This is the second portion of a two-part work on the struggle to eliminate the color barrier for suffrage in California. The first volume, Sheila Skjeie's California and the Fifteenth Amendment, recounts the creation of the "whites only" voting restriction in the state's original 1849 constitution and the subsequent struggle by blacks to acquire suffrage during the 1850s and 1860s, an effort complicated by widespread hostility toward the growing Chinese population in the state. Her volume culminates with the California legislature's rejection in early 1870 of the Fifteenth Amendment, the voting rights amendment proposed by Radical Republicans during Reconstruction. The subsequent ratification of the amendment by three-fourths of the state legislatures banned racial discrimination in voting throughout the nation, including California. Until that volume is placed on this web page, it may be available on interlibrary loan from California State University - Sacramento.
Vol. II describes the events of 1870 within California after President Ulysses S. Grant announced ratification of the amendment. The celebrations, while joyous affairs, led to controversy in the state's press over an issue of social equality that arose in their wake. While blacks celebrated, many leading Democrats looked for ways to prevent black registration and voting. In some counties Democratic county clerks refused to register any but whites. A Congressional act to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment finally put an end to Democratic resistance to extension of the right to vote. In the end, California's African Americans were among the first to cast ballots in those non-Confederate states that had restricted suffrage to "whites only."
Throughout Vol. II the ethnic group that is the primary subject of this study is referred to as African Americans or blacks. In the numerous quotations taken from contemporary news accounts and editorials, however, other terms, in many cases derogatory, are used in referring to African Americans, Native American Indians and Chinese. While those terms would not be acceptable today, their unedited use here permits the reader to feel the emotion, in some cases dripping with racial animosity, and to read the anti-black, anti-Indian and anti-Chinese arguments as offered by the authors in their own words. No attempt has been made to sanitize nineteenth century attitudes.
By necessity this volume relies heavily on the California press of 1870. Despite an intensive search in state and county archives and in major research libraries, very little in the form of public records or personal papers related to implementation of the Fifteenth Amendment in California remains. The Mandeville papers at the Huntington Library contain no reference to the "Mandeville Manifesto" or to anything else relevant to his opposition to registration of blacks. Nor do the Haight papers, also at Huntington, hold anything of importance. Neither the state archives nor the office of state attorney general have any of the communiques sent by Jo Hamilton to county clerks in his effort to thwart black registration. No significant African American material, in the form of letters, diaries, organizational minutes or other items that might shed light on the struggle to register and vote, has as yet turned up. While an abbreviated version of Judge Ignacio Sepulveda's decision in Green v. Mott is to be found in court records at the Huntington Library, the only complete account of his decision comes from the local press.
Consequently, the press is the principal source currently available. Forty daily and weekly papers from various parts of the state, from Lassen, Siskiyou and Trinity counties in the north to San Diego in the south, provided most of the information included here. A debt of gratitude is owed to the State Library at Sacramento and to the newspaper room at the University of California, Berkeley, both of which willingly loaned their newspaper microfilm to facilitate this research. The staff at the Interlibrary Loan Office at Cal Poly Pomona made these loans possible.
While there are obvious disadvantages in using an electronic book, one of its assets is the ability to correct errors. A mistake in a print volume stands forever, much to the regret of the author. Readers are encouraged to call any errors in this volume to the attention of the authors so that they may be corrected. We can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to correspond via regular mail, obtain a current address from our home page at www.csupomona.edu/~reshaffer.