The Dark Side of Great Historic Figures

Frederick Douglass, circa 1879. National Archives

35. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Went From a Supporter of Black Rights to a Full-Blown Racist

From early on, tensions arose within AERA regarding its goal of winning voting rights for both blacks and women. The question of which should be prioritized ended up wrecking the association. After three years, AERA dissolved amidst bitter arguments about whether to support the 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote.

Reasonable people could disagree on whether women or black men should be the first to get the vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton went on a Klan-like tirade. Frederick Douglass called for supporting the 15th Amendment, while continuing to back the struggle for women’s rights. Stanton responded with a racist speech mocking the black men and immigrants whom the amendment would enfranchise.

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