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Election Laws Sixty Years Ago

Modern U.S. elections have their problems, but at least election laws aren't as blatantly racist as they were as late as the 1950s. For instance, in Oklahoma, in the 1950s, if you wanted to run for public office you first had to file a form with the state declaring what race you were. There were only two options. If you were of "African descent" you were "Negro." If you were anything else (Chinese, Australian aboriginal, etc.) you were "White." If you indicated you were "Negro," then this descriptive term was placed in parentheses after your name on the ballot. "Whites" were not similarly labeled.

A black Oklahoma City attorney, A.B. McDonald, filed suit against the State Election Board in 1954 alleging discrimination. The District Court dismissed his case, ruling that, "The placing of the word 'Negro' on a ballot after the name of a candidate is merely descriptive and properly serves to inform the electors of the fact that the candidate is of African descent."


The Supreme Court eventually overturned the District Court's ruling, deciding that the Oklahoma law was unconstitutional. As for A.B. McDonald, I haven't been able to find much information on his subsequent career. All I found was a short paragraph in Jet magazine (Mar 1959) indicating that he had some other problems in his life:
Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Nov 05, 2012 | Number of Comments: 7
Category: Politics, Racism, Judges, Lawsuits
More weirdness from the WU archive:
Comments
Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
So... later in life he had "hallucinations" and talked "of spending large sums of money"?

Sounds like he was imminently qualified to become a modern day politician!
Posted by Kyle Morgan in Pittsburgh, PA on 11/05/12 at 12:10 PM
Yea but any black trying to test the "Whites only" club could easily be ruled insane.

My home town was split 4 ways back in those days (and before). The Protestant Germans were south of Main Street, The Catholic Irish were north of Main, the blacks lived in the N.W. strip along the river and the Jewish community (such as it was) was out on the East end. And woe unto them that dared cross any of those racial divides (and especially on Friday nights).
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 11/05/12 at 12:18 PM
Perhaps it is too bad that qualifiers are not attached to candidates on a ballot. But would it have prevented the election of any of our current passel of politicians? I see a good number of them as mental defectives and thieves.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 11/05/12 at 12:29 PM
"A good number" as in "ALL"?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 11/05/12 at 12:56 PM
"A good number" as in any from the East or Left Coasts. Remember, I'm a California native and expatriate who left the state because I couldn't stand all the social misfits and cultural castoffs who have ruined what was once a great and beautiful state.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 11/05/12 at 02:44 PM
Good thing the media doesn't include "qualifiers" today. Such as noting that a person is Conservative while not mentioning another person is liberal. Yeah, good thing.
Posted by Todd on 11/05/12 at 04:15 PM
The guy may have had challenges in his life (perhaps brought on by the stress of racism), but give him credit for having the guts to challenge the racist norm. He moved the yard sticks, and that is better than most of us have been able to do.

My next drink goes down in honour of A.B. McDonald.

Cheers.

By the way, thanks also for the link to Jet Magazine. It was pretty amazing for its time.
Posted by Harvey on 11/05/12 at 05:48 PM
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