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
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