Did black people face voter suppression outside the south before the voting rights act

Like in 1920 Chicago or 1890 New York, could black people vote freely and did they do so?

What about in northern states before the civil war but after those states abolished slavery? A lot of northern states abolished slavery in the late 18th and early 19th century, decades before the civil war. In those states could free black people vote?

Did any states give slaves the ability to vote even without outlawing slavery? Did any states distinguish between blacks born free vs blacks who were enslaved, then freed when it comes to voting rights?

Yes, New York has a long history of black voter suppression. Notably (and as the cite mentions), even when the state rescinded the property ownership requirement for voting, black people were not included in that. So at the time they could vote… but they had a higher standard and had to own property.

It’s a huge mistake to see the North as somehow “good” in terms of racism. For instance, a lot of abolitionists were members of the American Colonization Society whose belief was that we should send Black people back to Africa. While some of this was blatant racism, some of it was well intentioned racism, i.e. “the well is too poisoned in the US so they need to be sent to Africa to have a chance at a good life.” Notably, most free black people at the time were not fond of the society and viewed the US as their home and were opposed to the efforts, viewing them as racist separatism/white nationalism (even if they didn’t use that exact term).

A lot of Northerners also held viewpoints that black people were inferior… it’s just that slavery, per se, is wrong. Paternalistic racism.

This isn’t to say there were no abolitionists or people in favor of black rights, even among white Americans at the time. Taking a reductive view of history that the past was “just like that” and that there were no people who supported black people, or that there were no notable black figures (for instance, a few black Founding Fathers like Benjamin Banneker, a group who also routinely liked to have a go at Jefferson for claiming to believe in equality of all men while holding slaves), is equally a mistake and makes it seem like the concept of equal rights was somehow unknown at the time until non-racist people just like… magically came to their senses.

It might be a mistake to think that Northerners, as a whole, were all good, but they were, at least, better than Southerners.

I wasn’t implying northerners were inherently good. There is a long record of police brutality, blacks being locked out of good employment and locked into ghettos in the north. However I didn’t know if they had voting rights in the north.

There had been abolitionists (mostly in the north) before the U.S. was even a country. The Quakers, for example, had always been strongly opposed to slavery. The abolitionist movement continued to grow all through the 1800s, but even by the time of the Civil War, the abolitionists did not have the numbers or the political power to take on the southern wealthy plantations. The only reason that abolition happened was that the abolitionists joined up with the northern industrialists, who saw the southern plantations as choking northern industrialism and were preventing the U.S. from joining the rest of the world as a strong industrial nation. So it was kind of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. While some industrialists were also abolitionists, as a whole, most industrialists didn’t own slaves and didn’t give two hoots about the entire slavery issue, and most abolitionists really didn’t give two hoots about northern industrial factories. But, by joining together, they managed to overpower the entire south, politically.

Thinking that the entire North was anti-slavery is really failing to understand the Northern side of the Civil War conflict.

Even among abolitionists, most felt that blacks were inferior. The abolitionists just felt that it was cruel to enslave those inferior blacks. Even Abraham Lincoln himself felt that blacks were inferior, though his opinion of black intellectual ability did improve as the years went by. There were a few abolitionists who felt that blacks were intellectually equal to whites, but they were the minority.

Lincoln also originally wanted to send the blacks back to Africa. He only changed his mind because he felt that the plan wouldn’t work from a logistical point of view. If he could have found a way to do it that would not have resulted in mass starvation and major problems, he would have still favored it. To be fair, his opinion on this was at least partially because he did not think that blacks and whites would be able to live in harmony after the way that blacks had been treated since the formation of the country, not so much because of racism or any sort of white nationalism.

So in the North, blacks were free, but there was also a lot of racism and the majority of people believed that blacks were inferior. It wasn’t all happy times for blacks in the North.

But, as Chronos said, Northerners were a lot better than Southerners. In the South, the entire culture, social structure, and political structure was designed to keep the black man down and in his place.

Legally, at least at the state level, blacks in the North were free and they could vote. But in actual practice, things were not so clear-cut. Blacks were routinely turned away from voting places, or were intimidated into not showing up in the first place. Black votes were often “lost” (Oh, you’re black? Let me put your ballot over here in this “special” container…). Some places had poll taxes, literacy tests, difficult registration procedures, and other methods to prevent blacks from voting.

Things were still bad enough in the 1960s that specific laws had to be passed to prevent things like polling taxes, literacy tests, and other things that were still being used to suppress the black vote.

Before the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), of course, the vast majority of Northern states (all outside of New England) “suppressed” the African-American vote by the simple expedient of passing laws restricting voting to white men.

After 1870, the North generally accepted African-American suffrage. The Republican Party was in power in much of the North, and Republicans in that era had an obvious and vested interest in promoting black voting. Later on in the Nineteenth Century big-city “machines” (which could be of either party) came to dominate Northern politics in many states, and machines discovered that many of the same techniques used to co-opt the white immigrant vote were effective among African-Americans as well. (Techniques included low-level bribery [turkeys for votes], ethnic support networks, careful allocation of government patronage jobs, and legal and sometimes physical harassment of opponents [back the other party and fail your building inspection].) So again, the powers that be found it easier to co-opt African-American voting than to try to ban it.

Of course, that all depends on your goals. If your goal is to keep the Boss in power, then one man’s vote is as useful as any other’s, regardless of skin color. If, on the other hand, keeping black people from voting is itself your goal, then it won’t work.

That was far from unique to N America. I think that the vast majority of white people throughout Europe thought much the same thing, well into the 20th century.

Quakers owned slaves into the mid 1700s and were only shamed into abolitionism by shunned activist Samuel Lay. The “Quaker Comet” Was the Greatest Abolitionist You’ve Never Heard Of (Smithsonian) tells that story. The Society of Friends WAS the first colonial group to condemn slavery. That came later.

Certainly by the time I was growing up (the 40s) there was no suppression effort in the north that I was aware of. As long as you voted “correctly”. I don’t know how they knew what you voted, but they did. My grandfather once voted “wrong” and for a month, his trash didn’t get collected other trash was strewn on his lawn and so on. Finally, he went to his local Republican (as it happened Philly had a Republican machine) committeeman and swore never to do it again and then all was well.