Black suffrage

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Black suffrage is Black people's right to vote. Black suffrage has been at issue in countries established under conditions of white supremacy. It may be limited through official or informal (de facto) discrimination. In many places, black people have obtained suffrage through national independence. It should also be pointed out that "Black suffrage" in the United States in the aftermath of the American Civil War explicitly refers to "Black Male Suffrage". While women citizens, regardless of race, held rights to vote in some states, at the federal level, the U.S. Constitution was not interpreted to prohibit discrimination against women in voting, regardless of their race, until the passage of the 19th Amendment which was ratified by the United States Congress on August 18 and then certified by law on August 26, 1920.

British Empire and United Kingdom[edit]

South Africa[edit]

Cape Colony[edit]

  • The Cape Qualified Franchise restricted voting by property ownership but not explicitly by race.
    • In 1853, the Queen authorized a Cape Colony parliament, which drafted a Constitution with no explicit racial restriction.
    • Cape Colony's "Responsible Government" Constitution, issued in 1872, explicitly prohibited racial discrimination.
    • Under Prime Minister Gordon Sprigg, the Colony passed the 1877 "Registration Bill", disenfranchising Black communal land owners.
    • The Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 raised the threshold for suffrage from £25 to £75, accomplishing de facto disenfranchisement of many non-White voters

South Africa[edit]


United States[edit]


  • Before the Revolution, only some local elections were held, the first real national suffrage appeared in 1791.
  • From 1791, France installed several male suffrage systems, alternating between census and universal suffrage. In mainland France, there was no racial criterion to be a voter so technically from this date, Black (male) voters existed and received the same rights as non-Blacks. They were still rare as segregation in France was not based directly on skin color or racialism but on the status as a slave or as a free human. Later it would be based on status as a mainland citizen or as a colony citizen.
  • From there, through the first half of the 19th century, frequent changes in the national government caused the colonies (where most slaves were, as their presence was restricted in mainland France) to have different rules than mainland France, often illegally. Several uprising occurred in the colonies during this period and the colonial rules diverged considerably from mainland France.
  • In mainland France:
    • In 1794 the government abolished slavery.
    • In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte re-established slavery and, possibly owing to his disagreements with Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a black general, forbade Blacks and people of mixed-ancestry (mulâtres) to enter mainland France.
    • In 1815 slave trade was abolished, but not slavery
    • In 1848 slavery is formally abolished in France and all slaves are freed.
  • In the French Colonial Empire, however, most indigenous people were not recognized as full French citizens and therefore often did not have the right to vote:
    • Vincent Ogé, who had been working in Paris during the Revolution, returned to the island slave colony of Saint-Domingue and demanded voting rights. Ogé led an insurrection in 1790 and was executed in 1791. Enslaved people took control of the island in the subsequent Revolution and established the Republic of Haiti. (Elections were held but the democracy was not stable.)
    • France promoted a model of assimilation according to which Blacks and indigenous people could gain voting (and other) rights by successfully conforming to French culture. These high-status Blacks were known as les Évoluées.
    • People living in French colonies primarily fell under the Code de l'indigénat. Les indigènes had some voting privileges, but these could be modified without their consent.
    • Following the Revolution of 1848, France granted limited representation to the Four Communes of Senegal. Ordinary residents of these cities gained full voting rights in 1916 after the election of Blaise Diagne.
    • Lamine Guèye (another Senegalese politician) also achieved expanded voting rights ("loi Lamine Guèye") for people in the colonies.
    • Residents of African colonies were permitted to vote in the 1958 French constitutional referendum, which established the French Community. Most colonies voted for independence, resulting in the creation of 17 Black nations in the Year of Africa.

Belgian Congo[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ancient voting rights", The History of the Parliamentary Franchise, House of Commons Library, 1 March 2013, p. 6, retrieved 16 March 2016
  2. ^ Everette Swinney, "Enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment, 1870–1877." Journal of Southern History 28#2 (1962): 202–218. [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Beckman, Ludvig. "Who Should Vote? Conceptualizing Universal Suffrage in Studies of Democracy." Democratisation 15.1 (2008): 29-48.
  • Paxton, Pamela, et al. "A half-century of suffrage: New data and a comparative analysis." Studies in Comparative International Development 38.1 (2003): 93-122.
  • Robinson, George M. Fredrickson Edgar E. Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa (Oxford University Press, 1995).
  • Sneider, Allison. "The New Suffrage History: Voting Rights in International Perspective." History Compass 8.7 (2010): 692-703. focus on women.