W.E.B. Du Bois


May 1, 1926

Every once in a while the Bourbon South, forgetting that the world has moved, tries its old game of winning by lying. Recently Southern governors have united in protesting that the Negroes of their states are not disfranchised. They can vote, says McRae of Arkansas, “but not many of them do it.” “They disfranchise themselves,” says Parker of Louisiana. “They do not comply” with the election laws’ of the state, says Whitfield of Mississippi. They vote “as often as the whites,” says Peay of Tennessee. Their disfranchisement is “self-imposed,” says Fields of Kentucky. And so the governors of Georgia, Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas and Texas declare that honest to God they have not nullified the 14th and 15th amendments.

All this, of course, is silly subterfuge as the following facts will show: Only 12.8 per cent of the voters of Mississippi go to the polls; 19.7 per cent of the voters of Florida; 13.8 per cent in Alabama; 15.5 per cent in Arkansas; 13.2 per cent in Louisiana; and less than 7 per cent in that realm of crime and darkness that belongs to Cole Blease. Moreover, in 11 Southern. states the proportion of voters voting decreased between 1920 and 1924 from 6 per cent in Louisiana to nearly 36 per cent in Florida.

What effect does this disfranchisement have upon the country?

  1. It disfranchises Southern whites in almost as large proportion as Southern Negroes.
  2. It throws the political power into the hands of cheap politicians and scoundrels. Men like Perry Howard are forced on the colored race. Not only are Howard’s actions denounced in Congress as “a disgrace to a decent government,” but he is accused by the papers of his own state of open collusion with white democrats; and he has supported for United States Marshal in the Northern district of Mississippi a politician concerning whom it has been charged in sworn affidavits that this man has helped to burn one Negro and lynch another.
  3. There has been no re-districting of the basis of representation in the national House of Representatives for twenty-five years because the Rotten Boroughs of the South fear the necessary investigation.
  4. It makes the national “Get-out-the-vote” campaign silly and meaningless.
  5. It makes a third party movement impossible of success as long as the Southern white voter has seven times the political power of the Northern voter.
  6. It encourages chicanery and mob law. Elizabeth Little, a colored woman, was put in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, last January for trying to register. The voters of the Negro town of Boley, Oklahoma, are fighting in the courts to compel the registrars to admit their names to the lists.
  7. It stifles freedom of body and spirit in the South for, as Bertrand Russell says in Harper’s, “There cannot … be any freedom in parts of the world where white men govern colored populations.”


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1926. “Disenfranchisement.” The Crisis 32 (1): 8–9. https://www.dareyoufight.org/Volumes/32/01/disenfranchisement.html.