An illustration from Harper’s Weekly depicting white men subjecting a black man to violent intimidation while voting, 1876.
As Reconstruction ended, white Southerners and the conservative Democratic Party used violence, economic exploitation, discriminatory laws, and political disenfranchisement to subjugate African Americans and undo their gains during Reconstruction. This illustration depicts one scenario in which these oppressive tactics were used. While the black man is ostensibly free to vote as a result of the Fifteenth Amendment, the white men subject him to threats and violence for attempting to vote freely. This illustration specifically calls out operatives of the Tennessee Democratic Party for threatening violent and economic retribution against African American voters.
Text in bottom left:
“The negroes of the South are free -- free as air,” says the parliamentary Waterson. This is what the State, a well-known Democratic organ of Tennessee says, in huge capitals, on the subject: “Let it be known before the election that the farmers have agreed to spot every leading Radical negro in the county, and treat him as an enemy for all time to come. The rotten ring must and shall be broken at any and all costs. The Democrats have determined to withdraw all employment from their enemies. Let this fact be known.”
Caption, bottom center:
“Of course he wants to vote the Democratic ticket!”
Democratic “Reformer.” -- “You’re as free as air, ain't you? Say you are, or I’ll blow your black head off!”