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Neglected Voices

Sixteen African-American men served in the United States Congress during the Reconstruction period.

Many of these people also served as members of the state conventions by which the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.

Despite their centrality to Reconstruction’s experiment in multiracial democracy, they are largely forgotten.

Despite their special perspective on the meaning of the Reconstruction Amendments, by which basic civil rights and civil liberties are defined and protected in the United States, their voices are largely ignored in constitutional jurisprudence.

Reproduced here are the speeches they gave in debates of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the Ku Klux Klan Act.

As a result of the characteristic and admirable generosity of Eric Foner, who graciously gave his consent, biographies of each of the 16 are hereafter reproduced from Foner’s invaluable book, Freedom’s Lawmakers.

Read their words.

They enrich the meanings of liberty and citizenship.

Speeches on the Civil Rights Act of 1875

Joseph H. Rainey
Dec. 10, 1873
Feb. 3, 1875
Feb. 4, 1875

Alonzo J. Ransier
Jan. 5, 1874
Feb. 7, 1874
June 9, 1874

Robert B. Elliot
Jan. 6, 1874

Josiah T. Walls
Jan. 6, 1874

Richard H. Cain
Jan. 10, 1874
Jan. 24, 1874
Feb. 3, 1875
Feb. 4, 1875

James T. Rapier
June 9, 1874
Feb. 4, 1875

John R. Lynch
Feb. 3, 1875

Speeches on the Ku Klux Klan Act
William D. Kelley
Robert B. Elliot
Joseph H. Rainey
Robert C. De Large

Interviews with Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

Below are links to videos of interviews with veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.

 

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Ruben Anderson and Fred Banks

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Owen Brooks

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Frank Figgers

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Jessie Harris and Willie Blue

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Douglas McArthur Cotton

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Leslie McLemore (Part 1 of 2)

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Leslie McLemore (Part 2 of 2)

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Carroll Rhodes

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Hollis Watkins

 

 

This resource was developed by Peggy Cooper Davis, John S. R. Shad Professor of Lawyering and Ethics and director of the Experiential Learning Lab.