Guinn v. United States

(1915)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

At issue in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Guinn v. United States was whether grandfather clauses had been deliberately enacted by state governments to deny African Americans their right to vote. Two Oklahoma election officials, Frank Guinn and J. J. Beal, had been charged with violating federal law by conspiring to deprive black Oklahomans of their voting rights in a general election held in 1910. Following the convictions of both men by a jury in an Oklahoma district court a year later, the Guinn case was brought before the Supreme Court on appeal in 1913. Guinn v. United States forced the highest court in the nation to examine the combined use of grandfather clauses and literacy tests as prerequisites to voting; specifically, the application of such tests in Oklahoma and Maryland was analyzed for fairness amid charges that black voters had been subjected to racial discrimination at the ballot box.

Before voting, a black voter had to...

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Edward White (Library of Congress)

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