“The Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863—The Past and the Future,” Harper’s Weekly, January 24, 1863, pages 56-57.

History, we have been taught, says that the right to vote for Black Americans came with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, after the Civil War. In New England, several states had given the right to vote to free men well before this law. After the Revolution some New England states took away the right to vote from many Blacks. But did you know in the Slave South that in some places free Blacks could vote?

Emancipation Proclimation


There were nearly 150 in Herford County and 300 free black voters in Halifax County, North Carolina, until 1835. In 1856, voting by the free black people (present day Red Bones) of Ten Mile Creek Precinct in what is now Allen Parish, Louisiana, became a source of public concern. Several were tried for illegal voting for free Negroes did not have the franchise but they were acquitted when their colored ancestry could not be proven and the judge would not permit the jury to evaluate them by their appearance. In Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee free blacks had the right to vote up until 1835. In one parish in Louisiana, free blacks went to the polls from 1838 to 1860.

Roger W. Shugg, "Negro Voting in the Antebellum
South," Journal of Negro History, XXI, (1936).