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Ku Klux Klan pamphlet

In the 1920s, tens of thousands of Texans
joined the Ku Klux Klan.

Women picking cotton

The majority of African-American Texans
worked in agriculture until after World War II.

Barbara Jordan

In 1967, Barbara Jordan of Houston became the first African American elected to the Texas Senate since Reconstruction.



The Battle Lost and Won

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The Anti-Suffragists Soldier On

The women and men who had opposed suffrage for so many years also left a legacy in Texas politics. Although they had failed to stop women from obtaining the vote, they continued to fight for their point of view just as the former suffragists did. They took up such efforts as fighting the establishment of organized labor in Texas, opposing efforts to aid Mexican immigrants, opposing the increased role of government in education, and holding the line against social and political changes such as integration.

Profile: Ida M. Darden (1886-1980)

Ida Muse was born in Bosque County and grew up in Moran. She married Bert Darden in 1904 and had a daughter. Bert died in 1906, and Darden took up secretarial work, finding a job with the Texas Businessmen's League. Here she developed close friendships with Joe Bailey and other conservative politicians. She and her brother Vance soon became political operatives, working as publicists, fundraisers, and lobbyists. Darden worked for Pauline Wells and the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, producing publicity pieces depicting women's suffrage as a socialist plot that would undermine white supremacy.

In 1920 she married Walter Myrick. She continued to write and lobby and ran for Congress in 1932. In 1950, she launched the newspaper Southern Conservative. The newspaper alleged that all three branches of the government had been communist since 1933 and that Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist dupe. Darden denounced social changes as diverse as the civil rights movement, modern art, and movies, even claiming that Edna Ferber's Texas novel Giant was communist propaganda and that the various Protestant denominations had turned atheist. Her daughter, Helen Darden Thomas, was a leader in the Houston chapter of the Minute Women of the U.S.A., an organization that attracted considerable attention in the 1950s for working to fire schoolteachers and administrators they believed to be communists. 

African-American Women and the Vote

African-American women had been excluded from the suffrage movement. Many black leaders had opposed suffrage, in part because of traditional belief that a woman's place is in the home, and in part because they feared reprisals against African Americans if black women attempted to exercise their right to vote. Most African-American Texans were disenfranchised by laws such as the poll tax, literacy tests, and the white primary, which restricted voting in the Democratic primary to whites only. The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment made no real difference in their political status.

However, African-American women were not strangers to community activism. Often through church groups or organizations like the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, African-American women put their energies into trying to alleviate problems in their communities caused by poor conditions for working women, limited economic opportunities, inferior housing, and discrimination. Their passions were education and health care for children and the elderly.

The Great Depression hit the black community even harder than that of white Texans. Social activism often gave way to the need to survive on a daily basis. Harsh economic realities hampered the abilities of blacks to organize effectively until after World War II.

The civil rights movement that became so visible to Americans in the 1950s was no sudden awakening on the part of blacks but the result of a decades-long effort to find the means to move the legal system in their favor. The first triumph in Texas came in 1944, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Texas white primary. As a result, many African Americans, particularly in the cities, were able to vote for the first time.

In 1965, the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act guaranteed the right to vote for all Texans regardless of the color of their skin. The following year, the Texas legislature was forced to draw new districts based on the principle of one-person, one-vote. From a newly created district, Houston attorney Barbara Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate, the first African American to serve in that body since Reconstruction. Many other lawsuits and rulings followed to make Texas politics more fair and open to people of all races. Today, hundreds of African Americans serve in elective office throughout Texas.

Profile: Christia Adair (1893-1989)

Christia Daniels was born in Victoria. She came to Austin to attend Samuel Huston (now Huston-Tillotson) College, then continued her education at Prairie View A&M. She married Elbert Adair in 1918. Adair became a teacher in Kingsville and joined a biracial group opposed to gambling. She also became one of the few African-American suffragists in the state.

Disillusioned when she was still denied the vote after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Adair became an early member of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During her tenure as executive secretary of the Houston branch from 1943-1959, she helped in the landmark Smith v. Allwright case, which ended the Texas "white primary." Adair also helped desegregate the Houston Public Library, airport, veterans hospital, city buses, and department stores. She also helped win the right for blacks to serve on juries, be hired for county jobs, and to be addressed in the newspapers with the same titles of respect used for whites.


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Page last modified: August 24, 2011