library get it. justice Roberts and the four other judges who concurred with his opinion are nothing more than “white supremacists” cloaked in black robes who would have fit-right-in with the "white supremacists" of the 1870's who were appalled that these inferior creatures, ni66ers, a few years removed from slavery would actually vote with the equal measure as a white man, and then aspire and actually become members of congress with decision making authorities that affected superior white people. How dare they do this!!


    Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray

    Download ebook for Ipad, Kindle, Computer



    OF ALL THE IMAGES of long-ago America, perhaps few are as poignant as the Currier & Ives lithograph from 1872 depicting the first seven black members of the U.S. Congress. From the midst of Reconstruction, one of the most precarious times in our nation's history, they gaze out confidently in their neatly trimmed beards, vested suits, and ties, indistinguishable, except for their color, from their white counterparts. The portrait, showing Hiram Revels of Mississippi; Benjamin Turner of Alabama; Jefferson Long of Georgia; Robert De Large, Robert Brown Elliott, and Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina; and Josiah Walls of Florida was a proud symbol of the liberation of America's newest citizens, proof of the tremendous social revolution the Civil War had wrought.

    The picture was considered an object of scorn among many Southern whites, however, who refused to countenance the sudden transformation of slaves into holders of public office. Emancipation, and then the appearance of black federal troops in the conquered South, had been offense enough; when, under the terms of congressional Reconstruction, men of color began to vote, win elections, and wield political authority, the patience of Southerners was pushed to its limit. "The North thinks the Southern people are especially angry because of the loss of slave property," wrote the North Carolina Unionist Albion Tourgee. "In truth, they are a thousand times more exasperated by the elevation of the free negro to equal political power." As the Virginian George Mason railed, "The noble Caucasian, in whose very look and gait the God of creation has stamped a blazing superiority, [must] bow down to and be governed by the sable African, upon whom the same God has put the ineffaceable mark of inferiority! A more flagrant desecration of the representative principle ... is not to be found in the annals of the human race."

    Faded prints of the engraving still hung in modest sharecroppers' cabins when researchers from the Works Project Administration visited the Southern Black Belt in the 1930s. The men in the picture were by that time largely forgotten, and the image, and others like it, had become historical curiosities. In the 1870s, the states that had sent the "colored representatives" to Congress were themselves roiled by violent factionalism, undermining what legitimacy these men had in Washington, as the nation backed away from the ideals of Reconstruction. In 1901, resolutions of thanksgiving would be passed in the North Carolina legislature when George H. White, the sole remaining black member of the U.S. House of Representatives, finished his term in office. By then black Southerners had been virtually expunged from politics, even as voters; the greater part of a century would pass before another elected representative of color from a Southern state arrived on Capitol Hill.

    Reconstruction was initially a hopeful time. America, emerging from civil war, attempted to reinvent itself. A broadened concept of citizenship was introduced, as were new guarantees of equal treatment under law, commitment to public education and public welfare, efforts to redistribute land, and more equitable methods of taxation. Laws and constitutional amendments were forged to improve upon the vision of the country's founders; new government agencies were formed, such as the Freedmen's Bureau, which assisted the recently freed slaves, and the Justice Department, which helped enforce their new rights. This effort rode on the leadership of resolute national legislators and the actions of countless individuals, organizations, and missionaries, but also on the determination of the freed slaves themselves, four million strong, who grasped the long-awaited chance to steer their own destiny.

    But despite this earnest struggle, Reconstruction in the end could overcome neither the resistance of the South, where its innovations had their most meaningful impact, nor the North's mounting apathy and desire for sectional reconciliation. Redemption, or home rule, as it was often called, came to the South, and Reconstruction was denounced as a fatal example of governmental hubris and overreaching. History and popular culture for decades characterized it as an atrocious failure.

    The South, it was held, had been punished too cruelly for seccession—its attempted act of self-determination. Its leaders had been humiliated and its people victimized in a grotesque experiment that elevated former slaves to citizenship, placing whites "under the splay foot of the Negro." Vindictive Northerners had been not only hypocrites, in trying to script how others might coexist with a restive, dangerous black minority, but also fools to think they understood the racial dynamics of Southern life. The myth of the Southland redeemed from Reconstruction's errant policies would become a fixture of American memory, retold in countless memoirs, articles, and works of history, from the 1874 appearance of The Prostrate State: South Carolina Under Negro Government, by James Shepherd Pike, to the early-twentieth-century Klan-glorifying novels of Thomas Dixon. It provided the backdrop for two of the most commercially successful films of the twentieth century, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939); it resurfaced in 1956 in John F. Kennedy's award-winning book of political biography, Profiles in Courage; and it remained for years a staple of high school and college textbooks.

    Yet beyond the distortions and the myths lie Reconstruction's considerable achievements—strides in universal education, the forging of black political know-how and leadership, broad national efforts to solve problems of racial prejudice and injustice, and the creation of laws that, although largely nullified by the Supreme Court, stayed on the books, a valuable heirloom in the nation's attic trunk, available for use at an appropriate future time. They would be crucial to the civil rights revolution of the mid-twentieth century.

    Reconstruction's echoes resonate still. When Florida election officials in the year 2000 forced voters in heavily minority districts to wait for hours in line before casting a ballot, and when Ohio Republicans, four years later, stationed poll monitors at voting places to intimidate black voters, they were reviving methods that had proved effective nearly a century and a half before, in the Reconstruction South. The debates heard today over affirmative action, police profiling, school integration, economic parity, and reparations for slavery would be largely familiar to Americans of the 1870s and 1880s, when newspapers carried, almost daily, stories of black citizens denied their rights, when black congressmen pleaded with their white colleagues to treat seriously the terror tactics of Southern vigilantism, and when a justice of the Supreme Court inquired, in an infamous ruling, how long those recently emerged from slavery would continue to be "the special favorite of the laws." Current efforts to safeguard civil rights and the rights of the accused, in an age of terrorism and illegal immigration, have their antecedents in the post-Civil War struggle for national standards of citizenship and personal freedom as well as guarantees of due process.

