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“E” is for Eight Box Law [1882]

Walter Edgar's Journal logo

  “E” is for Eight Box Law [1882]. The Eight Box Law of 1882 was an election law designed to ensure white supremacy in South Carolina without violating the Fifteenth Amendment—which barred states from depriving their citizens of the vote on the basis of race. The law provided for separate ballot boxes for each of the eight offices, including, state senator, state representative, congressman, governor, and other statewide offices. Any ballot cast in an incorrect box was disallowed. Election managers were required to read the labels to illiterate voters—enabling election officials to read them correctly to white voters and incorrectly to black voters. This was not a violation of federal law and would be difficult to prove in court. In just six years, the Eight Box Law reduced the number of black voters from 58,000 to 14,000.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.