THIS STUDY IS CONCERNED with the use of the poll tax in the South as a suffrage prerequisite. Although emphasis is placed on present day poll tax controversies and practices, the current scene can be illuminated by an understanding of historical background. The account of the background in this chapter assumes a knowledge of the complicated problems of race relationships flowing from the presence in the South after the Civil War of a huge population of Negroes recently freed from slavery, people initially largely illiterate and unaccustomed to responsibility for themselves and to participation in democratic government. It assumes knowledge of a sensitive white population writhing from the military defeat of the Civil War, from their consequent impoverishment, and from enforcement upon them of the abandonment of slavery. White southern leaders were convinced that the survival of white civilization in the South required wresting from Negroes the political rights and authority virtually foisted upon them by northern whites during the reconstruction period. With the passage of time, these conditions and attitudes have changed in varying degrees in parts of the South, thereby complicating the later stages of the poll tax story. In its early period, that story must take into account the relation of the poll tax to other suffrage restrictions, and also its use against poorer segments of the white population. Agrarian problems and the Populist movement of the 1890's are involved, as is the threat of national supervision of national elections to protect the voting rights of Negroes.