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Cayton's monthly. (Seattle, Wash.) 1921-1921, February 01, 1921, Image 14

Image and text provided by Washington State Library; Olympia, WA

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093354/1921-02-01/ed-1/seq-14/

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Election By Terror In Florida
From The New Republic
"I want to register."
"All right, Jim, you can, but I want to tell you some
thing. Some God damn black...is going to get killed
yet about this voting business."
The questioner is a colored man in Orange county,
Florida. The answer is from a registrar, white, of
course. Tin Negro, cognizant of the sinister truthful
ness of the reply he had received, would probably decide
(hat it was not particularly healthy for him to press
his request. Thus, and in many other ways equally as
flagrant, did tho election of 1920 proceed in Florida
and other southern states.
The Ku Klux Klan, of infamous post-Civil War
memory, has been actively revived in the South. Its
avowed purpose is to "keep the nigger in his place,"
and to mantain, at all costs, "white supremacy." In
spite of vigorous denials on the part of its leaders, the
branches of this organization have entored upon a
campaign of terror that can mean nothing but serious
clashes involving the loss of many lives and the de
struction of much property. The recent elections
brought into full r,lay all of the fear that "white
supremacy" would crumble if the Negro os were allowed
to vote, augmented by the belief that the recent war
experiences of Ihe Negro soldier had made him less
tractable than before. In many southern cities and
towns, parades of tin Klans were extensively adver
tised in advance and held on the night of October 30th,
the Saturday before election. The effect of thes3 out
turnings of robed figures, clad in the white hoods and
gowns adorned with flaming red crossos, was probably
astounding to those who believed in the efficacy of
such methods. The principle danger to America of
anarchistic organizations like the Klan lios in their
distorted perspective of conditions. The Negro emerged
from slavery ignorant, uneducated, superstitious. It
was a simplo task to terrify him by the sight of a band
of men, clothed in white coming down the road on a
moonlight night. Today, the Negro is neither so poor
nor so ignorant nor so easily terrified, a fact known
apparently to everybody but the revivers of the Klu
Klux Klan. Instead of running to cover, frightened,
his mood now is to protect himself and his family by
fighting to the doath. It is as though one attempted
to frighten a man of forty by threatening him with
some of the tales used to quiet him when he was an
infant. The method just dosen't work.
This can best be shown by the attitude of the
Negroes of Jacksonville. An old colored woman,
standing on Bay Street as she watched the parade of
the K.lansmen on the Saturday night before election,
called out derisively to the marchers:
"Buckra (Poor white people), you ain't done nothing.
Those German guns diden't scare us and we know
white robes won't do it now."
Among the educated Negroes there is a seriousness
and a determination not to start trouble, but equally
are they resolved not to run from trouble if it comes.
But, whatever were the intentions of the sponsors of
the parade, it acted as an incentive to bring to the polls
on Election Day many colored men and women votors
who had been indifferent.
The population of Jacksonville at the present is
estimated at 90,000 —Negroes numbering between 45,000
and 50,000. The enfranchisement of women caused this
majority held by Negro voters to be of grave significance
to the Democratic party of Florida. Coupled with this
was the fear which is g?neral throughout the South
that the colored woman voter is more difficult "to
handle" than colored men have been. The Jacksonvilla
Metropolis of September 16th carried a scare hoad,
and the article beneath it carried an appeal to race
prejudice based upon the fact that more Negro women
than white had shown enough interest in politics to reg
ister. The first line, which reads: "Are the white men
and white women of Duval County going to permit
'negro washer women and cooks' to wield he balance
of political power?" is indicative of the nature of the
appeal thus made by John E. Mathews, Secretary of
(he Citizens Registration Committee. Mayor John W.
Martin and Frank M. Ironmonger, Supervisor of Reg
istration. Similar appeals were made throughout the
preelection period. A few days before election, the
local press told of the issuing 4,000 blank warrants
"for the arrest of Negro men and women who had im
properly registered, when they presented themselves
for voting." Yet, all of this failed to stop the colored
people who went quietly and intelligently about their
task of registering.
On Election Day each polling booth was provided
by the election officials wi;h four entrances one each
for white women, white men, colored women and
colored men. Two each wera to be taken simultaneously
from the head of each line, according to the published
instructions. This was not done. No white voter was
delayed or hindered in voting while every possible
handicap was put in the way of colored voters. More
than 4,000 colored men and wom;>n stood in line from
8:00 A. M. to 5:40 P. M., the closing hour, determined
to vote if possible. Colored women served sandwiches
and coffee to the lines at all of the booths. Later the
names, addresses ar-d registration ceritficate numbers
were taken of the mora than 4,000 refused voters.
Affidavits were being secured from each of these at
the time of my visit to Florida during election week.
Tho bulk of the colored population in Jacksonville
lives in the second, sixth, seventh and eighth wards. An
idea of how they were prevented from voting may be
gained from a comparison of the number of registered
colored and white women and the tota,l number voting
in each ward. It will be remembered that the table
below doos not give the number of males, white and
colored, who registered in the spring of 1920.
Negro Women White Women White and Colored
Ward Registered Registered Male and Fhmale
2 1742 1017 1438
6 1569 1270 2633
7 1430 359 1290
8 1288 355 1262
In the above four wards more than 4,000 men and
Total Votes Cast

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