White primary

White primaries

White primaries were primary elections in the Southern States of the United States of America in which any non-White voter was prohibited from participating. White primaries were found in many Southern States after about 1890 and through the mid-1960s.

Establishment and significance of white primaries

The use of white primaries were first used by Southern Democratic Parties in the late 19th century. Since the South was virtually a one-party system with Democrats being the dominant party, exclusion from the primaries was a de facto exclusion from the decision-making process. The white primaries were made law in many states in a "selectively inclusive" system that stated that only whites may vote in the primaries.

Legal challenges

The American Civil Liberties Union had begun to challenge white primaries in the 1920s, but didn't get much traction until a 1923 Texas law was passed. The Texas law did explicitly ban African-Americans from participating in Democratic Party primaries. This was the specific constitutional violation that the ACLU chose to base its main case upon.

The ACLU challenge to the Texas law was eventually heard before the Supreme Court under the title Smith v. Allwright. The Supreme Court decided in 1944 that white primaries were unconstitutional.

After Smith v. Allwright

The ACLU success in Smith v. Allwright only specifically applied to the Texas law. However, most states ended their selectively inclusive white primaries. Tens of thousands of African-Americans registered to vote with the end of white primaries. However, many states still used many discriminatory practices including grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and literacy tests to keep African-Americans from voting.

See also


References and further reading

  • Alilunas, Leo. "Legal Restrictions on the Negro in Politics: A Review of Negro Suffrage Policies Prior to 1915" The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr., 1940), pp. 153-160
  • Anders, Evan. "Boss Rule and Constituent Interests: South Texas Politics during the Progressive Era" Southwestern Historical Quarterly 84 (January 1981).
  • Barr, Alwyn. Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876-1906 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971).
  • Beth, L.P. "The White Primary and the Judicial Function in the United States. The Political Quarterly Vol. 29 No. 4 (October 1958), pp. 366–377.
  • Greenberg, Sanford N. White Primary Handbook of Texas Online Texas State Historical Association.
  • Gritter, Elizabeth. The Urban Dynamic of Black Electoral Activity in the Jim Crow South, from Disenfranchisement to Smith v. Allwright (Conference paper for New Perspectives on the Black South Symposium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Feb. 23-24, 2007)
  • Hine, Darlene Clark. Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1979).
  • David Montejano. Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987).
  • Marshall, Thurgood. "The Rise and Collapse of the 'White Democratic Primary" The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 26, No. 3; ''The Negro Voter in the South" (Summer, 1957), pp. 249-254.
  • Overacker, Louise. "The Negro's Struggle for Participation in Primary Elections" The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1945), pp. 54-61.
  • Parker, Albert. "Dictatorship in the South." Fourth International, Vol.2 No.4, May 1941, pp.115-118.(May 1941)
  • Kennedy , Stetson. Jim Crow Guide Florida Atlantic University,(Boca Raton). (March 1990) ISBN-13: 978-0813009872

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