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The Influence Of The Black Vote, Then And Now

Voters pick up "I voted today" stickers at the St. Louis County Board Of Elections on Oct. 25, 2018.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
2020 marks the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote after the Civil War.

This year is full of political commemorations: the presidential election, the centennial of the 19th Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. The year also marks the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote after the Civil War.

Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History selects a theme for Black History Month. Because of those political milestones, this year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote” — nationwide and here in St. Louis. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into a variety of Missouri Historical Society programming planned throughout the month at the Missouri History Museum and Soldiers Memorial.

Shakia Gullette and Gena McClendon joined Monday's talk show to discuss the influence of black voters on U.S. elections.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Shakia Gullette and Gena McClendon joined Monday's talk show to discuss the influence of black voters on U.S. elections.

Joining the discussion were Shakia Gullette, director of African American Initiatives for the Missouri Historical Society, and Gena McClendon, director of two initiatives at the Center for Social Development at Washington University. One of those initiatives is focused on voter access and engagement.

The historical society’s events will kick off with a roundtable discussion Tuesday about the influence of the black vote on local and national politics. Panelists there will include McClendon as well as St. Louis American columnist Mike Jones, Missouri State Rep. Wiley Price IV, D-St. Louis, and professor Devin Fergus. 

On Monday’s talk show ahead of the event, McClendon noted that while African Americans make up around 13% of the U.S. population, their vote has significantly impacted election outcomes.

“For some reason, people have a tendency to think that African Americas don’t vote, [but] they do. They do by record numbers, [but] many times, that vote has been taken for granted,” McClendon said on the talk show. 

She explained ways black voters have been hindered historically from the polls, and how some of the common practices during the Reconstruction era still trickle down to voter suppression today. Listen to the full discussion to hear more about it: 

Other upcoming Black History Month programs put on by the Missouri Historical Society include the Rep's "Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical," a screening of "the Kinloch Doc," a program on the Founding of Lincoln University, and a presentation and book signing with John U. Rees, author of "'They Were Good Soldiers': African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783 (From Reason to Revolution).” 

Related Event

What: Unflinching: The Power of the African American Vote
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020
Where: Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum (5700 Lindell Blvd. St. Louis MO 63112)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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