The eighth device used by Democrats to disenfranchise black Americans was that of physical intimidation and violence. Recall that in 1871, Rep. Robert
Brown Elliott had concluded: “the declared purpose of the Democratic Party is to defeat the ballot with the bullet and other coercive means.” Elliott’s term “coercive means” accurately described the lynchings as well as the cross burnings, church burnings, incarceration on trumped-up charges, beatings, rapes, murders, and intimidations to which blacks in the South were subjected. Obviously, the Ku Klux Klan was a leader in this form of violent voter intimidation. As confirmed by Rep. James T. Rapier of Alabama:
They Democrats were hunting me down as the partridge on the mount, night and day with their Ku Klux Klan, simply because I was a Republican and refused to bow at the foot of their Baal.
The ninth device used by Democrats to disenfranchise black voters was the revision of State constitutions. Recall that during Reconstruction, southern States had been required to rewrite their State constitutions to add full civil rights protections for black Americans. However, democratic violence against blacks became commonplace rep. James T. Rapier when those States reverted to Democratic control; many revised their constitutions to remove those civil rights clauses. For example, in 1868 North Carolina had rewritten its constitution to include civil rights, but in 1876 it amended its constitution to exclude most blacks from voting. Over the next two decades, Democrats in Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and other southern States also altered their constitutions or passed laws to negate many of the rights that had been gained.
Other devices employed by Democrats to keep blacks from voting included property ownership requirements. For example, in Alabama in 1901, a voter was required to own land or property worth at least $300 before he could vote – an amount that today would equate to more than $6,500. And Florida would withhold voting rights for the “commission” of a crime – not for a serious crime or a felony but rather for violating any of a long list of petty offenses. For example, unemployed blacks looking for works were often charged with vagrancy, thus resulting in a loss of their voting rights – simply because they were looking for work! 359 Democrats also used restrictive eligibility requirements or the paying of excessive annual voter registration fees – fees not struck down by the courts until 1971. Democrats utilized nearly a dozen devices to keep black Americans from voting – something that would have come as no surprise to the earliest African American civil rights leaders. For example, Rep. Joseph Hayne Rainey had earlier declared: