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First African American squire elected 1876

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From Post staff reports

In 1867, African-Americans gained the right to vote and only nine years later, Wilson County elected its first black member of the Wilson County Court in the same year an African-American ran for governor of Tennessee, delivering a speech in Lebanon.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified by Tennessee in 1866, giving African-Americans the rights of citizenship. The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not ratified until 1870, which said no citizen could be denied the right to vote based on color, race or previous condition of servitude.

In 1867, 864 African-American poll taxes were assessed in Wilson County, meaning that many cast votes in the election. While they had the rights of citizenship, many southern states still levied poll taxes and other impediments to prevent African-Americans from voting.

However, in 1876, the African-American voice at the polls was strong enough that S. Jordan was elected to the Wilson County Court (currently the Wilson County Commission), defeating four white candidates. Jordan was a shoemaker who came from Nashville to Lebanon the year before.

Also that year, William F. Yardley of Knoxville ran for governor as a Republican and gave a speech in Lebanon as part of the gubernatorial canvass. The incumbent governor James D. Porter was reelected, however.

Since Tennessee was the first state to rejoin the Union after the Civil War, it was not required to ratify the Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th and 15th) although the state did ratify the 13th and 14th amendments. The Tennessee General Assembly unanimously ratified the 15th amendment in 1997.

Information for this article was found in the book History of Wilson County, Its Land and Its Life.

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