The poll tax, a bulwark of the Jim Crow era, was one of many roadblocks thrown up to keep African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Although the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1870, guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, the poll tax, which all voters had to pay was designed to prevent voting.
Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war.
In 1937, the U.S. Supreme court upheld Georgia’s poll tax as constitutional. But in 1942, Georgia voters chose Ellis Arnall for governor and the progressive Arnall ushered in a wave of reforms, including abolishing Georgia’s poll tax.
It would take the 24th Amendment and another Supreme Court decision to outlaw it nationwide, but the tax designed to prevent people from voting ended in Georgia on February 5, 1945, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.