The Poll Tax in the South

By Frederic D. Ogden | Go to book overview

9. REPEAL BY NATION

SINCE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS involving the poll tax have largely resulted from agitation of the poll tax issue before Congress, the effort to abolish the tax by action of the national government cannot be ignored. The methods proposed, the initiators of these methods, the major groups supporting and opposing repeal by national action, the major arguments for and against such action, and the possibility for achieving repeal via this route, are important parts of the total poll tax picture.

The focusing of national attention upon the poll tax, beginning in 1939, is one phase of the trend in the United States to turn to Washington for leadership. Just as United States citizens are looking to the central government more and more for direction in such fields as agriculture, social security, labor relations, and conservation of natural resources, they are also asking the national government to safeguard their civil rights. They are no longer content that these rights be guaranteed solely by establishing constitutional limits upon governmental action. They are demanding that the government act positively to protect them. This new approach to civil rights is summed up in the report of President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights which emphasized that "the National Government of the United States must take the lead in safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans."1 As a result of the recommendations of this committee, the Truman Civil Rights Program was placed before the American people. The most controversial and well-known parts of this program were the proposals to establish a Fair Employment Practices Commission, to outlaw

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1
Report of the President's Committee, p. 99.

-241-

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