william barber press conference
Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP delivers a fiery history lesson during a press conference about proposed changes to the state's election laws. (Still from WRAL video)

NAACP links proposed NC voting changes to historical white supremacist politics

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and other groups involved in the Forward Together movement against the Republican-controlled state legislature's ultraconservative agenda held a fiery press conference at the General Assembly today to blast a bill imposing a host of new voting restrictions as undemocratic and to connect it to a long history of white supremacist politics in the South.

"If you know this history," said N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber, "you understand why every North Carolinian ought to be sick to their stomach."

House Bill 589 would impose some of the strictest voter ID requirements in the nation. It would also shorten the early voting period, eliminate same-day voter registration, authorize vigilante poll observers and expand their influence, repeal out-of-precinct voting, make it harder to add satellite polling sites for the elderly or disabled, repeal public financing programs for elections, raise campaign contribution limits, and repeal some contribution disclosure requirements.

Bob Hall of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina called HB589 "breathtaking in scope and radical in purpose." Unveiled Tuesday, the measure is being pushed quickly through in the final days of the legislative session, which is expected to end this week.

With the Senate getting ready to debate and vote on the bill today before sending it to the House for final approval, opponents gathered in the legislative press room to denounce the measure.

"I want to do a little history lesson, a moral history lesson, for the media, because it's important that we get this right," Barber said.

He talked about how during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War white supremacists affiliated with what was then a radical racist Democratic Party tried to undermine the fusion politics that were bringing together populist Republicans and blacks to win elections.

"Now the roles have reversed," Barber said, likening today's Republicans to the white-supremacist Democrats and to the racist Dixiecrats of the Jim Crow era.

Quoting from J. Morgan Kousser's book "The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South," Barber discussed how after federal forces withdrew from the South in 1877, white-supremacist Southern legislators erected legal barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests to keep blacks and poor whites from voting, disenfranchising millions of citizens and consolidating Democrats' power in statehouses and in Congress.

Barber said he believes that North Carolina's Republican leaders see the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision overturning of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act determining which jurisdictions need to get pre-approval of elections changes from the Justice Department, with most of those being in the South, "the same way white supremacists saw the removal of federal troops in 1877."

Barber vowed to fight North Carolina's proposed election changes through the courts and through organizing.

"You need to understand, we will unleash every lawyer we have to attack what they're doing," he said. "We will not be calm or amenable and no longer will we use cute language. We gon' call it like it is. We will expose hypocrisy and racism."

He concluded by speaking directly to the legislative leadership. "We are not scared of your puny votes," he said. "We will take you to the courts, and we will win."

Watch the full press conference, which also included remarks from several student leaders and state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan, here:

Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP delivers a fiery history lesson during a press conference about proposed changes to the state's election laws. (Still from WRAL video)
Appreciate this post? Please donate & share below.
Reddit »

People Referenced:


NC Racist Radical "Representatives"

I, like so many others in North Carolina and beyond, am horrified at what the Republican extremists have been able to pull off. This is where rampant illegal gerrymandering has gotten us. The Republicans manipulated their way into total control over our state, and have as their warped goals the end of voters' rights, workers' rights, women's rights; the end of our historically mandated public education; the end of any social protections for those people laid off as U.S. corporations are allowed to send our jobs overseas, the end of fair taxation and common sense guidelines on corporations; the end of clean air and clean water laws, etc., etc.

If their brief reprehensible legislative session has ended, it is time to take the Raleigh protests to those "Representatives's" own homes and businesses. And it is time to boycott any company or corporation that supported their rise to power.

We need to allow our citizens to vote to RECALL any public official, including the Governor, when they shirk their duty to faithfully represent the will of our individual citizens and the common good.

We need to get every single individual of voting age some sort of state-issued ID, and organize neighborhood by neighborhood to rid our state of these neo fascist legislators, so we can return NC to some semblance of decency and fairness.

NC, like Iowa, needs to foreswear gerrymandering going forward. A special session needs to be called to remap our state fairly. State districts should be drawn primarily into equal sized squares of land, based on population. The only other rules that should affect those squares should be based on guaranteeing minorities fair representation.

We need that list of personal addresses of each "Representative's" home and business, and list of each of the corporate doners that led us into this miserable state of affairs. Let's take the excellent work of the Moral Monday's organizers to the next level.

Voting in a Democracy

Thank you for your work. The only laws regarding the right to vote should be for more ways to expand and include all citizens of our nation in the process. Anything less should be criminal. The streets of every state suppressing voting, should be filled through November of 2014. State Capitols must be stormed and we must take back our country and reinstate Democracy. Many other organizations such as the AARP, etc. should be with this North Carolina fight.

Voting rights

We need to flood our State representatives with a petition to create more opportunities to vote rather than fewer. I thought the Constitution (in modern interpretation) exists to give, as much as possible, all citizens the opportunity to vote, not to limit citizen involvement.

Racist politicking

Thanks, Sue, for another excellent piece giving those of us not so close to Raleigh a real perspective and an idea of the passions involved.

Rev Barber has right on his side, and we are so glad we have him on ours.

Post new comment

You may enter comments here to publicly respond to this article. If you are having trouble posting your comment, please contact help@southernstudies.org.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.