Sign in or register
for additional privileges

The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Political Action and Voting Rights in the 1920's

Since its inception the NAACP had realized the importance of securing voting rights particularly for disenfranchised African Americans in the South. The NAACP investigated many instances of African Americans being barred from voting in the 1920 presidential election. The Association secured a hearing before the House Census Committee to investigate black disenfranchisement and to challenge it under the fourteenth and fifteen amendments. James Weldon Johnson, Walter White and William Pickens of the national office and James Cobb of the Washington branch testified before the Congressional Committee.  White spoke of the various incidents of lawlessness perpetrated against African Americans to prevent them from voting while Pickens showed how the exclusion of Negroes gave southern white voters four to ten times the voting power of their white northern counterparts. The four men were harassed by the southern members of the committee but the attempt was front page news in the south.  The attempt to get federal enforcement to break down barriers to African American voting gained little support in the Congress, but did bring the issues of many southern branches to the halls of Congress. [Source note]

In 1923 William Pickens, the field secretary of the NAACP, responded to a question from a Texas branch as to how to challenge a Texas law barring African voting in Democratic Party primaries.  Pickens suggest hat they find a test case of an upstanding person who was denied the right to vote in the primary.  The branch did and the case of Dr. Lawrence Nixon vs Herndon made its way into the court system.  The national office shared some of the legal costs as the case moved through the court system all the way to the Supreme Court.  In 1927 the Supreme Court struck down the law as being unconstitutional and a clear violation of the fourteenth amendment.  Although the Texas Democratic Party would spend the better part of two decades finding new ways to prevent African American voting, the brief victory was an encouraging sign that the legal campaign was on the right track. [Source Note]

In 1928 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote:

I do not for a moment argue that political power will immediately abolish color caste, make ignorant men intelligent or bad men good...[but] no permanent improvement in the economic and social condition of Negroes is going to be made, so long as they are deprived of political power to support and defend it. [Source Note]

Meanwhile Walter White was trying to persuade Negroes who had the vote in the North to use it and politicians that the African American vote could swing close elections if they had helped with civil rights issues.  These pleas fell mostly on deaf ears at the time.
Comment on this page

Discussion of "Political Action and Voting Rights in the 1920's"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path The NAACP in the 1920's, page 6 of 7 Next page on path