Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Saturday, 17 October 2015
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : DISFANCHISEMENT - OPPONENTS OF BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS USED ECONOMIC REPISALS AND FREQUENTL VIOLENCE AT THE POLL S IN THE 1870's AND 1880's :
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Opponents of black civil rights used economic reprisals and frequently violence at the polls in the 1870s and 1880s to discourage blacks from registering to vote or voting. Paramilitary groups such as the Red Shirts in Mississippi and the Carolinas, and the White League in Louisiana, practiced open intimidation on behalf of the Democratic Party. By the turn of the 20th century, white Democratic-dominated Southern legislatures disfranchised nearly all age-eligible African-American voters through a combination of statute and constitutional provisions. While requirements applied to all citizens, in practice, they were targeted at blacks and poor whites (and Mexican Americans in Texas), and subjectively administered. The feature "Turnout in Presidential and Midterm Elections" at the following University of Texas website devoted to politics, shows the drastic drop in voting as these provisions took effect in Southern states compared to the rest of the US, and the longevity of the measures.
Mississippi passed a new constitution in 1890 that included provisions for poll taxes, literacy tests (which depended on the arbitrary decisions of white registrars), and complicated record keeping to establish residency, which severely reduced the number of blacks who could register. It was litigated before the Supreme Court. In 1898, in Williams v. Mississippi, the Court upheld the state. Other Southern states quickly adopted the "Mississippi plan", and from 1890–1908, ten states adopted new constitutions with provisions to disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites. States continued to disfranchise these groups for decades, until mid-1960s federal legislation provided for oversight and enforcement of constitutional voting rights.
Blacks were most adversely affected, and in many southern states black voter turnout dropped to zero. Poor whites were also disfranchised. In Alabama, for instance, by 1941, 600,000 poor whites had been disfranchised, as well as 520,000 blacks.
It was not until the 20th century that litigation by African Americans on such provisions began to meet some success before the Supreme Court. In 1915 in Guinn v. United States, the Court declared Oklahoma's 'grandfather clause' to be unconstitutional. Although the decision affected all states that used the grandfather clause, state legislatures quickly employed new devices to continue disfranchisement. Each provision or statute had to be litigated separately. The NAACP, founded in 1909, litigated against many such provisions.
One device which the Democratic Party began to use more widely in Southern states in the early 20th century was the white primary, which served for decades to disfranchise the few blacks who managed to get past barriers of voter registration. Barring blacks from voting in the Democratic Party primaries meant they had no chance to vote in the only competitive contests, as the Republican Party was then weak in the South. White primaries were not struck down by the Supreme Court until Smith v. Allwright in 1944.