Thursday, August 23, 2012

Turner Testifying in Congress about Voter Supression

In light of the voting suppression tactics going on right now across the country, we thought we would share some of Henry McNeal Turner's testimony on the subject. Given on November 3, 1871 before a joint select committee of Congress, the session titled "The Condition of Affairs of Georgia during Reconstruction" exposed much. Needless to say, voter suppression is not a new thing.

From: An African American Pastor During Reconstruction: The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner, Vol 3 (Forthcoming 2013).

They got altogether probably about thirty colored democrats. Well, they would carry them into a room and put a cloak on them, bringing them out and vote them, and then carry them back again and put a high hat on, and bring them out and vote them again; then carry them back and put on a slouch hat and bring them out and vote again. In this way repetition after repetition went on. All the wagoners that came in with cotton and other produce, everybody, whether he belonged there or not, was voted. I am satisfied there were seven or eight hundred illegal votes given there. I do not think there are more than sixteen hundred or seventeen hundred democrats in the county of Bibb, yet on that occasion they polled twenty-seven hundred votes. There may have been some fraudulent votes on our part. We have some twenty-five hundred votes in that county that we know of, and we voted twenty-seven hundred votes at that election. Probably we may have voted some fraudulent votes. There may have been some repeating; they saw the democrats were doing it, and I dare say some of our men did the same. For about three hours before the election closed it was just one repetition, voting everything. I saw seven white men vote twice. They would go up and vote, and then go around and laugh and talk and say that they had voted four times in that way. Long was standing there and witnessing how they were changing the dress of the few democratic negroes they had there; and Fitzpatrick witnessed the same. I could not begin to describe the scene of the last evening for about three hours before the election closed. If we had had a fair election we would have beaten them by five or six hundred votes; but in consequence of not having a fair election we beat them upon the average only about thirty-eight votes. The law of our state says that in the event a contest is made against those claiming the election, the ballot-box can be opened only in the presence of the judge of the superior court, or whatever judge is presiding at that time, and the tickets counted or examined, as the case may be. A few days after the election I was passing down the street, and a white gentleman came up to me and said, “Turner, I will tell you something, but don’t you tell my name.” I said, “What?” He said, “They have got the ballot-box up in that room, [pointing to a building,] and I think it is a damned shame.” I went up stairs to see if it was the fact. When I got to the door, I thought I would knock at first, but I concluded that they would come there and ask what I wanted, and perhaps not let me in. So I pulled open the door and walked right in. There were two men sitting there with their faces toward the fire, another was sitting back in a corner, and the ballot-box was on the table, and the whole table was strewn over with ballots, and there was a man sitting down at a little table writing. They all looked up when I came in, and one of them asked, “What do you want?” I said, “I wanted to see some gentlemen, but I see that they are not here.” I took a good look around, and then went on out about my business. I think probably the notice had been given already that the election would be contested. A few days after that we were summoned to appear and proceed with the contest, and a few days after that we commenced to take evidence. They had parties there who swore that this man was not of age, according to their best knowledge and belief; and that that man and the other was not qualified to vote, for some reason or other; some men would get up and swear that such and such man, whose name appeared on the list, lived in this county or that county or the other county. One man would swear against ten or fifteen names, I suppose. That is the kind of testimony upon which we are now ejected from our seats.

No comments:

Post a Comment