    The black representatives to Congress, the subjects of this book, emerged from diverse backgrounds. Many were of mixed racial ancestry and had the social advantages of white parentage, such as access to education; some were free before the war, whereas others had been slaves; several were professionals—lawyers, teachers, or ministers—while others had worked as skilled artisans or tradesmen; a few had won distinction in the military. As black men who competed successfully to attain elective office in a society dominated by whites, they tended to be exceptional individuals—as resilient as they were resourceful. South Carolina's Robert Smalls had hijacked a Confederate steamer and delivered it to the Union blockade off Charleston. P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana started out as an accomplished riverboat gambler. Robert Brown Elliott outdid the former vice president of the Confederacy in a debate on the floor of the House, and his colleague from South Carolina, Richard Cain, when he could not secure government help to make land available to the freedmen, formed his own corporation to do so. The portly, goateed senator Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, born a slave, once hid for his life from a Confederate raiding party yet rose to become a prosperous Delta planter who traveled as a dignitary to European courts, where it was said he displayed "the manners of a Chesterfield."

    Looking at the congressmen's picture and knowing the expectations it once inspired, it's hard not to wonder how things went so wrong, or how events might have turned out differently. Why did white Southerners find these seemingly decent, conscientious black officeholders, and the newly enfranchised African Americans they represented, so unacceptable? Was it simple race-hatred, a refusal that those low enough to have been slaves should rise to citizenship, let alone positions of authority? Was there truth to the accusations of corruption and incompetence made against them? Were their demands too great for a nation recovering from a devastating war? And how did the black elected officials themselves view their own efforts, those of their white Republican allies, and Reconstruction's prospects for success?

    For the sake of narrative I have focused on some of the most prominent black congressional officials of the era, while also attempting to sketch in the background of the challenging world in which they lived and the stories of the men and women of both races whose actions affected their role. These include the presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses'S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield; Frederick Douglass, the editor, author, and ex-slave who was perhaps the black congressmen's greatest champion and who chronicled their endeavors in his aptly named weekly, the New National Era; the abolitionists Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison; Charles Sumner, the willful Massachusetts senator devoted to civil rights, and his Radical colleague, Thaddeus Stevens; the black nationalist Martin Delany; the women's rights advocates Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; General Benjamin F. Butler, who raised the spirits of slaves crossing Union lines by dubbing them "contrabands," and his daughter Blanche and son-in-law Adelbert Ames, the besieged Reconstruction governor of Mississippi. Other important figures include the carpetbagger governors Daniel Chamberlain of South Carolina and Henry Clay Warmoth of Louisiana; the Union generals William T. Sherman, Rufus Saxton, and Otis Oliver Howard; the Confederate general James Longstreet; and the Supreme Court justice John Marshall Harlan, "the Great Dissenter," who tried valiantly to stem the tide that wiped away Reconstruction's accomplishments and made segregation the law of the land.

    The "glorious failure," as Reconstruction is sometimes termed—politically turbulent, riven by corruption, often exceedingly violent—can be a disquieting saga to get to know: a lost opportunity, certainly, and in many ways a shameful time in our nation's history. Yet it is also a powerful story of idealism and moral conflict that belongs only to us and whose arc is as beautiful as it is tragic. At its core is something of undeniable value—the courage of black and white Americans who together aspired to right the country's greatest wrong. That this coalition has always been tentative in our history, or that the grand experiment of Reconstruction failed or was premature, cannot diminish the effort's genius or inherent nobility.

    Chapter 2


    VICE PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON of Tennessee, who assumed the presidency upon Lincoln's death, was a man of humble origins, a former small-town tailor turned politician and U.S. senator who was added to Lincoln's ticket in 1864 to help the administration reach out to Southerners after the war. He held the South's wealthy planter class responsible for secession and initially viewed the postwar period as a time when his people —small farmers, workers, artisans, and merchants—might earn a greater share of the region's leadership. But though he was loyal to the Union and accepted emancipation, the new president differed markedly from men like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, Republicans known as Radicals for their strong views. They saw the South as a conquered foe and called for far-reaching changes in its society and harsh measures for dealing with leading Confederates.

    Given that the country was emerging from the trauma of a devastating civil war, the ascent of a man like Johnson after a genial intellect like Lincoln struck the Radicals as tragically unfortunate, for in personal style the new chief executive was a stubborn loner never adept at conciliatory politics. When the need for national healing and inspired leadership could not have been more acute, America was bequeathed not a Washington or a Jefferson, but a man who was not supposed to be president.

    Even if questions about his character had not arisen, Johnson's reading of the times was to prove errant, and events would soon conspire to make his policies appear inadequate. Trying but failing to grasp the country's mood after four years of strife, he took actions that revealed again and again how hungry the nation was for the kind of leadership he could not deliver—leadership that would project compassion for the freedmen, toughness toward the ex-rebels, and a compelling vision of how the Union might be reestablished. The Radical-led Congress soon became convinced that it, not the president, bore the responsibility for shaping Reconstruction, and its members challenged Johnson at every turn. They overrode his vetoes and passed specific legislation, the Tenure of Office Act, to keep him from forcing from his cabinet those members sympathetic to Congress's views; the act proved a fatal trap for the president; his violation of it in 1868 led to his impeachment.

    Johnson had been under a cloud ever since he was sworn in as vice president in March 1864, when he had appeared inebriated at the ceremony. His defenders said that he had been feeling unwell and had swallowed a few glasses of brandy as a pick-me-up. Lincoln, who had heard stories of this intemperance when Johnson served in the Senate, had taken the precaution of sending an aide to Nashville to check up on him before selecting him as his running mate. "I have known Andy Johnson for many years," the president said after the swearing-in. "He made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared. Andy ain't a drunkard." Yet despite Lincoln's confidence, Johnson's lack of fitness for high office was a concern in Washington even before he assumed the mantle of the presidency.

    Johnson appeared to view the war as a kind of sibling rivalry gone bad, and he acted on the belief that retribution and further animosity between the sections would only impede a return to normalcy. Where the Radicals sought to strengthen federal authority, Johnson opposed them, concerned that the states, if stripped of their autonomy, would atrophy and become "mere satellites of an inferior character, revolving around the great central power." The former slaves he considered basically helpless. Docile, inclined to inertia, they would require guidance and restrictions imposed by whites. Southern society would demand this—having long regarded free black people as dangerous, whites understandably were alarmed by the sudden mobility of the former slaves.

