Politics and Government

Women and the Political Process

How did the Republican leadership during Reconstruction enable black women?

Black women remained excluded from the political process during the Reconstruction period. While black men had been given voting privileges with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and could be—and were—elected to political office, the same was not true for black women. Radical Republicans had an agenda that black women found favorable; for example, their platform paved the way for black emancipation and equal rights under the law. Black women responded by once again working through their churches and organizations to push for reform laws and ensure programs for racial uplift. They practiced techniques important in organizational and political leadership, such as drawing up constitutions for their organizations, electing officers, holding formal meetings, keeping records (including financial), and practicing other business techniques. Their efforts were hampered, however, when the Plessy v. Ferguson decision became law in 1896, challenging all facets of black life and freedom. Even white women who had been sympathetic to the causes of black women, such as the various suffrage associations, grew hostile to blacks and opposed the black female ballot.


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