Who Took Legal Action to End the White Primary System in Georgia

Schmidt v. Allwright did not prevent other attempts to disenfranchise African Americans. But he effectively ended the white primaries in Texas, an important step toward getting an equal vote. Outgoing Governor Ellis Arnall rejected Herman Talmadge`s claim to the office. As a racial moderate who helped end Georgia`s all-white Democratic primaries, he rejected anything related to the Talmadge political dynasty. He wanted Lieutenant-Governor-elect Thompson to take over and went looking for his own loophole. A clause in the Georgian Constitution allowed Arnall to retain his seat until a successor was legally appointed. In Primus King v. The state of Georgia declares the “white primaries” unconstitutional, removing a significant legal barrier to black voting in the state. Many white delegates from Mississippi and Alabama refused to sign an undertaking and left the convention. [18] Overall, this was an additional hurdle for white supremacist Gene Talmadge on his way back to governorship. He worked with members of the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate voters across the state.

As everywhere in the American South at the time, white supremacists terrorized black voters to suppress their votes. The 2022 Georgia primary saw the largest voter turnout gap between white and black voters in at least a decade. “Some of them were crazy like the devil and others had been drinking.” A fight breaks out between the pro and anti-Talmadge factions. Two of Arnall`s tools were “beaten by a mob” and furniture was smashed. Herman Talmadge`s rise to U.S. Senator continued the political dominance of the Talmadge faction in the 1960s – an outcome that was supported and reinforced by the results of the Tri-Governor controversy. After temporarily losing power to the biracial coalition of populists and Republicans in the 1890s, when Democrats regained control of state legislatures (often on white supremacist campaigns), they systematically adopted voting rules in new constitutions or specific laws to disenfranchise black voters by making voter registration and voting more difficult. A number of devices were used, including voting taxes, residency requirements, record requirements, and literacy tests, all of which were administered by white officials. Democrats sometimes protected illiterate or poor white voters by means such as grandfather clauses that provided exceptions for men who had ancestors who had voted or resided in certain areas at a time that excluded blacks.

The application of these measures was so discriminatory that even educated middle-class blacks failed to remain on the electoral rolls. In Texas, after the turn of the century, many local party leaders adopted rules prohibiting African Americans (and Mexican Americans from South Texas) from participating in Democratic Party primaries. But when the Texas legislature passed a law in 1923 explicitly banning African Americans from participating in Democratic Party primaries, it launched the first salvo in a two-decade legal and political battle whose outcome depended on whether a party could or should be considered a private entity with the right to set its own internal rules. In 1944, in Smith v. Allwright, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against Texas` white primary system. [7] In that case, the court ruled that the Texas State Act of 1923 was unconstitutional because it allowed the state`s Democratic Party to discriminate racially. After the fall, most Southern states ended their selectively inclusive white primaries. They retained other techniques of disenfranchisement, particularly with regard to obstacles to voter registration, such as election taxes and literacy tests. These generally survived court challenges because they applied to all potential voters, but in practice they were administered in a discriminatory manner by white officials. Although the proportion of blacks registered to vote in the South increased steadily from less than 3% in 1940 to 29% in 1960 and over 40% in 1964,[8] increases in Mississippi, Alabama, northern Louisiana, and southern Georgia were minimal. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to remedy this problem. One of the ways the Democratic Party continued to suppress black votes in Georgia was through the county unit system.

The county unit system, adopted by the Georgia State Legislature in 1914, was designed to give more weight to rural, predominantly white counties to counter more populous urban districts. But an analysis of overall voter turnout leaves something else. Historically, the gap between white and non-white voter turnout has persisted, even as overall voter turnout has increased. In fact, this gap has widened in many parts of the country in recent years. Research has shown that restrictive voting policies often hurt communities of color the most. A particularly preferred tool in Texas was the “white primary,” which was originally introduced by internal party rules and later by state laws. The basic idea was to explicitly ban non-whites (mainly African Americans, but also Mexican Americans from South Texas) from joining the Democratic Party or participating in primaries. The Texas legislature passed a law in 1923 that barred black voters from participating in a Democratic Party primary.

The Supreme Court ruled on three Texas cases related to white primaries in 1927, 1932 and 1935. In the 1927 and 1932 cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, asserting that state laws instituting a white primary violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Later in 1927, Texas amended its law in response,[6] delegating authority to political parties to set their own rules for primaries. In Grovey v. Townsend (1935), the Supreme Court ruled that this practice was constitutional because it was administered by the Democratic Party, which was a private institution, not a state. African Americans continued to work to uphold their constitutional rights as citizens. During the civil rights era of the 1960s, voter registration drives were conducted in Southern states to operate within the system. In some cases, activists have been attacked or murdered, and African Americans have made little progress against whites` determination to exclude most blacks from voting.

His opponent, James Carmichael, was considered a racial progressive – someone who advocated better race relations. He was a savvy Atlanta Metro businessman who called for improvements to public schools, statewide infrastructure upgrades, and everything else to attract industry to the state of Georgia. Carmichael was a gifted orator who, unlike Talmadge, had his eyes fixed on a modern South. Although he did not support desegregation, he acknowledged the harm of dwelling on a “lost cause” narrative. In 1950, during his keynote address at Emory University, Carmichael said, “I`m tired of those people who always wave the Confederate flag and tell us how glorious the South has.

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