Session 8. African American Voting in Kentucky and Virginia: 1867-1902

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In 1867, African American men voted for the first time in Virginia. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment enfranchised African American men across the United States, including in Kentucky. Poll books, which document those who voted in late nineteenth and early twentieth century elections, can be used to address questions ranging from voting methods to the early impacts of the Fifteenth Amendment. Cara Griggs will discuss how she uses these records to teach about resources that are useful for researching African Americans in Virginia in the decades following the Civil War. Don DeBats and Sarah John will show that, when matched with other records, poll books reveal high levels of Black political participation into the 1890s, directly challenging the idea of the Fifteenth Amendment’s failure.