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Black suffrage

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Subject: Suffrage, Memphis riots of 1866, Andrew Johnson
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Black suffrage

Black suffrage refers to 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, Blacks have obtained suffrage through national independence.

British Empire and United Kingdom

South Africa

Cape Colony

  • 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


United States

French Empire

  • The French Revolution precipitated a conflict over whether Gens de couleur were entitled to the rights of French citizens.
    • 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.)
  • Other Black subjects of the French Colonial Empire were generally not able to vote, with some exceptions.
    • France promoted a model of assimilation according to which Blacks 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 Indigénats 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 French constitutional referendum, 1958, 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

See also

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