Voting Rights: The Disenfranchised – Oct 11

by admin - October 11th, 2018

Reading for today: Course Reader, Day 11.

The topic today is what happened to voting rights in the late 19th century. The larger context, of which you are already aware, is industrialization and westward expansion, coupled with large waves of European and Asian immigration which went largely unrestricted until the 1880s. It also includes the rise of machine party politics in Northern cities, and the return of Southern states to all-white, Democratic party control with severely restricted voting rights for black men. And: no women could vote anywhere, until the 1870s, when a few Western states began to grant (their small number of white) women that right.

Against that backdrop, we’ll look at the changing state of citizenship and voting rights for Native Americans, hitting some of the major milestones in that narrative.


  • Era of Removal
  • Tension between “separation” and “assimilation” in US policy towards tribes
  • The Dawes Act and its effects
  • When Indians finally became citizens (the 1920s)
  • The era of tribal termination and civil rights activism, 1950s-1980s

As one indication of the continuing relevance of Indian voting rights, consider the Supreme Court ruling THIS WEEK from North Dakota, a state where Indians make up the largest minority group, upholding the state’s rule that people must have a street address in order to prove their residency. Because many Native Americans have a post office box address only, this effectively disenfranchises a whole segment of eligible voters. (Source: Mother Jones, 9 Oct 2018). If you want to follow news about this issue, may I suggest the Twitter feeds @NCAI1944, @NativeAppropos, and @LakotaLaw.

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