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Reforming Jim CrowSouthern Politics and State in the Age Before Brown$
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Kimberley Johnson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195387421

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387421.001.0001

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Democratization for the White South

Democratization for the White South

(p.91) Chapter 4 Democratization for the White South
Reforming Jim Crow

Kimberley Johnson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how the struggle to reshape the southern state would lead to a new struggle for political citizenship for whites. Guided by their belief that the root of the South's problems was economic inequality, southern New Dealers began a drive to re-enfranchise the South's whites through an attack on the poll tax. Though not the most fundamental problem of the South's variety of discriminatory voting practices, the poll tax was the one that was most widespread, and strategically it was the one that seemed to harm whites the most. Some reformers embraced poll tax reform as a reflection of white privilege that was wrongfully withheld; others saw it as the means to other ends. For many New Deal southern liberals the goal of poll tax reform was the enfranchisement of a huge pool of have-not whites, who in turn would “naturally” support New Deal-friendly politicians in their struggle against the South's conservative elites.

Keywords:   Jim Crow reform, political citizenship, southern reform, poll tax, New Deal

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