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The Election of 1876 and Its Effect on African-Americans

The Election of 1876 and Its Effect on African-Americans
 

The presidential election of November 7, 1876, is considered to be one of the most controversial ones in the American history. A few days later, the following words appeared in the newspaper “The Louisiana Democrat”:“The campaign just closed was one of the fiercest in the history of American politics, and the election just held was the most hotly contested and has resulted in the closest vote in our parish, in the State, and in the Nation that has fallen under our observation”.

There were two main candidates: the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, the governor of New York, and the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, the governor of Ohio. During the very process of election the former “won 184 votes, to only 165 votes for Hayes, with twenty disputed electoral votes hanging in the balance” (Marable, 2001). However, surprisingly, the latter turned out to be a winner of presidential race.

In general, people from North mostly supported the republicans, while the South showed a preference for the Democrats. At the beginning, the Republican Party did not agree with “the validity of the voting” in such states as South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, as far as there was still “a post-war military occupation” (Simkin, 1997). The most of voters of these three states were African-Americans, so they were obviously the supporters of the Republicans. The investigation showed the proofs of voter fraud in those states, in particular, ballot tampering and physical intimidation of the voters. According to Campbell (2008), the Democrats there “campaigned in armed, uniformed groups, broke up Republican meetings by force, and threatened Republican candidates and voters”. Moreover, it was found a kind of secret letter, sent to 25 specially chosen Democrats on South, in which they received the tasks to fight against the Republicans. The text contained such instruction: “…be steady and freely resolve to put down radicalism and your deliverance is assured…”.

During the investigation of the voting process in the thre mentioned-above states, both Republican and Democratic officers had respectively two different “sets of conflicting electoral votes” (Campbell, 2008). Consequently, it was a very complicated disputed situation concerning the final results of the elections. As Campbell (2008) claims, according to the U.S. Constitution, a certain person from the Senate, usually the vice president, had to count the quantity of the votes of the election. As far as the Republicans constituted the bigger part of the Senate, they chose their own representative officer responsible for counting the votes. The Democrats called such an action the attempt to organize a coup d’état. Although Democrats were extremely angry with the whole situation, they decided to restrain from solving the problem with violent power. However, Americans were afraid of another possible civil war. The Democrats clearly understood that it would be completely unprofitable for them “to be identified with rebellion again” (Campbell, 2008). Due to the same reason, the Republicans also inclined to finding a peaceful solution. Thus, in order to avoid dangerous conflict, the Republicans and Democrats eventually managed to reach the compromise by selecting Hayes for presidential post. He was officially declared to be the new president on March 2, 1877, “with 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184” (Campbell, 2008).

 

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According to the compromise, one of the important issues was the fact that the Republicans had to end the process of Reconstruction, especially in the Southern part of the country. As Marable (2001) claims, after the end of Civil War, the African-Americans were finally allowed to vote in the election. Still, the whites wanted to “regain their power over their state legislatures” (Marable, 2001). Eventually, the Democrats demanded that the federal troops were removed from the southern states. As a result, the whites regained the control of the politics there, while most of the African-Americans lost their right to vote in any kind of election in future (Simkin,, 1997).

On the whole, there was created an anti-African American legislation in the most southern states. The process later became known as Jim Crow laws (Simkin, 1997). The series of laws had the aim to legalize segregation, “the physical separation of individuals based on race, gender, religion, or class” (Tischaucer, 2012). Moreover, the term is often associated with such a life, when whites and blacks lived in completely different unequal communities. The former had the total supremacy over the latter regarding all the aspects of everyday life. As Tischaucer (2012) claims, “one of them – the white – had all the power, wealth and privileges while the other – the black –faced daily, seemingly unending incidents of terror and humiliation, with hardly any freedom, very little wealth, and absolutely no justice”. For the first time, the legality of segregation was established in the Supreme Court by William B. Brown, who claimed that all the facilities for whites and blacks “were kept separate but equal” (Simkin, 1997).

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After all, by the 1890s, the term “Jim Crow laws” meant the whole culture, which had influence on all the African-Americans, especially on those living in the southern part of the country. That culture was based on such principles, as cruelty, racism, and fright. In the daily life, African-Americans always dealt with different kinds of humiliation. All in all, the whites of the South considered themselves as the “master race”, and people, who were of another skin color, had only “low wages, hard work, and very few chances for improvement” (Tischaucer, 2012). Jim Crow laws dealt almost with every possible sphere of life. One of the most known Jim Crow laws of the time was the prohibition to get married with a person of a different race. Due to another rule of Jim Crow laws businessmen were allowed to divide their customers in accordance with the color of skin. The business owners had a legal right to refuse to have any affairs with people of another race (Tischaucer, 2012).

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