Women’s Suffrage, the Press, and the Enduring Problem of White Supremacy
Racial divisions shaped the women’s suffrage movement and inflected much of the journalism that helped suffragists collectively imagine women as political beings, persuade others that women should be directly involved in electoral politics, and secure the vote through ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. These racial divisions proved tragic. If the Nineteenth Amendment ever promised a new era of racial democracy in America, that promise was lost when white suffragists abandoned the citizenship aspirations of black women (and men) in the South to the forces of white supremacy. Henry Grady’s New South ideology veiled coordinated efforts across the Southern states to thwart black political power and institute the “solid South” of white supremacy. In 1920, Mary McLeod Bethune helped lead black Floridians in a voter registration drive—a bold effort to claim black civil rights promised in both the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. The result was violent voter intimidation across the state and a massacre of black citizens in Ocoee.
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