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The National Woman's Party and Suffrage for African-American Women

Document 6

The White Woman's Burden

       In The Nation of October 6, William Pickens describes the unconstitutional and illegal devices by which the American woman citizen of Africa, or of mixed European and African descent, is robbed of her vote. This article was sent to each one of the 160 members of the National Woman's Party. With it went four questions: 

1. Do you approve of the attempt to nullify the Nineteenth Amendment in regard to colored women?
2. What steps, if any, do you purpose to take to help remedy this situation?
3. Do you consider this a matter for official action and effort by the National Woman's Party?
4. What suggestions have you for a course of procedure?

       About one-third of those written to replied. The tenor of these responses was most gratifying. The majority declared themselves outraged at the disfranchisement of American colored women and resolved to fight it through. A few were evasive and noncommittal, one or two opposed. Yet, if any considerable part of the hundred or more who did not reply is even indifferent, the outlook is none too encouraging. 

       Among those replies which appeared to be unfavorable was . . . . the following from Charleston, S.C: 

       I have yours of 24th inst. asking if I approve the disenfranchising of the newly enfranchised Negro women. I say emphatically no. At the same time, I say most emphatically, let the South handle its own problems, just as I say let the Californians solve their own problems; one in the North or West, where the proportion of Negro population is about one to every one thousand white, cannot possibly undertake to give advice or to lecture us in the South, where we have communities where the Negro either predominates numerically, or is at rate of half and half.  If you were living in a community, like this city, where we have half and half, or in Beaufort, S.C., where the Negroes outnumber the whites and where they are constantly laced by the white race coming from a distance to meddle into affairs of which they know nothing because they have no experience, you would then perhaps get something of the point of view of the South . . .  Susan P. Frost.

       Of the stirring letters, those which breathe the true spirit of militant American democracy, the following are but a few specimens: 

       1. I disapprove wholly of every attempt to nullify the Nineteenth Amendment, or to infringe in any way upon the right to vote of any colored women or colored men, or any other citizens of the United States who are not actively insane or undergoing punishment for nonpolitical crimes. 

       2. I propose to work with other voters for the passage of the anti-lynching law, and for reduction in the representation of any State which may not obey the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments and uphold, in letter and in spirit, the Nineteenth Amendment. 

       3. It is my intention to bring up this subject at the meeting of the National Woman's Party, hoping for official action at that meeting, followed by effective insistence upon equality before the law for all women. Florence Kelley

-- Excerpts from "The White Woman's Burden," The Nation, 16 February 1921

8. What did the writer from South Carolina say about African-American voting rights in the South?

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9. Describe Florence Kelley's proposals.

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