Political Science Black Representation Term Paper

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political representation of African-Americans in the southern United States. The author explores many different theories as well as the ideas of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King to explore the under presentation of Blacks politically. There were eight sources used to complete this paper.

African-Americans have come a long way since the nation's inception. From the days of slavery, to the present time many bridges have been crossed and many battles have been won. Gone are the days that Blacks were required to sit at the back of the bus.

No longer can Blacks be told they must eat at a certain restaurant. Black and white children go to school together daily, they grow up on the same streets and they marry into each other's race with increasing frequency. It is becoming the America that the founding fathers envisioned at the time the nation was created. One of the reasons America is known as the most powerful nation on earth is because of the strong and unshakeable political system that it has in place.

The Democratic political system allows the voters to elect those who they want to represent their thoughts, desires and ideas. This system has been in place for more than 200 years and is respected throughout the world. The representation of the voters can be changed anytime the voters decide those that they have elected are no longer representing their best interest.

On the surface it appears to be the perfect political system except for one problem. When one takes a closer look at the American political system, particularly in the southern United States, one can see that the Blacks are clearly underrepresented.

The reason for this has been debated in many arenas over the years. Some believe it has to do with a disinterest in the political system by Blacks, while others argue that it has to do with the age old oppression that Blacks have had to deal with for two centuries. The most constant factor in the problem with Blacks being underrepresented across the south however is the residual effects of slavery. Blacks and whites alike in the south expect to have and to follow white leaders. It is the last bit of oppression lingering in the south and its constant hold on the southern population has caused the political under representation of Black America.

This problem can be solved through the use of theories and ideas from Black leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and others.


Before one can begin to understand the current problem of political under representation in the south for Blacks it is important that one first understand the history of the situation.

In 1995 as the nation commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, African-Americans in the South were confronted with new challenges in voting rights and political representation. The proliferation of lawsuits challenging majority-black congressional districts, escalating attempts to block implementation of the Motor Voter law, and recent decisions by the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal limiting the scope of the Voting Rights Act and its application to judicial elections make voting rights advocates worry whether history could repeat itself (African-American Voting Rights: http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html

Long, Historical Struggle By Selwyn Carter). In Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act 1965-1990, authors Chandler Davidson and Bernard Grofman propose that, "the Voting Rights Act must be seen as a mechanism to ensure that the second Reconstruction of the 1 960s did not meet the same fate as that of the first Reconstruction of the 1860s and 1870s (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)

While the issue was currently being addressed it was not a new one. The Voting Rights Act did not just appear out of nowhere.

It actually came to fruition after more than 100 years of work and effort to end the subjugation of African-Americans as well as the disenfranchisement of the race in America when it came to political issues including representation (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

This Act was an important step in the correction of the problem that had been ongoing for more than 100 years though it was not the complete cure and has not been since (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

Even before the Civil War, the 3/5ths clause in the Constitution, "allowed the white South to exert far greater power in national elections than its numbers warranted" argues historian Eric Foner in Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy. Of sixteen presidential elections between 1788 and 1848, "all but four placed a Southern slaveholder in the White House," continues Foner.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the 14th Amendment was ratified on July 23, 1868 to provide citizenship rights to African-Americans who had previously been denied such rights (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

The 15th Amendment, ratified on March 30, 1870, gave the new citizens the right to vote. However, the right of African-Americans to vote and hold office was challenged from the very beginning (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).As early as 1871, Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which, according to the Reference Library of Black America, "was an attempt to force acceptance of black suffrage in the South and end the intimidation and violence (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

It is important to understand these events in the context of current political representation of Blacks in the south. At a time where whites had full voting rights and privileges and the ability to run for public office blacks were still being held back and made to be oppressed.

In the period between 1864 and 1870 a vigorous debate raged on question of the African-American vote. Even back then the debate partisan overtones, for the readmission of Southern states to the Union would be tied to enfranchisement of African-Americans and to Republican Party control of Congress.

The Fourteenth Amendment -- bestowing citizenship on African-Americans -- dictated congressional terms for readmission of the Southern states into the union. And the counting of ex-slaves for apportionment added 15 additional congressional seats to the House of Representatives (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

During the last 30 years of the 19th century Blacks actually were provided with the majority vote and had 22 representatives in the United States Congress. The South Carolina legislature had a majority of Blacks as well with the numbers being 87 Blacks to 40 whites (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

A historical parallel can be seen between the attacks on African-American voting rights unleashed the success of Reconstruction-era policies and today's attacks on minority voting following the tremendous success of the Voting Rights Act. For between 1972 and 1992, the number of African-Americans in Congress from the South went from 0 to 17. Likewise, the overall number of black elected officials in the South went from 1,179 in 1973 to 4,924 in 1993(African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

While these numbers look impressive at the outset they are still an under representation of Blacks in the political arena in the southern states (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

The Reconstruction-era representation of African-Americans was to be short-lived. In 1876, after three years of controversy, the U.S. Senate refused to seat H.R. Pinchback, an African-American who had been elected in 1873. Also in 1876, the Supreme Court began to back away from African-American voting rights, ruling that, "the right of suffrage is not a necessary attribute of national citizenship (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html) U.S. v. Cruks... 92 U.S. 542 (1876) (African-American Voting Rights: http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html

Long, Historical Struggle By Selwyn Carter) Then came the infamous Hayes-Tilden 'Compromise of 1877' which led to the 1878 removal of presidential authority to use federal troops to guarantee fair elections. In that year the U.S. attorney general revealed widespread intimidation of African-Americans attempting to vote and stuffing of the ballot boxes in several states. And in Georgia, African-American representatives had been expelled from their seats because of their race (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).In summary, the era known as post-Reconstruction saw the racial cleansing of the African-American from the Southern political landscape. The right not only to vote, but also for Africans Americans to hold office was fundamentally restricted (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

This proved to be a problem in the growth of Black political representation as well. It seemed to Blacks, particularly in the southern states, that for every step they took forward they were immediately forced to take two steps backward.

The end of the 19th century saw riots throughout the southern states when it came to the voting rights of Blacks and the political oppression regarding their representation as well. "By 1890, Mississippi had inaugurated the first of the constitutional conventions which would sweep the South and begin the systematic exclusion of African-Americans from the political arena. By 1896, voting rights for African-Americans triggered riots across the South and Rep. George White of North Carolina became the only African-American remaining in the U.S. Congress. Between 1896 and 1900 the number of black voters in Louisiana were reduced from 130,000 to 5,000(African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."…[continue]

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