The Federal Elections (or "Force") Bill


 “The Political Pinkertons”
  Cartoonist:  Grant Hamilton
  Source:  Judge
  Date:   July 30, 1892, pp. 72-73

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This cartoon reveals the difficulty that Southern black men had in casting their ballots. Because of their race and political affiliation—overwhelmingly Republican—they faced intimidation, violence, and fraud at the polls. Here, black men are surprised and dismayed to find their access to the polls blocked by armed white men of the South—hooded Ku Klux Klan members, former Confederates (one wearing a sheriff’s badge), a “cracker” (slang term for a poor Southern white), and other intimidating figures.

The black men are drawn with realistic dignity, which was unusual in a time when blacks were routinely caricatured in the cartoons of periodicals, including Judge, with exaggerated physical features and depicted as stupid and lazy. This positive portrayal is a reaction to the Democratic campaign tactic of fanning Southern white fears by arguing that the Republican Party was trying to impose “Negro Supremacy” on the South through the proposed federal supervision of elections (the Force Bill). The cartoon’s title and caption compare white Southern Democrats to Pinkerton detectives, who were used to suppress the Homestead Strike.













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