|Segregation and Disfranchisement
|Digital History ID 3182|
In Alabama, hospitals were segregated, as were homes for the mentally handicapped, the elderly, the blind and the deaf. In Florida, a law ordered that textbooks used for black and white children be kept separate, even when they were in storage. In Louisiana, a law regulating circuses and sideshows required separate entrances, exits, and ticket windows, and required that they be at least 25 feet apart.
In South Carolina, a code required that black and white workers in textile factories labor in different rooms, using different water fountains and toilets as well as different stairways and pay windows.
In Atlanta, an ordinance banned amateur baseball games within two blocks of each other if the players were of different races. In New Orleans, ferries, public libraries, and even brothels were segregated. For a time, public education for African American children was eliminated past the fifth grade. On streetcars, there was a movable screen that black riders had to sit behind.
Woodrow Wilson became the first Southern president since before the Civil War. He brought segregation to the federal bureaucracy, setting up all-black divisions within agencies.
Within five years of the Plessy decision, most Southern states had circumvented the 15th Amendment and deprived African Americans of the vote by using such devices as literacy tests, property requirements, poll taxes, and white-only primaries. In 1896, in Louisiana there were 130,334 black registered voters; in 1904, there were only 1,342. Proponents of disfranchisement justified it as a way to end electoral fraud and violence and to ensure that only an educated citizenry would take part in elections.
The poll tax was typically a one or two-dollar tax, which was the equivalent of several days' pay. By 1910, all of the Southern states had adopted a poll tax. Turnout dropped dramatically, and in most areas, all-white primaries determined the election of government officials. As late as 1935, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas Democratic Party to exclude black voters from the Democratic primary, even though a primary victory was tantamount to election.
It should be noted that after 1900, Northern states also imposed literacy tests and registration requirements to "purify" their own electorate and to reduce the influence of "ignorant" or boss-controlled votes in urban centers.
Copyright 2021 Digital History