Race Prejudice and Discrimination: Readings in Intergroup Relations in the United States

By Arnold M. Rose | Go to book overview

22. The Rise of Negro Voting in Texas 1*

Donald S. Strong

[ As the pseudo-legal barriers to Negro voting were removed by court decision, Negroes throughout the South made efforts to inform themselves about political issues and to vote. The most successful development was in Texas, where the Texas Council of Negro Organizations stimulated a high degree of political literacy and political participation among the million Negroes of that state. Professor Donald S. Strong, an able political scientist of the South, describes this astounding change in the direction of political democracy.]

Since Negro voting, or the fear of it, is the central issue around which so many other aspects of Southern politics are oriented, it is highly relevant to examine the emergence of Negro voting wherever it occurs in a Southern state. In Texas, the federal Supreme Court's "white primary" decision of April, 1944 ( Smith v. Allwright), removed the most formidable barrier to Negro participation in politics and resulted in the entry of a significant number of Negroes into the electorate in 1946. Although Texas, with its relatively small Negro population (14 percent) may not be an exact barometer to guide us in foreseeing the emergence of Negro voting elsewhere in the South, no one interested in predicting the future of this ticklish question can afford to ignore the Texas experience.

The exclusion of the Negro from Texas political life has never been complete. Texas has made use of neither the literacy or "understanding" test nor the involved registration procedures so effectively employed to limit Negro participation elsewhere in the South. In Texas, the white primary, the poll tax, and such extralegal factors as an environment hostile to Negro assertiveness have been the only means used. The Negro has been categorically excluded only from the Democratic primary, the election that really counts. Thus, poll-tax paying Negroes have been legally eligible to vote in general elections, municipal elections, school board elec-

____________________
*
From the American Political Science Review, 42 ( June, 1948), 510-22. Copyright 1948 by the American Political Science Review. Reprinted by permission of the American Political Science Review and the author.
1
Material not otherwise footnoted was gathered from personal interviews with white and Negro politicians in Texas in the summer of 1947. All data constitute a small part of a comprehensive, two-year study of the electoral process in the South undertaken by the Bureau of Public Administration at the University of Alabama.

-235-

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