The “Grandfather Clause”










“Mr. Solid South”
(African American looks on
as white voter writes on wall)
Editorial cartoon–Harper’s
Library of Congress


In 1896, in unabashed defiance of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Louisiana passed the “Grandfather clause” in order to keep former slaves and their descendants from voting. Amendments to the state constitution required would-be voters to be able to read and write English or his native tongue, or own property assessed at $300 or more. The clause allowed a man to vote if his grandfather or father had voted prior to January 1, 1867. Neither free people of color, even if they owned property, nor freedmen could vote before this date. Thus, illiterate whites who could not pass a literacy test could vote; meanwhile, the number of registered black voters in Louisiana dropped from nearly 45% in 1896 to 4.0% in 1900. Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia soon enacted their own grandfather clauses. The political voice of African Americans was silenced.

Posted in Voting Rights and Invisibility.

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