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The 19th Amendment and Women's Suffrage

Start your research on the women's suffrage movement in the United States and Alabama with this resource guide.

The Role of Race in Alabama's Suffrage Movement

White women and black women in the South worked towards similar goals, but they did not work together to achieve them. Race was at the heart of the suffrage argument with many anti-suffragists being hesitant to give women the vote, fearing that the enfranchisement of black women would give the black community a political advantage. The counter argument often used by white suffragists was simple: white women outnumbered both African American men and women at the time. Therefore, enfranchising women would allow the white vote to overwhelm the black vote.

A notable group of African American women working for social change in Alabama was the Tuskegee Women’s Club. Led by Margaret Murray Washington, they were affiliated with the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. These women saw a lot of need in the black community. By the 1890s, African Americans had only been emancipated for a few decades. There were few opportunities for African American people to improve their lives which perpetuated problems in black communities such as poverty, illiteracy, and poor working conditions. The Tuskegee Women's Club worked to uplift their community in a variety of ways, such as teaching classes on etiquette, housekeeping, and motherhood, and organizing night classes so people who worked during the day would have the opportunity to get an education. The Tuskegee Club women were focused on uplifting their communities in a holistic way. This approach is reflected in their club motto: “Lifting as We Climb.”

While black women in Alabama were excluded from white suffrage organizations, they worked toward woman suffrage in their own spheres by educating about the cause, publishing suffrage articles, and teaching civics classes. Adella Hunt Logan, a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute, was a standout African American suffragist in Alabama. Her mixed African American, Native American, and Caucasian ancestry allowed her to pass as white, which she occasionally did to attend suffrage conventions in the segregated South. She brought suffrage materials back to the members of the Tuskegee Women's Club. Logan made important contributions to suffrage scholarship, publishing articles in nationally circulated magazines such as The Crisis (a NAACP publication), The Woman's Journal (a NAWSA publication), and the Colored American. 

Sources Consulted

Alexander, A.L. (2019). Princess of the Hither Isles: A black suffragist's story from the Jim Crow south. Yale University Press.

Thomas, M.M. (1992). The new woman in Alabama: Social reforms and suffrage, 1890-1920. University of Alabama Press.

Wheeler, Marjorie S. (1995). Votes for women!: The woman suffrage movement in Tennessee, the south, and the nation. University of Tennessee