Liberty County Citizen’s Council 1946 – 1953

The Erosion of the Franchise

With the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution in 1868 and 1869, African Americans were granted full citizenship and the right to vote. In less than a decade, nearly 100,000 black men had registered to vote in Georgia. Success, however was short-lived.

In 1877 Georgia passed a new state constitution which restricted the franchise by adding a residency requirement and altering the state’s poll tax law to make it cumulative. To be eligible to vote after 1877, men had to be a U.S. citizen, at least 21 years of age, and a resident of the state for at least 1 year and of the county for at least 6 months prior to registering. In addition, males between the ages of 21 and 60 had to show proof of having paid their poll tax every year since their 21st birthday (or since 1877 when the law took effect) before they could register.

Black access to the vote continued to erode. Beginning in the mid-1890s, the democratic Party of Georgia prohibited African American men from voting in state primaries. And when legally sanctioned tactics failed to deter black voters, intimidation and violence did. The death toll sounded in 1908 when a state constitutional amendment made it possible for county registrars to arbitrarily apply vaguely-defined literacy and citizenship requirements. For all practical purposed black men had been effectively disfranchised.

Liberty County Citizen Council

In 1845, Georgia’s 1877 state constitution was overturned, eliminating the poll tax. Liberty County’s Citizen Council immediately went to work registering voters. In April of 1946, Georgia’s white-only primary was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Chapman. The Liberty county Citizen’s Council was formed in 1946.

The Council, held a series of town meetings to discuss strategies for solving local problems. These were true town meetings; everyone had a voice and as a result they often lasted from early evening to long after midnight. One participant recalled that, “Every detail of the meeting [was] known by whites within 12 hours of the meeting.”

The immediate goal of the Citizen’s Council was to get black citizens registered to vote. In early 1946 the Citizen’s Council distributed a flyer entitled, “The $64 Question,” that depicted a man down on one knee, asking a woman, “Have you registered to vote?”

The $64 Question

Why register?

Every Good citizen puts his or her name on the registration list in order to be able to vote for elected officials who make and enforce the laws by which we are governed.

The more citizens who register and vote, the better our government is. By voting we get better roads, schools, hospitals, play-grounds, parks, libraries, and safety of life and property.

Where register?

You register at the tax receivers office in Hinesville.You don’t have to pay a poll tax or other taxes to register.

How register?

Begin by courteously telling the tax receiver that you wish to register to vote. Keep calm and an even temper. Give no one an excuse for not registering you. You will have to give your name, address, where you were born, your age, how long you have lived in Georgia and Liberty County. You must be able to read and write. You must sign your name on the registration book.

Erected in 2004 by the City of Flemington.