Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson: “The Negro Woman and the Ballot”


In 1927 the writer, educator, and activist Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson published an article titled “The Negro Woman and the Ballot” in the African American magazine The Messenger, in which she posed the question What have black women done with their vote? Dunbar-Nelson believed that black women had accomplished not nearly enough as a result of their enfranchisement in 1920, and she encouraged them to start exercising their power as voters without bowing to pressure from their male peers or loyalty to the Republican Party. She noted that African American women had already demonstrated their power as a group in the congressional elections of 1922, in which their votes had helped oust Republican legislators in Delaware, New Jersey, and Michigan who had failed to support the antilynching legislation known as the Dyer bill. Dunbar-Nelson concluded her article by positing that when black women have realized that their children’s futures could be helped or hindered by the way they...

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Alfred E. Smith and his wife voting in 1928 (Library of Congress)

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