Santoro, Wayne A.. "The civil rights movement and the right to vote: black protest, segregationist violence and the audience." Social Forces. University of North Carolina Press. 2008. HighBeam Research. 19 Jun. 2013 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
Santoro, Wayne A.. "The civil rights movement and the right to vote: black protest, segregationist violence and the audience." Social Forces. 2008. HighBeam Research. (June 19, 2013). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-180217963.html
Santoro, Wayne A.. "The civil rights movement and the right to vote: black protest, segregationist violence and the audience." Social Forces. University of North Carolina Press. 2008. Retrieved June 19, 2013 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-180217963.html
The most widely cited finding in William Gamson's (1990) research on the outcomes of social movements is that the use of violence by one of the combatants often works. By noting the instrumental value of violence, Gamson challenged the pluralist notion that violence is self-defeating. Yet his argument was more nuanced. Gamson wrote that violence is associated with success only when it takes place in a context in which "it is tacitly condoned by large parts of the audience," which makes "the normal condemnation which accompanies its use ... muted or neutralized."(81) The beneficial role of violence, in other words, is moderated by the audience to the conflict. Gamson is not alone in noting that violence only sometimes works and that the audience plays an important role in determining its impact (Andrews 1997; Garrow 1978).
This research applies this theoretical perspective to the civil rights movement's struggle for the right of Southern blacks to vote. A better understanding of how blacks secured the Southern vote is important because it was arguably the movement's greatest victory (Lawson 1997; Piven and Cloward 1979). While most research on segregationist violence finds that it backfired against the users, Gamson's approach suggests that we should see temporal differences in the effect of segregationist violence on policy responses. The focus of this study is to test for temporal variations in the effects of black protest and segregationist killings on passage of voting rights legislation. The rationale for expecting historical contingency is that the attention, sympathy and involvement of the audience to the conflict varied greatly over time. During the pre-60s' struggle, the white public paid little attention to civil rights issues (Smith 1980), openly supported racial segregation (Schuman et al. 1997), and did little to press federal officials for civil rights reforms (Lee 2002). This means that before the 1960s' segregationist violence should have aided the segregationist cause. But segregationist violence should have benefited civil rights reforms during the mid-60s when the audience became more attentive, sympathetic and involved in the unfolding racial conflict.
This study seeks to contribute to scholarship on the policy outcomes of social movements in two ways. First, most research explains movement outcomes by highlighting factors such as elite and third party support, opponent actions, electoral conditions, favorable institutional structures, as well as movement mobilization, tactics and framing strategies. No doubt all of these factors play an important role. But less explicit attention has been devoted to the audience, and if scholars such as Schattschneider (1960), Lipsky (1968), and Schumaker (1978) are correct, then we have inappropriately downplayed how the audience can shape movement outcomes. While constructing a quantitative measure of the audience is not possible in the current study, mainly because much of the period under investigation predates national opinion surveys, such methodological issues should not be used as an excuse for ignoring its role in the policy process. Second, causal processes affecting social movement outcomes vary over time (Andrews 1997; Earl 2003; Isaac and Griffin 1989; Isaac, Street and Knapp 1994; McAdam and Sewell 2001; Santoro 2002). Uncovering temporal shifts in the impact of segregationist violence thus helps to further challenge the commonly held view that policy determinants are time invariant.
Federal Voting-Rights Policies (1933-1965)
Despite the fact that the 15th Amendment in 1870 codified that the right to vote could not be denied because of race, Southern whites had effectively disenfranchised most Southern blacks by the late 1880s (Kousser 1974). Congressional and executive attempts to enfranchise Southern blacks were long delayed and usually symbolic in nature. Congress first targeted the poll tax, an important early barrier especially in states where the tax was cumulative (Lawson 1976). The House of Representatives passed five anti-poll tax bills between 1942 and 1949; the first three met with Senate filibusters, and through parliamentary maneuvers the last two never came to a Senate vote. In 1946, President Truman established the President's Committee on Civil Rights which a year later recommended ending poll taxes and establishing monetary penalties against obstructions of the right to vote (McCoy and Ruetten 1973).
Legislation of the '50s was only marginally more substantive than previous initiatives. A potentially strong bill passed the House but not the Senate in 1956. A year later Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which allowed the Attorney General to initiate court injunctions for voting violations, strengthened the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and created the Civil Rights Commission. Two years later the commission issued the first in a series of comprehensive reports on how Southern whites were continuing to deny the franchise to blacks. Congress extended the life of the commission in 1959, 1961 and 1963. The 1957 law, however, did little to increase black voting because it allowed a jury trial for those accused of denying suffrage, a charge that few Southern juries would uphold (Lawson 1976). Nonetheless, civil rights lobbyists supported the law because it could be strengthened in future years.
The pace of voting rights legislation quickened in the '60s. After 37 days of debate, including a nine-day filibuster, Congress passed the modest Civil Rights Act of 1960. In line with recommendations from the Civil Rights Commission, the 1960 act established the "referee" system that allowed federal appointees to replace hostile registrars. To do so, however, required a time-consuming and arduous court procedure. The 1960 act also required that voting records be kept for 22 months to prevent segregationists from destroying such data and allowed the federal government to sue states over voting rights violations. This latter provision was an attempt to circumvent the Southern tactic of having registrars quit so that the Attorney General could sue no one for voting violations. After a short filibuster, Congress in 1962 enacted the 24th Amendment (ratified in 1964) that outlawed the poll tax in federal elections. Five Southern states still required a poll tax at that time. After defeating an 82-day filibuster, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most important aspects of the law pertained to other civil rights issues; its voting provisions mainly codified legal doctrines already established by lower courts (Garrow 1978). The act required the U.S. Census Bureau to gather voting statistics, contained anti-literacy test measures such as making a 6th grade education a presumption of literacy, and outlawed the unequal application of registration procedures and the rejection of applications for minor errors.
The most comprehensive response to enfranchise Southern blacks took place with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Building on the referee system, perhaps the most important aspect of this law was that it established the registrar system that allowed the federal government to replace Southern registrars through administrative and not court action. Central provisions of the act included suspending the use of literacy and other qualification tests, requiring federal litigation against poll taxes, specifying political subdivisions subject to federal litigation, requiring Attorney General approval of new voting laws enacted by governments whose prior laws had been nullified, and establishing the "trigger mechanism." The trigger mechanism specified that discrimination was evident if a literacy test or a similar qualifying device was in place in 1964 and if less than 50 percent of the voting age population had registered or had voted in the 1964 presidential election. The impact of the act was felt most acutely in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi where white resistance to black enfranchisement was the most entrenched (McMillen 1977). Congress renewed and/or made minor adjustments to the Voting Rights Act in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006. (1)
Black Protest, Segregationist Violence and the Audience
The main political actors directly engaged in the conflict over voting rights were civil rights activists and segregationists. As is the case more generally with movements and countermovements, the actions of the two were interrelated (see Meyer and Staggenborg 1996; Zald and Useem 1987). Black protest typically brought about a tactical reaction in the form of legal obstruction and extra-legal harassment on the part of Southern whites (Andrews 2002; Barkan 1984; Bartley 1969; Carson 1981; Fairclough 1987; Garrow 1978; McAdam 1982; Meier and Rudwick 1973). Although more loosely coupled, this dynamic applies to the use of violence. Segregationist violence was a response to black protest, a realization that the traditional tactics of Southern whites could no longer keep blacks "in their place." Segregationists murdered individuals active in protest, in response to school integration efforts, and in reaction to numerous protest campaigns. While protest and countermovement …
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