The Colored Republican Club of Chicago signed and sent this petition to the House in 1902. The petitioners wanted equal representation in Congress in accordance with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which granted citizenship and equal protection of the laws to “all persons born or naturalized in the Unites States,” including former slaves. The Chicagoans wrote, “In the course of human events, Justice is often lulled to inactivity by over confidence . . . but when patience ceases to be a virtue, and when the majority are convinced that the few are increasing in tyranny, the voice of the people speaks in no uncertain tones, and the few are again reminded that this is a government of, for, and by the PEOPLE.”
Disenfranchisement in the South ended the experiment in black political participation. When Representative Edgar Dean Crumpacker of Indiana presented this petition on the House Floor in 1902, there was not a single African-American Member of Congress. Crumpacker was a 14th Amendment supporter, who introduced bills and delivered speeches expressing his support. He also was in favor of “reduction,” or penalizing states that disenfranchised eligible voters by reducing their representatives in Congress by a proportional amount. The petitioners provided information that they believed was evidence of violations of the 14th Amendment, including inconsistencies in the population of districts and the number of votes cast. Once introduced, the petition was referred to the Committee on Rules.