Following the War of 1812 the voting franchise expanded to include most white men, not just wealthy property owners. Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency in 1828 as a result in this seachange in voting rights. That Jackson was “a man of the people” was left in no doubt following the raucous inauguration day festivities. Washington socialite, Margaret Bayard Smith described the event:
“Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe. But it was the people’s day, and the people’s president, and the people would rule.”
Jackson was a figure of great contradictions. The self-styled “champion of the poor” was, in fact, a wealthy, slave-owning cotton planter. The prime benefactor of popular democracy denied the right to vote to women, American Indians, and African-Americans. The self-proclaimed defender of the Constitution challenged the authority of the Supreme Court. Yet, whatever its shortcomings, the Jackson presidency was ground-breaking. Whether “Old Hickory’s executive style, inspired and inflamed by fierce personal loyalties or hatreds, helped or hurt his efforts to achieve the goals of his political philosophy, remains a question of great debate.
The Civil Rights Movement is the eleventh program in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. The powerful survey follows the genesis of the modern day movement to secure equal rights and protection for African-Americans from post-Civil War reconstruction through the rise of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. It profiles the movement’s most important figures and groups and the era’s most significant events, including the Montgomery bus boycott, Freedom Rides, March on Washington, and protests in Nashville, Birmingham and Selma.
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