Tributes Pour in on Social Media, Honoring the Life of Rep. John Lewis

Tributes Pour in on Social Media, Honoring the Life of Rep. John Lewis

Video Courtesy of ABC News


Civil Rights icon and ordained Baptist minister Rep. John Lewis, 80, died on Friday, July 17. A force behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the continued efforts to restore voting rights, former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), bloodied in the Selma March, and a key figure in nonviolent demonstrations, he encouraged others to get into “good trouble.” Tributes continue to pour in on social media, honoring a man many considered the “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Atlanta is the city too busy to hate. #goodtrouble

A post shared by John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) on

Tributes Pour in on Social Media, Honoring the Life of Rep. John Lewis

Tributes Pour in on Social Media, Honoring the Life of Rep. John Lewis

Video Courtesy of ABC News


Civil Rights icon and ordained Baptist minister Rep. John Lewis, 80, died on Friday, July 17. A force behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the continued efforts to restore voting rights, former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), bloodied in the Selma March, and a key figure in nonviolent demonstrations, he encouraged others to get into “good trouble.” Tributes continue to pour in on social media, honoring a man many considered the “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Atlanta is the city too busy to hate. #goodtrouble

A post shared by John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) on

How one man fought to end whites-only Dem primaries – and why that matters now

How one man fought to end whites-only Dem primaries – and why that matters now

George and Laura Elmore (left) voting after wining a landmark case ending white-only primaries in South Carolina.
University of South Carolina Civil Rights Center, CC

A rusting chain-link fence represents a “color line” for the dead in Columbia, South Carolina. In Randolph Cemetery, separated by the barrier from the well-manicured lawn of the neighboring white graveyard, lies the remains of George A. Elmore.

A black business owner and civil rights activist, Elmore is little remembered despite his achievement. But a granite monument at his grave attests to the “unmatched courage, perseverance and personal sacrifice” that saw him take on the South Carolina Democratic Party of the 1940s over its whites-only primaries – and win.

Nearly 75 years after Elmore’s battle, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates made fervent appeals to African American voters in South Carolina ahead of the primary being held on Feb. 29. For some of the all white front-runners in the race, it could be a make-or-break moment – a failure to win over sufficient black support would be a major setback, potentially campaign-ending.

George Elmore in front of his Store.
University of South Carolina Civil Rights Center, CC BY

It is a far cry from the South Carolina of August 1946, when Elmore, a fair-skinned, straight-haired manager of a neighborhood five-and-dime store, consulted with local civil rights leaders and agreed to try once again to register to vote.

It followed blatant attempts to deprive African American citizens of their constitutional rights by white Democratic Party officials who would move voter registration books from store to store and hide them the moment a black voter entered.

When a clerk mistakenly allowed Elmore to register – thinking he was white, contemporary sources suggest – NAACP activists had a plaintiff to challenge the last whites-only primary in the nation.

‘Let the chips fall’

Excluding black voters at the ballot had already been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944’s Smith v. Allwright decision. But in defiance, the South Carolina General Assembly simply redefined the state’s Democratic Party as a private club not subject to laws regulating primaries. Gov. Olin D. Johnston declared: “White supremacy will be maintained in our primaries. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Elmore’s name was promptly purged from the rolls and a cadre of prominent civil rights activists arranged for the NAACP to plead his case.

Columbia civil rights attorney Harold Boulware filed the federal lawsuit. In June 1947, Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter – like Boulware, graduates of the Howard University School of Law – argued Elmore’s case as a class lawsuit covering all African Americans in the state of voting age. The trial inspired a packed gallery of African American observers, including a young Matthew J. Perry Jr., a future federal district judge, who commented: “Marshall and Carter were hitting it where it should be hit.”

In July, an unlikely ally, Charleston blueblood Judge J. Waties Waring agreed, ruling that African Americans must be permitted to enroll. “It is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union,” he concluded. “It is time … to adopt the American way of conducting elections.”

The state Democratic Party again defied the ruling, requiring voters to sign an oath supporting segregation. Judge Waring issued a permanent injunction in 1948 to open the voting rolls: “To say that these rules conform or even pretend to conform to the law as laid down in the case of Elmore v. Rice is an absurdity.”

Voters in Columbia, August 1948.
South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, CC BY

In that year’s state primary, more than 30,000 African Americans, including George Elmore and his wife Laura, voted. Elmore remarked, “In the words of our other champion, Joe Louis, all I can say is ‘I’m glad I won.’”

His photos of the long line of voters in his community’s precinct are now in the archives of the University of South Carolina where I teach history.

In the years that followed, voter education and registration programs by civil rights organizations transformed the Democratic Party in the state, both in terms of the makeup of its membership and the policies it pursued. The move sparked the departure of many white Democrats to the Republican Party, including the segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Thurmond’s defection in 1964 legitimized the move for other white Democrats and hard-core segregationists who aligned themselves with an increasingly conservative Republican Party. Not surprisingly, some of the key architects of Richard Nixon’s invidious Southern strategy, which sought to weaken the Democratic Party in the South through the use of dog-whistle politics on racial issues, came from South Carolina.

