History and People’s Sentiments Repeat Themselves

The 2018 United States elections will be held mostly on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. These midterm elections will take place in the middle of Republican President Donald Trump’s first term. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested.  But, how many Americans will turn out at the polls?   Voter turnout records show that since the 1980s, after increasing for many decades, that voter turnout has been trending downward in most established democracies.   In fact, only about 40 percent of those eligible to vote actually go to the polls in midterm elections.  This year, with an astounding number of highly charged social, moral, and political issues in our affecting our culture,  I guess we will have to wait for our numbers in November.

Meanwhile, let’s look back 151 years to September 25, 1867, when The New Orleans Tribune, was the first black daily newspaper published.  Also consider that Congress passed and ratified the 15th amendment (granting African American men the right to vote) on February 26, 1869, and February 3, 1870, respectively.  (White and African-American women didn’t get their voting rights until 1920!)

 From:  Roudanez: History and Legacy’  “The election day is near us. We will have the power into our own hands.”

THE WHOLE WORLD IS LOOKING ON US.” – Here is the full editorial, as it was republished for the first time on FaceBook by Mark Roudané, along with its backstory:

BE SOBER. The New Orleans Tribune. September 25, 1867.

The election day is near us. We feel confident that every newly enfranchised citizen will find it his duty to repair to the polls and cast his ballot. We have a right to-day to complain of unjust laws and of the more unjust execution of the existing laws, because we were no part to the enactment of the statues and to the organization of the State government. But, in future, should the law be oppressive or the courts partial, we will have to blame ourselves, since we are now to use the right of co-operating in the legislation and government. After the 27th of this month there will be no excuse were we to perpetuate into power the old system and the old leaders. We will have the power into our own hands. Every newly enfranchised citizen should be particular in casting his ballot, and in voting for the Radical Republican candidates.

But it is not enough to vote, and to vote the right ticket. That election should be marked with peculiar dignity. The whole world is looking on us—many with the hope that we will prove unfit for self-government; some with the fear that through neglect or inexperience we furnish arms to our enemies and the enemies of general liberty. We must disappoint our haters, and furnish our friends with a powerful argument in favor of universal suffrage in all countries. Should we fail on Friday, millions of poor laborers, now disfranchised in several counties (sic) of Europe, will have to struggle for a century longer before they rise to civil and political equality. But should we make a good, sound and sober use of the ballot, the argument will be irresistible in Europe and we will enfranchise by our example millions of the oppressed.

Let us, therefore, be well aware of the importance of the day. When we say that we have to act soundly and soberly we do not mean to use only sound judgment and sober thought. We urge our people to be sober physically. They should not allow any excess, any impropriety to disparage their conduct on that day. Let their motto be: “Let us se a good example to rebel voters.” To establish our equality as a fact, we must show ourselves superior to our despisers—so that they be ashamed of talking of their boasted superiority. Let us be the superiors in point of decorum, quietness and propriety.

To attain that result, and make this election a teaching for rebels themselves, the first rule is to keep sober. No new elector should touch a drop of liquor during the two days of election. The reasons are obvious. First rebels will do their utmost exertions to cheat the colored men of their ballots and substitute others in their stead. Coolness of mind will, therefore, be necessary. Preserve your own ballot; secret it in a safe place, and use no other. While we can win the day in offering a united front, that is to say, in voting, all of us, the Radical Republican Ticket, do not permit our men to be led astray and be beaten through their own wickedness. “Do not allow rebels to steal your ballots by stealing first your brains,” said a public speaker in one of our late meetings. And in order to prevent that, keep sober, and do not allow any man, under any color whatever to “steal away your brains” by making you drunk.

At the same time avoid, on those days, to be involved in difficulties. You must, on that occasion, use forbearance and patience; it is a civic duty. You may be laughed at, you may receive provocations. Do not mind mere words. The victory you will win at the polls will be more than a satisfaction. And in order to avoid being involved in difficulties, once more, keep perfectly sober on election day.

Should violence be resorted to by our enemies, let them clearly take the responsibility, so that they may bear the consequences.

BACKSTORY. The Tribune’s long and bloody fight for Black voting rights in Louisiana would soon be victorious. Two days after this editorial was published, an overwhelming tide of Black men would participate in their first sanctioned vote and elect delegates of African descent, the formerly enslaved and free men of color alike, to be delegates to the state constitutional convention. Those delegates, including P.B.S. Pinchback, Arnold Bertonneau, and James Ingraham, would go on to enact the most radical constitution of the Reconstruction era.

Learn more about America’s first Black daily newspaper at www.roudanez.com. 

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