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105th Annual Meeting and Conference - African Americans and the Vote

September 23 – 27, 2020
Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa, Montgomery, Alabama

ASALH’s 2020 theme comes as the nation marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) and celebrates the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870). These constitutional amendments reshaped the American political landscape  with the culmination of suffrage for women and granting  black men the right to the ballot after the Civil War. The theme speaks, therefore, to the ongoing struggle on the part of both black men and black women for the right to vote.

The national discussion that centered around the struggles of African Americans and the vote has a rich and long history, which begins at the turn of the nineteenth century during the era of the Early Republic. It was here we see states passing laws that democratized the vote for white men while disfranchising free black men. Thus, even before the Civil War, black men petitioned their legislatures and the US Congress, seeking to be recognized as voters. With the conclusion of the war, states still found ways to circumvent the Constitution and prevent blacks from voting. Poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and intimidation all turned African Americans away from the polls. Until the Supreme Court struck it down in 1915, many states used the “grandfather clause” to keep descendants of slaves out of elections. The clause said you could not vote unless your grandfather had voted -- an impossibility for most people whose ancestors were slaves.
Tensions between abolitionists and women’s suffragists first surfaced in the aftermath of the Civil War, while black disfranchisement laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries undermined the guarantees in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments for the great majority of southern blacks until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Academic Program Committee seeks a diverse slate of presenters and panels representing a variety of professional and institutional backgrounds, perspectives, and voices. We are interested in detailed, comprehensive, and descriptive proposals that outline the theme, scope, and aim of participants. The committee particularly seeks presentations that probe the traditional fields of economic, political, diplomatic, intellectual, and cultural history; the established fields of urban, race, ethnic, labor, and women’s/gender history as well as southern, Appalachian, and western history; along with the rapidly expanding fields of sexuality, LGBT , and queer history; environmental and public history; African American intellectual history; carceral state studies; and transnational and global studies across all fields, topics, and thematic emphases.

Deadlines for submission of proposals are as follows: Submissions will be accepted up to Early Bird submission, which is March 1, 2020. After this date, the committee will accept all submissions until the deadline of April 1, 2020.

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