    The result was the Black Codes, a system of laws enacted first in Mississippi in November 1865, then in various forms across the South, giving whites what amounted to police powers over the freed people. These new controls enforced labor contracts, kept blacks from accepting better-paying work of their own choosing, and allowed authorities to put "vagrants"—anyone without a fixed abode—to work in the fields or on municipal projects such as road building. Orphans could be compelled into apprenticeships or made to work as house servants. These statutes, "little more than warmed-over slavery," established curfews, prohibited blacks from joining militias, and attempted to govern their private conduct with rules for everything from gun ownership to the use of draft animals.

    At first this state of affairs seemed unavoidable. Few people, North or South, imagined that emancipation would entail placing blacks on the same legal plane with whites, and to many observers, the sudden freeing of an unlettered people held so long in bondage looked chaotic, even unsafe. Many Southerners, explained a Northerner living in North Carolina, regarded emancipation as a momentary error, a mistake made in haste, the "temporary triumph of fanaticism over divine truth," which would of necessity be corrected.

    Some blacks indeed paid dearly for believing the "delusion" that they were now free. "I met four white men about six miles south of Keachie, De Soto Parish," recalled Henry Adams of Louisiana.

    One of them asked me who I belonged to. I told him no one. So him and two others struck me with a stick and told me they were going to kill me and every other Negro who told them that they did not belong to anyone. One of [the whites] who knew me told the others, "Let Henry alone for he is a hard-working ****** and a good ******." They left me and I then went on ... I have seen over twelve colored men and women, beat, shot and hung between there and Shreveport.

    The Black Codes, in the end, were likely more offensive than effective; blacks themselves resisted compliance, and federal officers in the conquered South frequently prevented their enforcement. The codes were, however, an accurate gauge of Southern white sentiment and an early sign of the region's will to defy the results of the war.

    In Washington, meanwhile, Republicans had grown concerned during the first eight months of Johnson's presidency as he moved to restore the Confederate states to the Union. He pardoned many rebel leaders, appointed Southern men to positions of authority, and ordered that state constitutional conventions be held; often their delegates consisted of former secessionists. When Congress reconvened in December 1865, Republicans called for the dismantling of Johnson's "reconstructed" Southern states and the creation of new state governments in which freedmen would vote and could be elected as representatives of their people. They turned away from Congress's door those Southern Democratic representatives who had been sent to Washington under Johnson's plan.

    The bipartisan Congressional Joint Committee of Fifteen was convened to weigh the challenge of Reconstruction—a term that had emerged toward the end of the war and referred to the imperative of restoring the fractured nation, as well as the numerous measures and conditions that would require. The committee was the idea of, and under the control of, Thaddeus Stevens, and despite its alleged bipartisan character it had only three Democratic members. Much of the extensive testimony it heard from 144 witnesses familiar with conditions in the postwar South—including the nurse Clara Barton and the cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer—confirmed the Radicals' suspicion that the rebel spirit had not really been destroyed. Upon deliberating, the group rejected President Johnson's argument that the Southern states were ready to be readmitted to the Union; but the members also spurned a Radical proposal that the states of the Confederacy, having forfeited their rights to sovereignty, should remain under long-term congressional control. The committee, as the historian David Donald explains, came to favor a proposal made by jurist Richard Henry Dana Jr., the so-called "grasp of war" theory, which suggested that Washington use the present, relatively adaptable circumstances of the war's aftermath to "act swiftly to revive state governments in this region and to restore promptly the constitutional balance between state and federal authority."

    In early 1866 the committee recommended the passage of two bills—an extension of the Freedmen's Bureau (officially titled the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands), which Lincoln had brought into existence in March 1865 to offer physical aid to war refugees and help establish equitable labor agreements between blacks and their former masters; and the Civil Rights Bill, which would undo the nefarious Black Codes and counter the much-lamented 1857 Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford, better known as the Dred Scott case, which had denied that black people, slave or free, had standing as American citizens. The Civil Rights Bill, referring to the "fundamental rights belonging to every man as a free man," stated that all citizens and their property were entitled to equal protection under the law and that blacks were empowered to make their own labor contracts and initiate lawsuits. The president vetoed both bills, prompting the political cartoonist Thomas Nast, an ardent New York Republican of German descent who drew for Harper's Weekly, to depict an ornery Andrew Johnson kicking a chest of drawers containing terrified freed people—the Freedmen's "bureau"—down a flight of stairs.

    That April, the Civil Rights Bill was passed despite Johnson's refusal to sign it, the first time in American history that Congress overrode a presidential veto. Recognizing that Johnson and his states-rights orientation would be more hindrance than help, Congress moved ahead without him and in June proposed the Fourteenth Amendment, which would guarantee the provisions of the Civil Rights Bill and make the federal government the ultimate protector of equal rights and citizenship. The Fourteenth is considered one of the most revolutionary amendments in our Constitution's history, for it redefined notions of individual rights and the balance of states' rights versus federal authority by making personal liberty and equality federal guarantees, while empowering the national government to curtail state actions that deprived citizens of these rights.

    If Northerners wondered how well the South would comply with these congressional actions, the answer came swiftly. In May, street fighting broke out in Memphis, the culmination of long-simmering tension between white police officers and black soldiers, who had been interfering with arrests of black citizens there. When the troops fired their pistols into the air to keep police from taking a disorderly black man into custody, the police shot back, setting in motion a two-day assault on a black community swollen with war refugees. The so-called Memphis Race Riot, really a massacre of blacks by infuriated white police officers and mobs, killed nearly fifty black men, women, and children, and two whites, and numerous homes, churches, schools, and businesses were looted or set afire.

    Even more potent in its effect on Northern opinion was another "riot" in New Orleans, which occurred at the end of July. This city had long seemed a promising one for advances in race relations and the empowerment of black citizens. President Lincoln had begun to view it as "reconstructable" as early as May 1, 1862, when Union army troops, under General Benjamin Butler, took control of the city after Admiral David Farragut completed a successful assault from the sea. Because a substantial Unionist element resided in New Orleans, the president in December 1863 suggested that a form of local reconstruction be started there, based on his Ten Percent Plan. Under this plan, if 10 percent of the men who had voted in the election of 1860 would take an oath of allegiance to the United States, they would be allowed to form a new state government. Subsequently, a state constitutional convention was planned for 1864 to demonstrate Louisiana's willingess to rejoin the Union.

    Before the 1864 conclave, more than a thousand New Orleans blacks, and some whites, had petitioned Lincoln to include suffrage for the gens de couleur, the free, light-skinned class of Louisiana Negroes, in the new constitution. When Radicals in Congress heard of the petition, they suggested that the franchise be broadened to include all blacks in Louisiana. Formally, Lincoln refused both proposals, but he wrote privately to Michael Hahn, the Unionist governor, to see if certain classes, such as soldiers or intelligent free blacks, might be allowed the vote. Hahn relayed Lincoln's request to the convention, which agreed to grant the state legislature the power to establish limited black voting; but though two such bills were later introduced, neither gained enough support to become law.

    Hahn resigned his position in March 1865 and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, James Madison Wells, a native-born Louisiana Unionist with marked Southern sympathies, who proceeded to evict many leading Radicals from local patronage jobs and appoint ex-Confederates. This encouraged a formidable Democratic power base to grow rapidly, accompanied by the appearance of reactionary political clubs. When in March 1866 President Johnson allowed a city election to take place in New Orleans against the advice of Governor Wells, the forces of Democratic resistance came to power, led by a new mayor, James T. Monroe, who was known as "an unreconstructed rebel."

    Governor Wells and the state's Unionists, as well as black leaders agitated by this development, announced in early summer 1866 their intention to reconvene the state constitutional convention of 1864. They sought reconvocation to secure the vote for black Louisianians and, the Monroe faction suspected, disenfranchise ex-Confederates, shifts that threatened to dramatically realign the state's political anatomy and destroy the white-patronage network that Southern veterans were eagerly establishing.

    Mayor Monroe informed the local federal commander, Major General Absalom Baird, of his intention to arrest the convention delegates when they gathered on July 30 at the Mechanics Institute, the temporary state capitol on Dryades Street. "The laws and ordinances of the city," Monroe wrote, "declare all assemblies calculated to disturb the public peace and tranquility unlawful." Stronger language about Republican "ni66ers and half ni66ers" ran in the Democratic press, along with threats to hang the convention movement leaders Dr. Anthony P. Dostie, a New York-born dentist who had moved to New Orleans before the Civil War, and Michael Hahn, the former governor. It was declared that no man would leave the convention alive. General Baird cautioned Monroe that he had no right to disrupt or defy "the universally conceded right of all loyal citizens of the United States to meet peaceably and discuss freely questions concerning their civil governments, a right which is not restricted by the fact that the movement proposed might terminate in a change of existing institutions." But Monroe, not Baird, had the sympathy of President Johnson, who notified Louisiana's attorney general that federal forces would "sustain the civil authority in suppressing all illegal or unlawful assemblies ... Usurpation will not be tolerated."

    Much as the national policy on Reconstruction remained fluid and unsettled, so officials in New Orleans were left to fend for themselves, with no one—from General Baird to the city police—exactly sure whose rights were to be defended. Baird was "unwilling to assume the attitude of protecting the assembly unless called on by civil authorities" because such activity would only add to local anti-Unionist sentiment, and his superiors likely would not approve of it. Monroe's actions, on the other hand, seemed aimed at making the situation as combustible as possible.

    The opening day of the convention was to focus on preliminaries: ascertaining how many vacancies existed in the body, so elections, where needed, could be held. Outside, a cordon of police surrounded the building. Suddenly, a group of approximately two hundred freedmen appeared, marching up Dryades from Canal Street, tooting horns, thumping a big drum, and waving an American flag in support of the convention. Then, according to some reports, a young white bystander insulted one of the parading blacks, who, in anger, drew a gun; when police waded into the column to arrest him, marchers swarmed the officers to free their compatriot. Turning their hatbands around so that they could not be identified, police officers then followed the marchers into the convention. Conventioneers used pieces of furniture to beat back the police, who tried to ram their way through an inner door that had been closed against them. This scenario was enacted four times, as police assaulted the blacks inside with their clubs and were in turn driven back with chairs and sticks. Adding to this scene of disarray, a mob of whites swept into the building behind the police, shooting and clubbing blacks and white Unionists. Policemen were seen on a landing above the meeting hall, firing down indiscriminately.

    "Stop firing, we surrender, we make no resistance!" one of the delegates implored.

    "God damn you, not one of you will escape from here alive!" was the reply.

    Despite claims (never substantiated) that Dostie and other Republicans had incited their followers to riot and were looking for a fight, few if any of those inside the hall had brought weapons—that they had to defend themselves with wooden chairs attests to that fact. The delegates had expected, at worst, to be arrested, and some had even made arrangements to secure bail quickly.

    "The crowd in and out of the Mechanics Hall were worked up to a pitch of desperation and madness," recorded the New Orleans Daily Picayune, "and firearms were handled as freely as on the battlefield. The reports of pistols were heard in every direction, and balls whizzed by." A former rebel soldier confirmed the combatlike fervor of the confrontation, declaring, "We have fought for four years these god-damned Yankees and sons of bitches in the field, and now we will fight them in the city."

    The terrified conventioneers, once they became convinced that submitting to arrest would not save them, took desperate measures. Some jumped from windows, only to be shot as they attempted to flee. "They ... tried to escape through an alley which runs from Dryades to Baronne, on the Canal Street side," noted the New York Times reporter on the scene. "I do not know that any freedmen succeeded in getting away from the building alive ... I saw several brought in the alley ... and after they fell I saw crowds of ruffians beating them as they were dying." When convention delegates proved in short supply, the mob began pulling blacks randomly from streetcars and shops, beating them down in the street to cries of "Kill the Yankee ******!" and "Shoot the ****** son of a bitch!"

