The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978

Book Reviews

a future study will tackle the more general topic of black cowboys and
place them in the proper milieu.
University of Nebraska at Omaha MICHAEL L. TATE
Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969. By Steven F.
Lawson. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976. Pp. viii+
473. Preface, bibliography, index. $2o.)
Black Ballots is another impressive addition to the Contemporary
American History Series beitg published by the Columbia University
Press. Steven F. Lawson has combined solid research with clear writing
to produce a comprehensive examination of the struggle over black
enfranchisement in the South during the 1944-1969 period.
Lawson traces the upsurge in black voter participation that followed
the Supreme Court's Smith v. Allwright decision, which abolished the
white primary in 1944, and the organizational work of black World
War II veterans in the early postwar years. The pace of black registra-
tion slowed during the 195os. The white southern massive resistance to
social change created impediments that the "sluggish" Eisenhower ad-
ministration, despite its sponsorship of two civil rights laws, largely
failed to surmount. The big breakthrough in enrollment occurred, of
course, during the 196os. The activities of the Kennedy administration,
the work of the Voter Education Project, and ultimately the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 cleared away the institutional barriers to black en-
franchisement. By 1968 almost 6o percent of voting age blacks were
registered to vote in the South.
Washington, D.C., is the focus of Lawson's study. He examines the
activities of the presidential administrations from Harry S. Truman to
Lyndon B. Johnson and the controversies that divided Congress.
Throughout, he stresses the continuity of postwar national politics.
"Successive Presidents and their attorney generals intended to keep
community control over law enforcement intact, preferred to work
through the courts, and counted on rational appeals and good will to
get local officials to obey the law" (p. 343). Voting rights enforcement
was particularly attractive to northern liberals, "who preferred to see
the efforts of the civil-rights troops channeled into 'quiet' registration
drives rather than into the more provocative freedom rides and mass
marches" (p. 345). Policy makers generally responded to a politics of
expediency more readily than to high principle or moral imperative.
The strength of this book does not lie in its interpretation, little of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/. Accessed July 11, 2014.