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"The First Vote"


The Fifteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, ratified March 30, 1870, provided that all male citizens were entitled to vote. Because the African American population was so large in many parts of the South, whites were fearful of their participation in the political process. Nevertheless, the Radical Republicans in the U.S. Congress were determined that African Americans be accorded all of the rights of citizenship. This is an illustration from the November 16, 1867 edition of Harper's Weekly.


Alfred R. Waud. "The First Vote." From Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-19234 (5-21)

Much of the history of voting in America has been the story of the expansion and contraction of the voting rights. The invention and use of the 1898 Standard Voting Machine coincided with concern among progressive reformers about fraud and corruption in the electoral process. However, the story of progressive reform should be situated within the larger story of the struggle for voting rights among African Americans and women, and the attempt of the American polity to grapple with the question of whether the large numbers of newly arrived immigrants were fit to participate in civic life.