Of all the ironies and contradictions of the American democratic experience, one of the most glaring has comprised the open, systematic, and successful attempts at legal disfranchisement, based solely on the fact of race. In New York City. For example, access by free blacks to the suffrage had been severely circumscribed by the period of General Emancipation. In order to understand how blacks were virtually eliminated as a political force in the city and, by extension, in the state itself, one must first consider their suffrage status prior to 1821, the year in which constitutional restrictions were placed upon their exercise of the franchise.