PARDON ME: TRUMP FINDS WAY TO CRASH DEMOCRATS’ PARTY
Donald Trump always seems to have a trick up his sleeve. On the date marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, the celebrated white suffragist.
Anthony’s crime was voting in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested, convicted and ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Talk about crashing a party. Whether he did it as a mockery or for trickery, the hypocrisy of this pardon isn’t lost on the Democratic women who are hoping Joe Biden’s pick of Sen. Kamala Harris for his running mate will be enough to bring out Black voters in unprecedented numbers.
But the party has some racial reckoning to deal with of its own.
In an afternoon news conference, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., noted that as far as the right to vote, “We were at first not welcome, and then we were, and it took until 1964 to 1965 to really make us whole.”
And the Democratic Party has its own hypocrisy to deal with when it comes to voting rights.
When white men gave women the vote, they didn’t include Black women; neither did most white women.
At the first suffragist “procession” in Washington, D.C., in 1913 that was organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, civil rights activist, journalist and suffragist Ida B. Wells-Barnett stood out.
Here’s a historical account on the Suffrage 100 MA website:
“On the day of parade, WellsBarnett and sixty other Black women arrived to march with the Illinois delegation, but were immediately advised, as women of color, to march in the back, so as to not upset the Southern delegates. WellsBarnett refused.
“Either I go with you or not at all. I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for the future benefit of my whole race.”
Wells-Barnett left but returned and marched alongside her own Illinois delegation, according to several historical accounts.
Democrats can fume about Trump’s posthumous pardon of Anthony, but Dems have done far worse when it comes to how the political party has treated Black women voters.
With the passage of the 19th Amendment, white women won a clear victory.
But by 1920, legislators in the South and West had passed laws that had the effect of disenfranchising Black Americans.
For instance, Black voters were required to pass literacy tests and pay poll taxes in order to vote. Even then, Black men were threatened and lynched for trying to exercise their right to vote.
“With the passage of the 19th Amendment, African-American women in many states remained as disenfranchised as their fathers and husbands,” noted the author of a recent article published in National Geographic.
Nearly four decades after white women got the right to vote, Black women were still trying to exercise their right.
In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights activist who led voting drives and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, was denied the right to vote due to an unfair literacy test. Not giving up, Hamer successfully registered to vote a year later.
When the civil rights activist was arrested for violating a Jim Crow law, she was brutally beaten in the jail, sustaining lifelong injuries, including kidney damage.
Ironically, today, white Democrats are looking to a Black woman to help a white man win an election that they hope will bring an end to Trump’s reign.
As Mayor Lori Lightfoot noted in her remarks to the Illinois women delegates, the 19th Amendment “corrected a great wrong.”
In these days of racial reckoning — and healing — we don’t need a pardon as much as we need an apology.
A letter handwritten by Susan B. Anthony in 1898 about male oppression of women’s rights during the Spanish American War is part of an exhibit in 2005 at The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett