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In Their Own Words

November 05, 1868

Letter Detailed Attempts to Keep Blacks from Voting

H.C. Morrill in Americus wrote Georgia’s Freedmen’s Bureau about the difficulty blacks were facing in trying to vote:

“I have the honor to state that on the morning of the 3rd instant there seemed to be a preconcerted action with the whites that there should be no election. No officers were present to open polls and no movement made until about 10 o’clock, when I went to the courthouse at the request of three freeholders (colored) who had in my office previously qualified and requested of the Ordinary [present-day probate judge] that a place be furnished to open the polls and that three colored freeholders had taken the necessary oaths and were ready to commence the voting in accordance with law. The Ordinary replied that he had given the necessary papers to citizens who had announced their intention to open polls. At this time, Captain Thomas and one Foster, special police, wanted to know if niggers were going to open polls. I replied that was their intention, when they swore they (freedmen) should not, Foster saying that if they attempted it they would get the contents of this (opening his coat and touching a large cavalry pistol). At this time others came up and said it should not be done and, if I wanted trouble, that was the way to begin it. In the meantime, citizens began to crowd around and the most moderate told me they would see that polls were opened, and I desisted from any further attempt. After this there seemed to be some attempt to open a voting place and at quarter of 12 the voting commenced, the whites at one window and the freedmen at another. It would be useless for me to attempt to describe the voting. Every freedman was asked by the managers questions not pertinent to the case, such as where do you live, where did you work last year, then hold a consultation, then ask if he had paid taxes and if not was immediately rejected and not allowed to vote. Out of 1500 freedmen that was here to vote, only 137 could vote except those they could bribe to vote the Democratic ticket, who voted without a challenge or tax paid or any other delay, so that the vote stood 967 majority for the Democrats. The whole affair was such a farce and everything connected with it so illegal I do not see how it is possible it could stand as legal vote showing the sentiment of this country.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), p. 227.