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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

One hundred years after the Civil War's end, the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act overcame the final institutional barriers blocking the African American franchise, the bedrock of citizenship. The Voting Rights Act and the previous year's passage of the Civil Rights Act symbolized a legislative triumph for the popular movements and visionary ideals whose origins long preceded the decade of organized protest and mass mobilizations leading up to these concessions. Just a quarter century earlier, the United States joined a world war proudly unfurling its democratic banner, while a significant portion of the American population wrestled with the consequences of its political disfranchisement, economic marginalization, and social exclusion. Despite the United States' self-image as a champion of democracy upon its entry into WWII, the African American struggle to build livelihoods, institutions, and communities following the Radical Reconstruction's 1877 demise chronicles the tangled tale of America's often tragically flawed democratic experiment.

Keywords: race, American democracy, African Americans, Reconstruction, citizenship, democracy

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