Young Voters (1932)

Young Voters (1932)

The Editor of the Louisiana Weekly writes:

I shall appreciate very much a letter from you encouraging the young colored men of our city to increase their interest in politics. The older men have discouraged them and refused to act with them because of envy. A letter from you to the young men, urging them to carry on in spite of this selfish handicap, would go a long way toward kindling hope anew.

The situation of an intelligent, young colored man who wants to use his right to vote effectively in the South is exceedingly difficult. He is not admitted to the Democratic Party, and can not easily take part in their white primary. This is still true despite the continued efforts of the N.A.A.C.P. to stop it, and thus to break up one party government in the South.

On the other hand, the Republican Party in the South is not a party; it is mainly a group of selfish men, white and black, who are using the party organization for personal gain. Sometimes, under strong and honest leaders, like Cuney of Texas or Cohen of Louisiana, this group may be strengthened and organized so as to exercise some real political power. But when this group falls into the hands of mediocre self-seekers, or into the hands of local white politicians who use it simply for personal aggrandisement or who are in secret alliance with the Democratic Party, then the situation of the young and honest Negro voter is indeed difficult.

Nevertheless, there are certain clear lines of effort. First of all, the Negro must register and fight continually for the right of registration. The situation in Louisiana in this respect is disgraceful and the Negroes of Louisiana ought literally to pound the courts with cases until they get the right to register. One or two thoroughly arranged cases before the Supreme Court of the United States would show that of 415,000 Negroes in Louisiana in 1930, 21 years of age and over, less than 3,000 are registered, and this in spite of the fact that nearly 300,000 can read and write.

All Negroes who register should vote. First, they should seek to vote in the Democratic primary as this is the only voting that really counts. If they are denied this right, they should be especially careful to vote in those elections where the primary cannot function, as, for instance, in bond elections, and various referenda. In all bond issues, they should vote “no,” unless they are able to get a categorical promise concerning the use of the money to be raised. They should especially vote for local officials and on local issues whenever and wherever they get a chance, and they should form political organizations with the specific object of equalizing taxation, stopping discrimination in civil life and stopping discrimination in appropriations for streets, schools and parks; increasing efforts in sanitation, and getting rid of venal and prejudiced public officials.

They should write strong letters of protest, regularly and often to the papers, to the Congressmen, and to the President of the United States. They should thus build up an active and interested political life and back it by just as many votes as they are able to cast.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1932. “Young Voters.” The Crisis. 39(9):298.