Representation and Imposed Democratization: Evidence from Black Enfranchisement during Reconstruction
43 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 1, 2021
The failure of Reconstruction is widely seen as a key factor in the social and economic status of African Americans today. Despite the imposed 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. We use various estimation strategies, including exploiting railway coverage at the time of occupation, two-way fixed effects models, and an instrumental variable model, to analyze patterns of black representation state legislative bodies. We find that enforcement principally impacted representation through minority turnout. 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 today.
Keywords: extension of the franchise, political violence, military occupation
JEL Classification: N11, N41, H70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation