The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 372
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372 Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the black belt counties of East Texas organized clubs, unions, and as-
sociations for the expressed purpose of ousting blacks from local, county,
and state politics. These groups, formed under the banner of the Dem-
ocratic party, restricted membership to white citizens. They usually
held primary elections to select Democratic candidates who then ran
without opposition in the fall general elections. During the next quar-
ter century, through fraud, intimidation, and murder, white democrats
in counties such as Grimes, Wharton, Fort Bend, and Harrison achieved
their objective, and the political complexion of those counties where
blacks were in the numerical majority or, at least, represented sizeable
proportions of the total population changed as blacks were eliminated
from the political system. By the turn of the century, Texas was a one-
party state with the Democratic party reigning supreme. The practice
of holding primaries, begun on the local level, had become a statewide
phenomenon, and nomination in the Democratic primary was tanta-
mount to election. The general election was little more than a formal
acknowledgment of the results of the primary. Therefore, to be ex-
cluded from participation in the primaries, where the important de-
cisions were made, constituted disfranchisement.2
In an effort to make Texas politics as white as possible, a poll tax
amendment was added to the state's constitution in 1902. This measure,
however, did not completely eradicate the black vote. In 19o3, at the
urging of Travis County representative, Alexander W. Terrell, the state
legislature adopted a mandatory primary statute. Terrell argued that
the adoption of such a measure would ensure against selling of votes.
In 19go the legislature amended the statute to permit county Demo-
cratic Executive Committee chairmen to establish voting qualifications.
Although the statutes did not mention blacks specifically, it was im-
plicitly understood that blacks would be barred from voting in the
party's primaries. Because white democrats never unanimously agreed
upon the effective enforceability of this method of black disfranchise-
ment many county executive committee chairmen were opposed to the
2Alwyn Bair, Reconstruction to Refonm: Texas Polittcs, 1876-19o6 (Austin, 1971),
17, 193-196; J. Morgan Kousser, The Shaping of Southern Politzcs: Suffrage Restric-
tions and the Establishment of the One-Party South, z88o-9rzo (New Haven, 1974), 196-
2oo; Lawrence D. Rice, The Negro in Texas, 1874-90oo (Baton Rouge, 1971), 114-119; Cor-
tez Arthur Ewing, Primary Elections in the South: A Study in Uni-party Politics (Norman,
1953), 8-9; Paul Lewinson, Race, Class and Party: A History of Negro Suffrage and White
Politics in the South (New York, 1932), 112-113; Lawrence C. Goodwyn, "Populist Dreams
and Negro Rights: East Texas as a Case Study," American Historical Review, LXXVI (De-
cember, 1971), 1435-1456.
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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/m1/428/: accessed October 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.