The Origin Of Racial Tension In America (Part 3)

20th Century US

White Primaries

Thanks to my public-school education, I had never even heard of the term “white primaries.” White primary elections were held the Southern Democrat states and only white Democratic voters were permitted to participate. In other words, the White Primaries were an effective method used by Democrats to disenfranchise black and other minority voters, including non-racist Democrats (scallywags) and Republicans (Carpetbaggers).

  • The White Primaries helped Democrats to control the state voting requirements in the South. As a result, Southern Democrats passed state laws and constitutions with provisions to raise barriers (poll taxes and literacy taxes) to voter registration in all parties, completing disenfranchisement of blacks and Republicans in all states of the former Confederacy.
  • These “whites only” voting laws were in force in the South until American courts declared the Democratic White Primary elections unconstitutional in 1944. (Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 64 S. Ct. 757, 88 L. Ed. 987 (1944), struck down the white primary as a violation of the   Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition against voting discrimination based on race.)

Before World War II

1911 – New Jersey’s Governor Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) signed New Jersey’s sterilization bill into law. It was “an act to authorize and provide for the sterilization of feeble-minded, certain criminals and other defectives.”

1913 – Now Democratic President Woodrow Wilson segregated the previously-integrated federal government costing many blacks their federal jobs.

1915 – President Wilson invited the KKK recruiting film, “Birth of a Nation,” to be the first movie ever shown in the White House and praised it, “Where the white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation . . . until, at last, there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.” According to one historian, the Ku Klux Klan was a “wing of the Democrat Party” during the first third of the 20th Century. Wilson’s vocal support for “Birth of a Nation,” stirred a renewed of interest in the KKK throughout the South.

1917 – After announcing that all German-Americans were “alien-enemies,” Wilson forced 1,000’s of German-Americans into two internment camps in America.

1936 - FDR (another Democrat) honors the American Olympic team with an invitation to the Whitehouse.

  • But only the white Olympians were invited, leaving out blacks including Jesse Owens, the star of the '36 Olympics.

Roosevelt rarely challenged the powerfully entrenched Southern Democratic bloc. When the House passed a federal anti-lynching bill several times in the 1930s, Southern senators filibustered it to death. “, “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: Democratic Party.”

1937 – FDR appointed former Klansman Hugo Black to the Supreme Court

1942 – Roosevelt orders all Japanese-Americans and hundreds of Italian-Americans to be confined in “internment (concentration) camps” until the end of the war.

  • Like Wilson, FDR’s racism didn’t stop with blacks. The Japanese-Americans were interned and lost all rights and property.
  • I have a close friend whose parents were “confined” at Manzanar Internment (prison) Camp located in Death Valley and had to raise their family in military barracks and horse barns.

After World War II

1954 – The Supreme Court rules in Brown v Board of Education that the “Plessy, separate but equal” decision was not only unequal but illegal. 

1956 – The Republicans, led by President Eisenhower and Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, introduced a comprehensive civil rights bill, the first considered by Congress since 1875.
  • The 1956 bill “intended to outlaw the various measures that states had implemented in order to prevent African Americans from voting, such as poll taxes and reading tests.”
  • Republicans in the House supported the bill overwhelmingly, 168-24, and Democrats in the House supported it narrowly, 111-102. In the Senate, the legislation was blocked by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) of Texas, who, up to this point in his career, was a consistent opponent of civil rights.  The University of North Carolina, “The Long Civil Rights March,” (

1957 – When ordered to integrate their schools, the Southern Democrats, led by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus surrounded Central High School in Little Rock with National Guard troops to prevent the federal court-ordered racial integration.

  • After a tense standoff, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and also sent 1,000 U.S. Army paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to assist the National Guard in allowing nine black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock.
  • Eisenhower’s strong response may have avoided a second civil war.

Part #4 explains how and why the Southern Democrats stopped being racists and became "champions" for Civil Rights? 


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