Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



For nine decades voters in the South have cast their ballots
 in a spirit of defiance to the union. Since 1876, the eleven Confederate States have segregated themselves from the rest of the nation by their extreme faithfulness to the Democratic Party. After reconstruction, the Party became the only effective voice of the section in national affairs, and more important, the primary means of limiting the political strength of their newly acquired colored citizens. Thus two recent studies of the political South, Southern Politics in State and Nation by V. O. Key, Jr., and A Two-Party South? by Alexander Heard, have been founded on the assumption that the "politics of the South revolves around the position 
of the Negro.” If this is true, and my observations certainly agree with their findings, then it seems crucial that we “identify [and examine] the points of low resistance to Negro participation in politics: they may indicate future trends.”

It is the purpose of this essay to examine one of these “points of low resistance to Negro participation in politics" in the hope that it will shed some light on the future political status of the Negro in the South. Since Negro voting has traditionally occurred most frequently in the large metropolitan areas, it seemed appropriate that this essay be an analysis of Negro voting behavior on the municipal level. Memphis, Tennessee, was chosen for this project, not only because it is a truly Southern city, being located in the heart of the Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee delta, and having one of the largest Negro populations of any city in the nation, but also because it is the only city in the South in which Negroes have voted continuously since the turn of the century. Of further importance in the selection of Memphis as a topic of study was my summer’s employment with the city’s largest newspaper, which gave me the opportunity to view firsthand the Negro participation in the city’s municipal election of August, 1959.

Level of Honors

cum laude




Minoo Adenwalla, Mojmir Povolny, and William H. Riker