    More than two hours passed before Baird's federal troops arrived to restore order; the general claimed that he'd been misled about the starting time of the meeting. Baird had obviously been reluctant to insert his men into an emotionally charged local political melee, one in which he did not feel fully empowered to act. In any case, his troops, stationed at the Jackson Barracks three miles southeast of the city, were poorly positioned to respond. All accounts concur that Baird's tardiness had allowed for more carnage, although one official inquiry praised his troops for at least keeping the riot from escalating into the extreme devastation wreaked by the New York Draft Riots of 1863, which had lasted several days.

    Forty-six black men were killed and sixty badly injured in the affair; of the attackers, one died of sunstroke, two others were seriously wounded, and a young white student from a nearby medical college was accidentally shot in the neck and killed when he emerged from the school to watch the fighting. The convention's leader, Dostie, was mobbed to death, shot twice in the head and once in the body, then beaten and dragged through the street, while the former governor Hahn was stabbed in the back and suffered a minor head wound. The Congressional Select Committee's inquiry supplied a graphic account:

    Men were shot while waving handkerchiefs in token of surrender and submission; white men and black, with arms uplifted praying for life, were answered by shot and blow from knife and club; the bodies of some were "pounded to a jelly"; a colored man was dragged from under a street-crossing, and killed by a blow; men concealed in outhouses and among piles of lumber were eagerly sought for and slaughtered or maimed without remorse; the dead bodies upon the street were violated by shot, kick, and stab; the face of a man "just breathing his last" was gashed by a knife razor in the hands of a woman ... one man was wounded by fourteen blows, shots, and stabs; the body of another received seven pistol balls.

    "The more information I obtain of the affair the more revolting it becomes," General Philip Sheridan wrote to his superior, General Ulysses'S. Grant. "It was no riot; it was an absolute massacre." Congress agreed, concluding, "There has been no occasion during our national history when a riot has occurred so destitute of justifiable cause, resulting in a massacre so inhuman and fiend-like." Sheridan warned President Johnson that "if this matter is permitted to pass over without a thorough and determined prosecution of those engaged in it, we may look out for frequent scenes of the same kind, not only here but in other places."

    A government investigation determined that Mayor Monroe and the town's political clubs bore primary responsibility for what had occurred. Carried out largely by policemen and ex-Confederate soldiers—one old colonel showed up "in full uniform and side arms"—the riot was in a sense a supplemental skirmish of the Civil War, its slaughter of unresisting black men a testament to the local disdain for postwar re-forms. No one, however, was ever held directly accountable for the butchery. The local grand jury resolved that the whole affair was to be blamed on "political tricksters" who, by staging the meeting, had wrongly attempted to usurp recognized authority.

    Legal redress was denied, but the riot's savagery was widely reported, raising concern that President Johnson's version of Reconstruction was insufficiently tough and that stronger federal sanctions were required. Thomas Nast lambasted the president in a cartoon entitled "Amphi-theatrum Johnsonianum—Massacre of the Innocents at New Orleans, July 30, 1866." It portrayed Johnson as a Roman emperor seated with other recognizable national leaders in their box at "the Coliseum," watching indifferently as, in the arena below, Mayor Monroe's rebels slaughter the Louisiana Republicans.

    The riots in Memphis and New Orleans confirmed for many Americans that "the rebel spirit," though momentarily quashed, was far from dead, and that Southerners, in the absence of slavery, would not hesitate to use extreme violence to maintain supremacy over blacks. Such expressions of fear and resentment would be rekindled easily and often in the Reconstruction South in the coming years. But in the short term "New Orleans!" became the Republican rallying cry, dramatizing the need for severe restraint on former Confederates while creating greater sympathy for Southern freedmen.

    In August 1866, with the nation's editorial pages still humming over New Orleans, the president embarked on a circuitous journey through the American heartland, aimed at bolstering his personal image and garnering public support in the run-up to the fall congressional elections. This trip, which became known as the "Swing Around the Circle," included members of Johnson's cabinet, a substantial press corps, and a glittering entourage of heroes meant to set off the president favorably—Generals Ulysses'S. Grant and George A. Custer, as well as Admiral David Farragut, the naval hero celebrated for capturing New Orleans in 1862 and Mobile in 1864, where he had famously cried, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Grant, beloved as "the Man on Horseback" or "the Man with the Black Cigar," was widely credited with winning the Civil War and was hugely popular; many assumed he would soon be president. Custer, with his long yellow curls, thick mustache, and a red bandanna worn as a cravat, was the most dashing military figure of the day. The year before, at a homecoming parade in Washington, he had caught a hurled bouquet on the point of his sword, to thunderous cheers from the crowd.

    The framing device for what would become one of the most ill-starred presidential speaking tours in American history was a visit to the gravesite of Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, who had died in 1861. Making the memorialization of Douglas the excursion's theme was a strange choice. A blustering politico renowned for debating Lincoln over slavery, "the Little Giant" was also the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which in 1854 granted not Congress, but rather the settlers in the new western territories, the right to decide whether a given territory would be slave or free—a bitterly controversial piece of legislation whose passage helped bring on the Civil War. Now the war's outcome had rendered Douglas's views, and his legacy, mostly irrelevant. "Although [he] died five years ago, he seems to have been dead for half a century," wrote one Northern editor. The absurdity of Johnson's homage to Douglas made for some bizarre moments en route, such as when the presidential train slowed near the home of Douglas's elderly mother in upstate New York so that Johnson and Grant could doff their hats from the rear platform as she watched from a chair on her porch.

    The tour did not start altogether badly. Johnson's message of national unity and reconciliation carried him through several East Coast appearances—Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City—but as the train steamed west, the crowded schedule, the almost identical words spoken at every station, and the crush of local well-wishers and dignitaries took their toll. Reporters found Grant stealing a nap in the baggage car. Johnson's stamina seemed about to give out when the tour reached Cleveland, where he came to the balcony of the Kennard Hotel exhausted, maybe a bit tipsy, his voice feeble. After he asked the crowd to tell him when he had ever been false to his own principles, a heckler cried, "New Orleans!"

    "Let the negroes vote in Ohio before you talk about negroes voting in Louisiana," Johnson scolded.

    "Never!" someone shouted back.

    "Hang Jeff Davis!" another voice hollered.

    Johnson initially ignored the remark but a few minutes later suggested rhetorically, "Why not hang Thad Stevens or Wendell Phillips?" This prompted the crowd to gasp.

