My research highlights little-known aspects of African American participation in the mobilization on behalf of women’s suffrage in California, an issue of vital importance to African Americans. The history of suffrage in the United States is marked by varying degrees of denial of voting rights to African Americans. In California, African Americans were pivotal participants in three major suffrage campaigns. Based on black women’s support for the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote, black men and women formed a critical political alliance, one in which black men almost universally supported black women’s suffrage. Black women began and continued their activism on behalf of male and female voting rights, not as an extension of white-led suffrage campaigns, but as an expression of African American political culture. African Americans—including black women suffragists—developed their own political culture, in part, to associate with those of similar culture and life experiences, but also because white-led suffrage organizations excluded black members. Black politics in California reflected African Americans’ confidence in black women as political actors and their faith in their own independent efforts to secure the franchise for both black men and women.

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