Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 3

Sustaining Democracy with Force: Black Representation During Reconstruction

Mario L. Chacón, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Universidad del Norte, Colombia, , Jeffrey L. Jensen, Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE, , Sidak Yntiso, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Mario L. Chacón, Jeffrey L. Jensen and Sidak Yntiso (2021), "Sustaining Democracy with Force: Black Representation During Reconstruction", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 3, pp 319-351.

Publication Date: 23 Nov 2021
© 2021 M. L. Chacón, J. L. Jensen, and S. Yntiso
American political development,  Civil conflict,  Comparative political economy,  Political economy,  Voting behavior
Minority representationenfranchisementreconstructionpolitical equality


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In this article:
Historical Context 
Effect of Enforcement on Representation 
Channels of Representation 
Appendix A: Summary Statistics and Maps 
Appendix B: Instrumental Variables Approach 


The failure of Reconstruction is widely seen as a key factor in the social and economic status of African Americans today. Despite the extension of the franchise to the formerly enslaved, Southern elites used violence and other extralegal means to regain power and ultimately remove these newly granted rights. In this paper, we study the importance of enforcement of political rights on the ability of the formerly enslaved to achieve political power during Reconstruction. We use data on the location of federal troops to predict the election of black politicians in the Congressionally mandated state constitutional conventions and subsequent state legislatures. Using various estimation strategies, we find that the federal enforcement enhanced black representation and that the presence of the Army interacted positively with other federal efforts such as the Freedmen's Bureau. In light of the recent Supreme Court decisions to weaken the enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act and subsequent legislative efforts to suppress minority turnout, our evidence has implications on minority representation to this day.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 3 Special Issue - Slavery and Its Legacies: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.