    When someone cried "Traitor!" Johnson, in unkind words, chastised his listeners for being cowards who did not volunteer to fight in the war.

    "Is this dignified?" a voice asked.

    Johnson had never been known for statesmanlike restraint. His political style, honed in the village squares of rural Tennessee, was to give as good as he got, to spar and debate anyone who challenged him. At the moment, such instincts seemed misplaced, and unfortunately the popular Grant, whose appearance always soothed a crowd, had temporarily left the entourage, promising to rejoin it in Detroit.

    "President Johnson, in his speech at Cleveland, remarked that he 'did not care much about his dignity,'" observed the New York Times. "In our judgment this is greatly to be regretted ... The President of the United States cannot enter upon an exchange of epithets with the brawlers of a mob, without seriously compromising his official character and hazarding interests too momentous to be thus lightly imperiled."

    A few days later in St. Louis, the president was on the defensive again, challenged once more about New Orleans. Apparently stewing about the press coverage of the earlier exchange in Cleveland, Johnson launched into an explanation of how the riot in New Orleans had been caused by Radicals, then lapsed into a self-pitying denunciation of his critics:

    I have been slandered. I have been maligned. I have been called Judas Iscariot ... If I have played the Judas, who has been my Christ ... Was it Thad Stevens? Was it Wendell Phillips? Was it Charles Sumner? Are these the men that set up and compare themselves with the Savior of Man, and everybody that differs with them in opinion and that try to stay and arrest their diabolical and nefarious policy, is to be denounced as a Judas?

    The New York Tribune, like much of the country, was dismayed. "We had thought the President had exhausted his power to offend a national sense of decency," the paper scolded. "This was a mistake. In his speech at St. Louis he passed from vulgarity to blasphemy with a boldness which is almost appalling...[and] disgusted every Christian in the land. He has dragged that which is dearest to our hearts into the dirt of his politics and his outrageous defense of the massacre at New Orleans."

    Belligerent banter with hecklers, the nation agreed, was not what a president did. Yet the pattern was established; in town after town they descended, interrupting Johnson, demanding that Grant appear, even ordering the president of the United States to "shut up." In the Ohio town of New Market, when Johnson was shouted down, General Custer assumed the role of presidential protector, striding onstage to deal with the harassers. "I was born two miles from here," he fumed, "and I am ashamed of you!" By the time the tour reached Pittsburgh, all was lost; Johnson refused to come to the podium, and after an hour of jeers from the crowd, Grant appeared, only to tell people to go away.

    "Never in history had a President gone forth on a greater mission—to appeal for constitutional government and the restoration of union through conciliation and common sense," the historian Claude Bowers would write, "and never had one been so scurvily treated." The newspapers had a field day, depicting Johnson as inept, overly defensive, possibly drunk; rumors also surfaced that Grant's "disappearances" were due to his need to rendezvous with a bottle. The poet James Russell Lowell, writing in the North American Review, called the expedition "an indecent orgy" and described Johnson as a performing bear, clownish but excitable, being led about by his handlers. "It was a great blunder of [Secretary of State] Seward to allow [Johnson] to assume the apostolate of the new [Reconstruction] creed in person, for every word he has uttered must have convinced many ... that a doctrine could hardly be sound which had its origin and derives its power from a source so impure." Lowell judged correctly that a large part of the trouble with Johnson's effort to reach out to America was Johnson himself. He had little aptitude for seeking the middle ground; his character and lack of eloquence ill fitted him for promoting the theme of reconciliation; the public simply did not accept him as the successor to Abraham Lincoln. After all the pain and sacrifice of the recent national conflict, people expected something more.

    Concern with the violence in New Orleans and the "unrepentant and still rebellious South," as well as President Johnson's flagging popularity, helped the Republicans sweep the November 1866 congressional elections, giving them the majority they would use to further defy the White House and take over the process of Reconstruction. On March 2, 1867, Congress once again overrode a presidential veto to pass the first Reconstruction Act (there would be four by midsummer), which mandated that "whereas no legal state governments or adequate protection for life or property now exists in the rebel states," the region should be divided into five military districts, excluding Tennessee, which had already ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. Each of the other former Confederate states was required to ratify the amendment, with its guarantees of citizenship and equal rights, before they could be readmitted to the Union and their representatives welcomed in Congress. State constitutional conventions were called for, to create "a constitution of government in conformity with the Constitution of the United States in all respects, framed by a convention of delegates elected by the male citizens of said state, twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been resident in the state for one year ... except such as may be disenfranchised for participation in the rebellion or for felony at common law." Such conventions, the act decreed, were to take place in the former rebel states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and Arkansas; all constitutions emerging from these gatherings were to include the right of black suffrage and would be subject to congressional approval.

    The Reconstruction Act provided for potentially momentous changes in the lives of African Americans—the opportunity to vote as free men as well as the ability to serve as publicly elected officials. As scholars such as Steven Hahn have stressed, blacks, even as they emerged from slavery, tended to recognize the economic and political issues affecting their situation. But to better know their new rights, the use of the ballot box, and the functioning of a parliamentary democracy, many freedmen turned to the Union League. Begun in New York and Philadelphia during the war, league chapters in the postwar South worked to educate freedmen on the duties of citizenship, provided aid related to labor and land issues, and were strongly allied with Republican sentiments. Naturally, white Southerners distrusted the organization (they derided the chapters as "Loyal Leagues"), based on what the historian Thomas Holt has termed the "new massa" syndrome—the conviction among whites that black people were incapable of independent thought, and that, in the absence of slavery, white Northerners were serving as "thought police" to the ignorant ex-slaves, using the singing of patriotic songs and the teaching of the Declaration of Independence to shape their political attitudes and even direct their actions. It was true that the Union League did not allow those opposed to their work to take part in their meetings, but they were generally open to everyone (many attendees brought their wives and children), and in the final analysis the gatherings probably had significant social and political influence but less than Southerners imagined: the former slaves, after all, needed little convincing that their best interests lay with the Party of Lincoln.

