The African-American Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas

Subject: History
Pages: 4
Words: 1090
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Master


With so many changes taking place over a few decades, both people and the government of Texas were no longer capable of resisting such major societal transformations as urbanization and industrialization. Thus, with the rapid development of urban centers, local activists began advocacy for quality education, temperance, corporate regulation, and women’s suffrage. The issue has become even more evident during the post-WWII era, as US leaders and residents pooled their efforts to secure a leading position in the global socio-political arena. Moreover, the aftermath of the Progressive era taking place in the early 20th century contributed significantly to the emergence of state-wide social movements aimed at addressing equality and citizens’ prosperity in a capitalism-driven environment. The notion of African American rights became one of the most concerning social aspects of the mid-20th century, as the growing number of African-American communities could no longer live in the society overwhelmed with stigmatization, racial bias, and segregation.

The White Primary and Voting

It may be traced over the course of history that the right to vote has always been one of the major intentions of minority groups in terms of their social recognition. Indeed, when able to vote, people have the chance to exercise their power to choose the future of their state, making their concerns noticed. Thus, in the context of African American history, one of the crucial achievements was the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1870, which declared one’s right to vote regardless of race. However, while seemingly providing African Americans with legitimate rights, the social implications of the Amendment were replete with means of limiting their right to vote and participate in elections.

According to the information provided in the article presented by Pitre and Wintz, one of such ways was demonstrated in the state of Texas in 1923 when the Democratic party formulated the demand for only white men being eligible to vote in a Democratic party (Haynes and Wintz 433). Because the Democrats at the time constituted the vast majority of political force, it meant that African Americans had practically no ability to access the local politics. As a result, the state political landscape was involved in the promotion of the so-called “white primary,” standing for the process of primary elections in Southern American states that accounted only for white voters.

The situation changed in 1944 during the ruling of the Smith v. Allwright case, as this prosecution resulted in nullifying the white primary across the state, making it illegal to limit the African Americans’ right to vote in the state of Texas. The court’s decision claimed that despite the state’s opportunity to present limitations in terms of the election, such decisions were to be made in the interest of the local citizens (Hynes and Wintz 421). The white primary, in its turn, was mostly focused on benefiting a specific social group at the expense of African Americans, thus breaching the provisions of both the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution (Haynes and Wintz 422). However, even after the proclamation of ethical inappropriateness of such actions, the election system was still flawed in terms of inclusion.

According to Pitre and Wintz, the voting conditions were mostly tailored for white English-speaking voters with at least average income rates. It meant that even when having legal access to the electoral process, some African Americans were still discriminated against in terms of their socio-economic and literacy environment (Haynes and Wintz 436). When considering this scenario from a modern perspective, it may be concluded that some of the implicit bias and limitations are still present within the US political landscape.

Education and Segregation Issues

The post-war environment, although willing to introduce positive changes to the socio-economic patterns of the US residents, was still replete with racial biases and preconceived feelings towards African Americans. One of the major issues concerning the well-being of African Americans in Texas was their limited access to education, which eventually deprived them of working places and basic human necessities as healthcare. Thus, the government’s first steps towards breaking this vicious circle were to create educational establishments for African Americans that existed separately from the establishments for white Americans. In 1947, the Texas legislature voted in favor of founding the Texas Southern University for Negroes, which manifested the implementation of “separate but equal” education (Haynes and Wintz 424). As a result, this act marked the beginning of the segregation era, which stood for introducing basic social benefits for African Americans separately from opportunities presented to white citizens.

Although such an initiative would be called nothing but racist today, the government at the time perceived such policies as the best-case scenario to resolve the issue. However, even then, the approach was extremely questionable in terms of the realities of African Americans’’ literacy rates in Texas. Barr (156) claims Black Texans to be recorded among the lowest illiteracy rates across the country because they did their best to invest in education, even regarding the financial struggles they experienced at the time. Thus, the segregation was considered inappropriate whatsoever, given the African Americans’ ability to learn on the same terms.


Over the years of segregation’s existence, one of the major roles in terms of eliminating racist policies from the governmental initiatives was played by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a public organization that advocated for African Americans rights. When it comes to segregation, one of the most recognized activists to address the issue is Juanita Craft. According to Frear, Craft’s protests and pickets in Dallas were successful due to her ability to convey her own segregation experience growing up (Haynes and Wintz 438). Indeed, one of the most challenging issues at the time was the fact that despite the existence of governmental anti-segregation initiatives, local citizens and business owners still experienced prejudice towards African Americans. In 1950, during the Sweatt v. Painter hearting, the Texas legislature decided to recognize separate education unequal, as it violated the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution (Haynes and Weintz 425). Moreover, in 1955, the Brown v. Board of Education case claimed educational segregation to be unconstitutional. However, despite those Supreme Court rulings, the state of Texas still struggled to embrace equality across the state. Thus, one of the landmarks in the process of segregation abandonment was Henry B. Gonzalez’s filibustering that lasted for 22 hours (Haynes and Wentz 430). Although his intention to abandon the desegregation provisions was successful, the state continued to struggle with racial inequality daily.

Works Cited

Barr, Alwyn. Black Texans: A History of African Americans in Texas 1528-1995 (Second Edition). University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Haynes, Sam W., and Cary D. Wintz. Major Problems in Texas History: Documents and Essays (Second Edition). Cengage Learning, 2017.