From the editorial page of The Future Outlook newspaper from Greensboro, N.C., J.F. Johnson Editor and publisher, May 16, 1942
The Paradox of Politics
“That which is hardest to get is usually appreciated the most.” This proverb is true in thousands of ordinary everyday happenings. For instance, remember how you prized that bicycle you earned by selling newspapers? Remember how sweet that peppermint stick tasted after that dose of castor oil? Yes, that which is hardest to get is usually appreciated the most. Usually, but not so in politics. For an example, just look how hard it was to obtain the vote for the Negro in the United States. Look how difficult it is even now for the Negro to exercise his constitutional right of suffrage in other Southern localities. North Carolina has attained a fair, equal basis for Negro and white votes after many years of contention. Does the Negro voter respond? Very slightly. The Negro voter must be the exception that proves the validity of the previously mentioned proverb.
It has been hard to get the Negro into the field of politics. When the Constitution was framed there was controversy as to how the Negro should be counted to give him representation in the Lower House on the basis of number. The North fearing that the South would be too powerful if all her slaves were counted, wished to base the number of representatives from each state on the number in the white population. The South wishing to have as many representatives in the House as possible, wished to count all of her population—white and colored. A compromise was the only way out. Accordingly, both North and South agreed that it would be fair if each slave was counted as 3/5ths of a man—or that every 100 slaves would be equal (as far as political representation was concerned) to 300 whites. So the slave was represented in the House of Representatives. But the Negro could not vote, and those men who were placed in the House on the basis of the Negro population did not look out for the slaves but for the interests of the plantation owners.
After the Civil War, the slave was free—he was a citizen of the United States and the state wherein he resided—by way of amendment to the Constitution. Yet he could not vote. Not until the 15th amendment was put through did the Negro have the right to vote.
Many whites did not want the Negro to vote. They adopted many plans to keep the Negro from the polls, especially in the South. The Ku Klux Klan rode afield brandishing its fiery cross promising death to the brave Negroes who approached the polls. A little plan known as “Constitutional interpretation” was being heinously practiced. The Negro applicant for the vote was made to interpret a given passage from the constitution. Sounds like a fair basis of application, doesn’t it? Yet the person who judge the Negro’s interpretation was white—he didn’t want the Negro to vote—no matter what the Negro said the Judge ruled it as “insensible interpretation.” And what chance was there to fight back? The ‘grandfather clause’ was another method of elimination of the Negro voter. The registrar at the polls would ask “Did your father or grandfather vote in 1867?” If the answer was “yes” then it was all right for the applicant to vote. If the answer was “no” the applicant was denied the vote also. The catch? How many Negroes voted in 1867? That was before the 15th amendment which said the vote should be extended to all citizens of the United States regardless of race, creed, or color. In some communities a high poll tax was required of Negro voters thus cutting out the element that really needed to exercise the vote—those underprivileged, down-trodden, economic problem children of the Southern states. Today many of these methods have been deemed unconstitutional. Does the Negro vote? NO!
But let it not be said that even today it is a simple matter for the Negro to vote everywhere in the United States. In Florida a few years ago machine guns were set up about the polls as “cordial invitations” for the Negroes to stay away were extended! Black faced dummies were hung from trees showing what would be done to the Negro that dared to vote. Pleasant situation, isn’t it?
That the white people in such communities should be so eager to curtail the Negro vote means definitely that the Negro vote can be powerful. Why not vote then? Why not make use of the right granted you by amendment to the constitution? Why grumble about misgovernment? Make the government one of your own choosing. Register and vote in the coming election. Don’t be a pawn in the game of politics—be a potent factor. . .you’ll come out on top every time!
That is the hardest to get is appreciated the most—PROVE IT!