As this year’s presidential candidates focus on South Carolina, it is clear that the racial makeup of the state’s electorate is vastly different than that in Iowa or New Hampshire, two of the states where the popularity of candidates has already been tested. But Democrats should view the South Carolina primary as more than a shift from voting in small, mostly white states. They should see the state as representative of the party’s strategic core, a strong African American constituency with diverse interests and perspectives.

African Americans in South Carolina have been fighting and winning legal and political battles for voting rights and electoral power since Reconstruction and as Democrats since the 1940s.

A personal price

After Elmore’s victory in 1947, state NAACP President James M. Hinton gave a somber, prophetic warning: “White men want office, and they want the vote of our people. We will be sought after, but we must be extremely careful who we vote for. … We must have a choice between those who have fought us and those who are our friends.”

George Elmore and his family paid a price for challenging the entrenched power of the white Democratic Party in 1946. In an interview with the University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research, which I lead, his 81-year-old son Cresswell Elmore recalled the retaliation the family experienced. Ku Klux Klan terrorists burned a cross in their yard and threatened their family. Laura Elmore suffered a nervous breakdown and went into a mental hospital. State agents raided Elmore’s liquor store, claiming the liquor he had bought from the standard wholesaler was illegal, and broke the bottles. Soda bottling companies and other vendors refused to send products on credit. Banks called in loans on their home and other property. Forced into bankruptcy, the family moved from house to house and the disruption scattered Cresswell and his siblings. When Elmore died in 1959 at the age of 53, only scant attention was paid to his passing.

The monument at his grave was unveiled in 1981, at a ceremony attended by civil rights veterans including his original attorney, Harold Boulware.

As the Democratic Party and presidential candidates appeal to African American voters, they would do well to remember the remarkable fight Elmore and others waged against the forces of bigotry and injustice. These historical struggles illuminate both the gains made over many generations and the ongoing battle against inequities and voter suppression tactics that persist to this day in South Carolina and across the nation.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor of History; Director Center for Civil Rights History and Research, University of South Carolina

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Stacey Abrams’ ‘black girl magic’ turned Georgia a bit more blue

How Stacey Abrams’ ‘black girl magic’ turned Georgia a bit more blue

File 20180523 51127 11ofj9w.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Abrams savors her victory.
AP Photo/John Bazemore

Last May, Stacey Abrams, an African-American, 44-year-old former attorney, Georgia General Assembly House minority leader and Yale Law graduate beat former attorney white Georgia state legislator Stacey Evans in the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary. While the race was hard-fought, the outcome was lopsided with Abrams winning 423,163 (76.5 percent) votes over Evans’ 130,234.

As a professor of political science and African-American studies, I was very interested in this election’s outcome. Although African-Americans and women participate frequently in the political process, few people from these groups win elections – especially at the statewide level.

Although Georgia is known for infamous, segregationist governors like Lester Maddox, this campaign which pitted a white woman against a black woman was largely absent of overt racial appeals. The campaigns of both women appealed to liberals and moderates. Evans’ campaign strategy heavily focused on building a coalition among African-Americans, Latinos, women, youth and other progressives by emphasizing issues such as educational and job opportunities, voting rights and an end to crime.

Abrams campaign platform was remarkably similar, but she also emphasized the need for LGBTQ rights, energy jobs, veterans’ rights and small business development. Abrams benefited from the “linked fate” philosophy among African-Americans that influences them to prefer black candidates because of their interests in advancing their individual and group interests. She also had more experience registering voters than Evans did, after having served as the director of the New Georgia Project that registered thousands of black, Latino and Asian-American Georgia residents who usually don’t vote.

History in the making?

This “battle of the two Staceys” was historic because two women competed as major contenders in a Georgia gubernatorial primary for the first time in its history.

Abrams becomes the first female nominee and the first black nominee of a major party for a Georgia governor’s race. If she wins in November, her victory will add to the small number of women who have served as state governors, the even smaller number of African-Americans, and she will become the first black female governor of any American state.

There have only been four black governors in American history. In 1872, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, a Republican, served as Louisiana governor for 34 days while incumbent governor, Henry Warmoth, faced impeachment.

The other African-American governors were Democrats. More than 100 years after Pinchback served, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder became the first black elected governor of a state in 1989 and served for one term. The others were Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and David Paterson of New York.

Nearly half of American states have never had a female governor. Forty-six women are running for governor this year, which is much more than the previous record of 34 female gubernatorial candidates in 1994.

Black girl magic

So, what does Abrams need to do to win?

