Tracy E. Danese


Following the adoption of the Constitution of 1885, Florida joined its sister southern states in enacting a series of election laws aimed at disfranchising black voters. This statutory labyrinth, with the Democratic party’s white primary system as its centerpiece, had all but excluded the state’s African-American citizens from the political arena by 1913. Although virtually complete in its practical effects, that process legally operated only in the primary elections. African-American males remained technically eligible to vote in general elections if their poll taxes were paid. In the same period, women’s suffrage was intruding on the existing political structure from another direction with a momentum that clearly portended ultimate success. Although both movements focused on the most fundamental dynamic of American politics, the right to vote, each ran to its historical conclusion on essentially separate courses. Yet, for a brief period between 1915 and 1916, the two converged in a confusing and almost forgotten episode of Florida political history.