    There was probably little that Republicans or Union Leaguers could have done, in any case, to assuage Southern fears of the vast changes taking place. In addition to tens of thousands of new black citizens in every Southern state, legions of Northerners—former soldiers, railroad men, missionaries, teachers, judges, investors, novice cotton planters—had moved south after the war. Whether their business was private enterprise or political work with the Union League or the state conventions, Northerners of either race who entered or remained in the South were categorized uniformly by the derogatory appellation "carpetbagger." While the precise origin of the term is unclear, its negative implication was never in doubt; it referred to persons so scheming, untrustworthy, and "lightweight" that their belongings fit into a cheap piece of luggage, one made of an old carpet remnant with two wooden handles and convenient for sudden departures. The image perfectly captured Southerners' distaste for outside interference in their business. Coupled with other popular mid-nineteenth-century slurs, such as "puppy" (one who is "owned" by others, such as a teacher dispatched by a Northern missionary society), "bummer" (a vagrant who sponges off others, often applied to the members of Sherman's army who decimated Georgia and South Carolina), or the more serious "poltroon" (a duplicitous coward), the effect was utterly and always degrading.

    One of the best-known caricatures of Reconstruction is the Thomas Nast cartoon of the 1870s, showing a Southern "black and tan" legislature, a belittling term frequently used for these unprecedented biracial conclaves. Black men in ill-fitting suits gnaw on fried chicken, sip from flasks, and hector one another with all the civility of the barnyard, while at the podium Columbia, Nast's flag-draped female representation of America, gavels in vain for order. Behind her on the wall, ignored by all, is a tattered banner bearing President Grant's famous postwar admonition to his countrymen, LET US HAVE PEACE. As it became known that, by edict of the Reconstruction Acts, black men would sit in elected bodies such as state constitutional conventions, Southern newspapers anticipated Nast's crude depiction. "Can you change a carrot into a melon?" demanded Parson W. G. Brownlow, in a much-reprinted letter. "Can you grow an oak from a peanut? Will a donkey produce an Arabian horse?...Most certainly not! You cannot undo what God has intended shall never be undone. It is, therefore, simply impossible for you to change an African into an Anglo-Saxon."

    Most of the state constitutional conventions, however, despite the infamy assigned them by resentful whites "on account of the usurped and polluted source from whence it springs" (the Radical Congress) and the appearance of "delegates in every stage of nigritude," would largely demonstrate that such disparagement was unearned. The new constitutions that emerged after weeks of deliberation were often so reasonable that even the white supremacists who, years later, set out to undo them were moved, by practical considerations, to leave many of their tenets intact. "Representing a constituency that previously had been ignored," notes James Underwood of the convention held in South Carolina, the convention's seventy-six black and forty-eight white delegates "crafted a document with a deeper insight into the meaning of freedom, an insight possessed only by the freedmen who had known slavery and the freeborn who knew how precarious freedom could be without constitutional protection."

    New England's Gilbert Haven, visiting the South on behalf of the Atlantic Monthly, was convinced he was seeing one of the most impressive spectacles of the age: in South Carolina, the very seat of secessionist fervor, the delegates to the convention were black, their aides were black, as were the pages, doormen, and carriage drivers. Haven reminded his readers that in Massachusetts all the considerable effort of the great Senator Charles Sumner had failed to secure a black man a job as chaplain in the state legislature; South Carolina, he concluded, was acting with more ardor than any other part of the country to expand the boundaries of true democracy.

    As Haven's observations suggest, the state constitutional conventions held across the South as mandated by Congress were extraordinary events—the nation's first biracial experiment in governance and in most instances the first time blacks had participated in decision-making forums involving whites. Would the freedmen grasp the workings of democratic government? Would they know how to behave, how to listen, how to vote? What attitude would they take toward those who had so recently held them in bondage? There were many Northern men, white and black, involved in these conventions, hoping to see the Southern states adopt "Northern style" or even "New England-like" constitutions. The Northerners were hundreds of miles from their homes, but it was the Southern black participants, many former slaves, who had in fact traveled the most remarkable distance. As convention delegates, they had little time to grow accustomed to this new realm or the responsibilities they'd consented to bear. The gaze of a weary but hopeful nation was upon them.


    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  27. Greed

    Greed Active Member Registered

    Congress Takes First Steps Toward Revisions to Voting Rights Act

    Congress Takes First Steps Toward Revisions to Voting Rights Act
    By Elahe Izadi | National Journal
    6 hrs ago

    While the impetus seems strong in the Senate for a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act section struck down last month by the Supreme Court, the task will be much more challenging in the House—and not getting it done could spell the end of the law, said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

    Sensenbrenner, who led the last reauthorization of the law in 2006 as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said House leadership is “concerned” about the need to rewrite Section 4 of the act, which lays out the formula used to determine which jurisdictions require federal approval of any changes to voting procedures.

    “This is going to be a much more difficult thing to do than the reauthorization in 2006, but I feel we have to take the time to do it right, because if we don’t do it right, and the Court either strikes it down or Congress will not reauthorize it, that’ll be the last chance we get,” Sensenbrenner said after testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    “People’s blood pressure is going to go up with the arguments, perhaps including mine,” he added. “But if you get down to the bottom line, the right to vote is precious. The Voting Rights Act has been successful in enfranchising people, particularly those of color in the South that were disenfranchised before, and reauthorizing this and making it a viable law will prevent slippage back to the bad old days.”

    Sensenbrenner has emerged as one of the best hopes among advocates pushing for a formula rewrite. In June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 as unconstitutional, with the 5-4 ruling leaving the door open for Congress to rewrite the formula. Sensenbrenner said he wants a formula rewrite to pass before the 2014 election, and the first step is to pen a draft.

    Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil-rights icon, also testified at Wednesday’s Senate hearing, where he called Sensenbrenner “my friend, my brother.”

    “The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart, made me want to cry, made me want to say, ‘Come, come walk in the shoes of those who tried to register, who tried to vote, but didn’t see the passage of the Voting Rights Act,’ ” Lewis said.

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he hopes members of Congress use the August recess to “work the phones” on the issue. “I’m hoping the two of you, and anybody else in the House, could join us in the Senate when we come back in the fall and see what we can do,” Leahy said.

    Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa was one of two Republican senators at the hearing. He wondered whether Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans discriminatory voting laws anywhere in the country, was sufficient, and said Democrats should “bring forth a proposal to update the formula in a constitutional way.”

    Grassley added that “much has changed” since 2006, and cited high voter turnout among blacks in the 2012 election. “We should be pleased that our country has made advances in race relations since the Voting Rights Act was passed,” he said. “The act contributed to the progress, and no doubt more progress should be made.”

    On Thursday, a House Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Voting Rights Act, and Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has promised to yield time for Sensenbrenner to speak. The hearing will be chaired by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., one of 33 House members who voted against the act’s 2006 reauthorization.
  28. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    Re: Congress Takes First Steps Toward Revisions to Voting Rights Act

    Justice Department to challenge
    states’ voting rights laws​

    CLICK HERE for the Full Size Map, Commentary and
    Latest Updates on the Voting Rights Act

    The Justice Department is preparing to take fresh legal action in a string of voting rights cases across the nation, U.S. officials said, part of a new attempt to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that the Obama administration has warned will imperil minority representation.

    The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The justices threw out a part of the act that determined which states with a history of discrimination had to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes.

    In the coming weeks, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce that the Justice Department is using other sections of the Voting Rights Act to bring lawsuits or take other legal action to prevent states from implementing certain laws, including requirements to present certain kinds of identification in order to vote. The department is also expected to try to force certain states to get approval, or “pre-clearance,” before they can change their election laws.

    “Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the Court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to subject states to pre-clearance as necessary,” Holder said in a speech Thursday morning in Philadelphia. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”

    Holder announced that, in a first step, the department will support a lawsuit in Texas that was brought by a coalition of Democratic legislators and civil rights groups against the state’s redistricting plan.

    Holder said he is asking a federal judge to require Texas to submit all voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval for a 10-year period because of its history of discrimination.

    “It’s a pretty clear sign that a lawsuit against the Texas voter-ID law is also on the way,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman. Miller said Justice <SPAN style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffff00">may also sue North Carolina</span> if that state passes a new voter ID law.[/b\

    Reaction to Holder’s announcement among Republicans in Texas and on Capitol Hill was hostile.


    “Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama administration,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said in a statement.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) called Holder’s actions an “end-run” around the Supreme Court.

    “Once again, the Obama administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

    The Obama administration had opposed the Texas voter-ID law signed in 2011 by Perry, saying it endangered minority voting rights. Texas was one of eight states that passed voter-ID laws.


  29. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    holding breath; turning blue

  30. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 Marked the
    48th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act

    Reasons to Hope on the Voting Rights Act’s 48th Anniversary

    A woman applauds at a voting rights rally in South Carolina. Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images

    Today marks the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, after months of civil rights organizing, sit-ins, bloodshed and deaths compelled the federal government to intervene in the struggle against Southern states that were denying African Americans the ballot. It’s hard to celebrate this since the U.S. Supreme Court went all Mortal Kombat on the Voting Rights Act, pulling out its heart, the coverage formula for Section Five’s preclearance provision. But fortunately it wasn’t a fatality. The Voting Rights Act’s remaining organs remain intact, and the SCOTUS ruling has not dimmed the resolve of American citizens who’ve been rallying like revolutionaries to protect civil rights. Below are five reasons to celebrate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act on its 48th birthday, despite the right-wing attacks to finish it.

    1. Eric Holder — He was supposed to have retired from the Justice Department already. But AG Holder is proving to be an OG on the civil rights battlefield. Along with President Obama, Holder has vowed to defend and enforce what remains of the Voting Rights Act by any means necessary. Considering previous attorneys general have left voting rights hanging, we couldn’t have a better Justice Department right now.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    2. Moral Mondays — Florida, Texas and Ohio are probably hype right now about North Carolina. The former three states have been the historical posterkids for voting rights violations. But now North Carolina has overtaken the stage, front and center, for proposing and passing the most restrictive elections policies in the nation. Rev. William Barber has been leading the state NAACP, the historic “HK on J” coalition, the “Forward Together” movement, and thousands of North Carolina residents in weekly peaceful and prayerful demonstrations at the state’s legislature building to protest voter suppression. Hundreds have been arrested, including celebrities and journalists. And even though the state general assembly ended session last week, the Moral Mondays protests are continuing in other cities.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    3. Dream Defenders — Go ahead and scold them for wearing their pants sagging. One thing youth of color have been standing upright on is the fight against the criminalization of what many are calling the “Trayvon Generation.” There are many examples of these new young warriors, but one of the more visible symbols these days is the Dream Defenders, a coalition of Florida youth advocacy groups who’ve been organizing around unjust laws like “Stand Your Ground” gun policies for over a year now. The Dream Defenders have been camped out at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee for four weeks, joined by civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Harry Belafonte. This week they will be joined by rapper Talib Kweli, League of Young Voters executive director Biko Baker and the aforementioned Rev. William Barber, all to draw attention to civil and voting rights violations in the state.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    4. The Democracy Initiative — The green movement has been long criticized for silo-ing themselves off from the non-environmental issues that plague communities of color. After witnessing the attack on voting rights, and realizing it may be impossible to enact a green agenda when democracy itself is compromised, environmental organizations like Sierra Club have now joined the voting rights fight. They are joined, also, by groups that focus on Latino interests, immigration rights, labor rights, marriage equality and concerns of the gay and lesbian communities — all banded together in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Many of them are part of a coalition called The Democracy Initiative, which includes the NAACP, which has vowed to fight the conservative attack on voting rights as a united front.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    5. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund — In many ways, this fight for voting rights protections for African Americans began with the NAACP LDF, and they have remained at the leadership of that fight. Ever since the 1944 Smith v. Allwright case, which the late former LDF attorney Thurgood Marshall called one of the “most important cases” in civil rights history, they’ve been involved in almost every major court case involving the Voting Rights Act, including the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court hearing in February. NAACP LDF president Sherrilyn Ifill provided the blueprint for defending voting rights in Colorlines last month. Given their history of victories on this front, it’s worth feeling optimistic that though things still aren’t all right, there are still gladiators who refuse to back down.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


  31. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator


  32. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

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    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

  34. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Veteran Former Donor

  35. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

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