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“E” is for Eight Box Law

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“E” is for Eight Box Law. The Eight Box Law of 1882 was an election law to ensure White supremacy in South Carolina without violating the Fifteenth Amendment, which barred states from depriving their citizens the vote on the basis of race. The law provided for separate ballot boxes with labels for each of eight types of office, including for example, state senator, state representative, congressman, governor, and other statewide offices. Any ballot cast in an incorrect box was disallowed. Election managers, by law, could read incorrect information to illiterate Black voters, but correct information to illiterate White voters. The Eight Box Law was dramatically successful in fulfilling its intent of ensuring White supremacy: whereas in 1880 as many as 58,000 Blacks had voted in South Carolina, by 1888 the number had been reduced to fewer than 14,000.

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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.