Here’s what happened when black politicians held power

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tags: Reconstruction, Black History

New research provides the strongest evidence to date that the race of a political officeholder can have a significant effect on policy – at least historically.

The study showed that during the Reconstruction period after the U.S. Civil War, southern counties with black officeholders had a lower literacy gap between blacks and whites and had more blacks earning money as tenant farmers than did counties without blacks in office.

Results showed that black officeholders raised county revenues more than did white officeholders, which resulted in better education for blacks and more opportunities for them to earn income as farmers.

“The effect of politicians on the lives of blacks was acute – black officeholders during Reconstruction mattered,” said Trevon Logan, author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University.

Just how much they mattered could be seen when Reconstruction ended abruptly in the 1870s and black politicians were swept from office.

“When blacks are out of office, the gains are out as well,” Logan said. “The positive effects for blacks disappear.”

After the Civil War, about 1 million African Americans received the right to vote for the first time during the era known as Reconstruction. That led to more than 1,300 blacks holding offices ranging from local school boards to the governor of Louisiana between 1866 and 1880 in the South.

Logan looked at county-level data from the 1870 Census (when Reconstruction was in force) and in 1880 (when it had been overturned), as well as electoral return data. Information on black officeholders came from a dataset created by historian Eric Foner. ...

Read entire article at OSU

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