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African-Americans and the Populist Movement

These questions and documents can be used in conjunction with of the New York State Education Department standard curriculum for grades 7&8 Social Studies: United States and New York State History. Students will learn about the Populist Era~1880-1900, as a response to the overwhelming power of Big Business.

Main points:
-Introduction of the Populist Movement
-Similarities between poor white and African American Farmers in the late 19th century
-How is the election process presented in today’s New York Times

An Example of segregated facilities available
to African Americans in the South.

After Reconstruction ended in 1877, African Americans ceased to hold significant political power in the South. Segregation existed but custom, rather than law, enforced it. This changed in the 1890s when the Populist Party, an agrarian movement which sought to raise farm prices and challenge the power of the banks and railroads, attempted to merge the common economic interests of poor African American and white farmers against the white Democratic party elite in the South.

Before The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel) drew political cartoons for the newspaper PM during World War ll. His cartoons included attacks on Jim Crow, racism and the poll tax.(Oct 12,1926)

This elite turned to stopping the African American vote to maintain their power. The Fifteenth Amendment forbade racial restrictions on suffrage, but white supremacists used thinly disguised laws to remove African Americans from the voter rolls. These included poll taxes that poor blacks (and whites) could not pay and literacy tests. Racial violence, especially lynching, was used to discourage African Americans from voting as well as to maintain the unwritten racial and economic order that characterized the South. Many African Americans, most notably Ida Wells-Barnett, organized protests but their voices did not reach the ears of an America deaf to racial injustice.

In addition to disfranchisement, African Americans were also subject to racist laws, known as Jim Crow legislation, which spread throughout the South in the late 1890s. Jim Crow racially segregated all public facilities, including bathrooms, hospitals, schools, and streetcars. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case and endorsed state laws disenfranchising African Americans in the 1898 Williams v. Mississippi decision. It would be more than 60 years before African Americans would regain the voting and civil rights that Jim Crow legislation violently took from them.

 

 
 
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