The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 371
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The Elusive Ballot: The Black Struggle Against
the Texas Democratic White Primary, 1932-1945
DARLENE CLARK HINE*
W HILE THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SOUGHT RELIEF FROM THE
miseries of the Great Depression and riveted their hopes for a
better future on President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal,
black Texans viewed with increasing dismay the seemingly endless rep-
ertoire of disfranchisement schemes white Texas democrats devised to
render them politically impotent. The Democratic white primary as
used in Texas was one of the most blatantly discriminatory and, perhaps,
most effective techniques employed to keep blacks from voting. In re-
sponse to and in spite of a black (rontal assault on the political system,
the Texas white primary received the sanction of the United States Su-
preme Court, the United States Department of Justice, and the Di-
vision of Investigation (later known as the Federal Bureau of Investiga-
tion). On the state level, the attorney general of Texas defended and
the Texas Supreme Court upheld the white primary against the fre-
quent attacks of black lawyers, citizens, and the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). By employing a
variety of techniques Texas white politicians on the state and county
levels were able to nullify the Supreme Court decisions of 1927 and
1932 which had seemed to benefit the cause of the black voters.
For black Texans the thirties represented no political New Deal. Ef-
forts to gain access to the political system met with frustration and re-
peated failure. The political ostracism of blacks in Texas was, in a
larger view, but one example of the general legal and social plight of
After the Civil War and the adoption of the Fourteenth and Fif-
teenth Amendments, blacks armed with the ballot gained access to
political positions and became actively involved in political affairs in
Texas. In the 187os and 188os, as Reconstruction concluded, whites in
*Darlene Clark Hine is assistant professor of history at Purdue University. Research for
this article was facilitated by a grant from Africana Studies and Research Center at Purdue.
1Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536-541 (1927); Nixon v. Condon, 286 U.S. 73-106 (1932).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/427/?rotate=180: accessed July 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.