First, she needs to shore up her support among Democrats by encouraging a high turnout. Early Democratic primary turnout results indicate that the Democratic turnout is higher in this year’s primary than the primaries of four years ago. In 2014 and 2016, Republican turnout averaged about 61 percent and Democrats about 37 percent in early and absentee votes. This year the Republican turnout rate decreased to 53 percent while Democratic turnout increased to 46 percent.

Black voters can make or break Abrams’ victory. Their numbers have grown steadily over the last few decades. For example, in 1990, 27 percent of the state’s population was African-American. That percentage grew to 32 percent in 2016.

Abrams must find a way to motivate black voters into turning out on Election Day, while also winning as many white and Hispanic votes as possible. This won’t be easy. Black turnout has steadily declined in Georgia during the post-Obama years. In 2016, black turnout declined to 59 percent from a high of 66 percent in 2012. During the 2014 midterm elections, only 41 percent of black registered voters participated in the state’s elections.

In particular, Abrams must take advantage of the power of the black female swing vote. “Black girl magic” is the term used to describe black female beauty, intellect and empowerment. African-American women have emerged as a solid bloc of reliable voters for the Democratic candidates they favor. In 2016, 94 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton, while 53 percent of white women supported Trump.

In the 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate race, the 98 percent black female vote for Doug Jones tipped the scales of the election in his favor and allowed him to defeat Roy Moore.

The key question that remains after the euphoria over the historic significance of having a serious black female contender for governor is, “What does this mean for Donald Trump?” If Georgia elects a black female governor who has the ability to mobilize black, female, progressive, young and other minority voters, will it tip Georgia’s scales from the red side to the blue side?The Conversation

Sharon Austin, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of African American Studies, University of Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

What Do Non-White Voters Want from the GOP?

What Do Non-White Voters Want from the GOP?

Opening night of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will be a multi-cultural affair. Not only is ex-Democratic Congressman and former Obama supporter Artur Davis speaking, but so are South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and first lady of Puerto Rico, Luce’ Vela Fortuno. Mike Huckabee and Ann Romney are also on the agenda and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez will offer the benediction.

If you can’t be there, don’t worry, because the Republicans have organized their grand party as a “convention without walls.” Monday night’s theme will be “We Can Do Better,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced August 20. “Americans know we can do better than joblessness, poverty and debt,” said Priebus. “This convention will present our vision for a brighter, better future and it will lay out an optimistic, achievable plan to make it happen.” Given what seems like an obvious attempt to put a multi-racial face on the mostly White party, we’re wondering what Republicans will offer voters of color on the issues that matter to them most. Here are a few possibilities:

The Economy

In the seven swing states of Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and Iowa,  “jobless rates all rose or were flat in July,” Reuters reported. “A majority of Americans view the economy as the most important issue facing the country, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.” Check out our interview with Romney’s senior communications adviser Tara Wall for what she says her boss will do to address these economic concerns.

 Healthcare Reform

With Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Ryan’s “signature legislative proposal, the Path to Prosperity, has been widely criticized for its reduction of taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans — while deeply cutting social welfare programs,” The Root reported. “The Paul Ryan budget effectively destroys Medicare by turning it into a voucher program; slashes funding to Medicaid, which serves single mothers, children and the poor; and privatizes Social Security, leaving the elderly without a safety net.” And yet, conservative columnist David Brooks says it’s better than the Democratic alternative.

Education and Voting Rights

The NAACP and the National Education Association “are teaming up to register, educate and activate hundreds of thousands of voters ahead of the 2012 elections,” the NAACP announced August 20. “In the last two years, more states have passed more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than at any time since the rise of Jim Crow,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.  “The extremists behind these laws know that the right to vote is the gateway to protecting so many of the other rights we care about, including the right to quality public schools for the next generation.” Will Republicans address these charges?

Immigration

“The Obama administration’s [brand new] Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals could expand the rights of more than 1 million young illegal immigrants by giving them work permits, though they would not obtain legal residency here or a path to citizenship,” Politico reported. “Republican critics accuse President Barack Obama of drafting the plan to boost his political standing with Latinos ahead of November’s vote and say the program favors illegal immigrants over unemployed American citizens during dismal economic times,” the article said. But do voters care?

 Abortion and Same Sex Marriage

“Relatively few black Americans and Hispanic Americans believe that cultural issues such as abortion (17% and 30%) and same-sex marriage (18% and 26%) are critical issues facing the country,” the Public Religion Research Institute reported in July. Does the media make more of culture-war issues than voters do?

Gun Control

“Black Protestants favor stricter gun control even more strongly than Catholics, according to a 2011 ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 71 percent saying they want tougher gun laws,” Religion News Service reported after recent shootings at a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh house of worship in Wisconsin. Will politicians pay attention to everyday urban violence concerns when the news media doesn’t?

What Does It Mean?

The Republicans have their work cut out for them. A Pew Research Center Poll conducted in late July found that only 4 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics would have voted for Governor Romney if the election was held on the day the poll was conducted.

What do you think?

What issues to you want to hear the Republicans talk about next week?