Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - MARY MITCHELL mmitchell@sun­ | @MaryMitche­l­lCST

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

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