Document Type


Publication Title

The Oxford Companion to American Law

Publication Date



The history of in the United States has not been characterized by smooth and inexorable progress toward universal suffrage and widespread political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of potential voters. Throughout this checkered history, those who controlled existing institutions had the ability to manipulate democratic processes and outcomes, and they used that ability, first and foremost, to preserve their own control. This, in turn, meant that less powerful segments of society, including racial and ethnic minorities, faced long, difficult struggles for meaningful political participation.


This chapter is from The Oxford companion to American law edited by Kermit L. Hall.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.