Why WEB Dubois Felt that Black People Should Not Vote


In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. –W.E.B. DuBois

On October 20, 1956, W. E. B. Du Bois delivers this eloquent indictment of US politics while explaining to Nation readers why he won’t vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Du Bois condemns both Democrats and Republicans for their indifferent positions on the influence of corporate wealth, racial inequality, arms proliferation and unaffordable health care.

Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.

Retired “for age” in 1944, I returned to the North and found a party to my liking. In 1948, I voted the Progressive ticket for Henry Wallace and in 1952 for Vincent Hallinan.

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Filed under African Americans

5 responses to “Why WEB Dubois Felt that Black People Should Not Vote

  1. Renelda Moorehead

    This was a timely, outstanding post. I liked Dr. Dubois. Now I love him.
    This article written about his dilemma in 1956 is visionary, to ssay the least.
    It called to mind what I have been saying,”nothing has changed, just rearranged.”
    Dr.Dubois spent his remaining years in Ghana, West Africa. Perhaps those
    who think as he did, need to find another country. Or since in 2012, so many
    white citizens echo Dr. Dubois’ sentiments–even some regarding the race issues–we should stick around and try to continue to effect meaningful change. I choose the latter. But as always, I am flexible.

  2. WizardG

    We live in a society awash in complete denial on so many levels!

    “Blacks seem unable to differentiate between sociopolitical reality and fantasy! Only a small portion of us can differentiate between fantasy and reality.”
    WEB Dubois was a brilliant man no doubt! What we have today is a country built on a platform or a social structure in which politicians are no longer an obstacle to the elite. We are all enticed into voting, but our votes are a waste of time and effort, yet our minds are still entranced into believing that the social structure is functioning as it should, when clearly It is not!
    So many of ‘our people’ were beaten, bitten by dogs, spat on by angry white crowds and murdered by police etc.In order to finally secure the right to vote! We were under the impression that the nation was, and is as the Anglo-elite portray it to be, so we vote decade after decade, but when we needed Jim Crow populace to give us a break, our best efforts were in our danger filled protests and physical sacrifices. We did manage to accomplish a facade of mediocre rights and freedoms which should have been in place all along!
    Now those meager rights and freedoms that were forced upon the Anglos are being rolled back to zero! The jobs, housing, economic strengths and other forms of fairness, balance and equilibrium are being slowly (or quickly in many cases) eradicated!

    There is a wealthy class of African Americans who don’t feel the ills of the commoners, but they are still sitting on an explosive keg of catastrophe, because they are unable to realize that they should be using their wealth and fame to help improve the status, mental and physical health of the black community! Which would in turn improve their own strength and positions. Instead some wealthy blacks are so assimilated into the greedy nature of this racist based totally corrupt social-structure that their “conditioned” minds are on a similar plane with “white” conservatives and greed-mongers, and they consider themselves “colorless” conservatives, or just wealthy conservatives! They may enjoy their good fortune for decades, but somewhere along our ‘timeline’ they may realize that their good fortune could be easily taken away just because they are “black”! It would be then (and too late) that they will think that they could have used their wealth to help improve the overall economic status and social consciousness of the “black community regarding all blacks, the lucky and grossly unlucky, the fortunate and the unfortunately downtrodden.

    Beginning with the kidnapping and enslavement of our ancestors, we, over time, have been rendered scatterbrained, misdirected, assimilated, disenfranchised, psychologically deplete, and left to become only a distorted “carbon-copy” of our “white” counterparts. We cannot see what we were, or who we have become, because we have no actual memory of what our ancestors were actually like! In this “distorted” form, we are unable to find ourselves, or save ourselves, and what is worse, the Anglos with a most diabolical racist nature, and equipped with immense power are constantly scheming to cripple us across the diaspora in preparation to destroy us! These racist Anglos have perfected doublespeak, and reverse-racism mentality. They have created a social consciousness that causes even the victims to blame the poor for the ills of society, and they have created a distorted national consciousness with propaganda which blames blacks and browns and others. Anglos etc., have managed to affect purposefully directed social blame to everyone but themselves, for ‘our’ decrepit social position and conditions, as they continue to be the actual devious culprits!

    We continue to suffer immense wrongdoings by an elite source of which most of the populace is unaware, or hold in disbelief! We continue to vote in a system which foist political thugs and fancy rich posers as legitimate “good” men. We want to believe in this nation so badly that we convince ourselves if we just vote and afterwards push the politicians then we will someday be justly rewarded. All this while we continue to see the populace fail, our children with diminishing education, healthcare and job prospects either going to jail or to war. Wars that enrich the elite at the expense of depleted national wealth and death! The elite easily turn our police on us when we exhibit dissent and ‘our’ military on us if they feel the least bit threatened! Yet we still vote, and hope, and pray, and think illogical thoughts, and fantasize about an illusive “God” entity which surely had to be indoctrinated into our thinking.

    We keep doing the same things over and over again while expecting a different and better outcome, but all we get is more of the same rotting, stinking, unforgivable abuse. If that isn’t a sign of insanity what is? We carry on in our daily lives in entranced normality, as our tax dollars are pillaged and used to murder and pillage other nations. If that is not insane what is? We selfishly buy extravagant, unneeded “things” and pets, while some 12 million children die from starvation each year! If that isn’t insane what is? We copy everything the white-dominant society does when we can see that it only leads to our undoing and, the undoing of the world! If that isn’t insanity then tell me what is!

    Now that we (some of us) can “vote”. Year after year we choose obvious lying crooks which were positioned before us! Even as we vote (in the back of our minds) we know that these, grifters, con-artists. liars and thugs will do very little (if anything) to improve the overall lives of society! If that isn’t social insanity then insanity must not exist!
    We live in a society awash in complete denial on so many levels!

  3. Renelda Moorehead

    @WizardG— You are soooooooooooo VERBOSE. But, your mind power
    is sooooooooooooooooooo STRONG. I love you (IT). I often find myself
    agreeing with you, as I do in this case. BE Blessed.

  4. Dr. W. E. Dubois was the greatest scholar of the 20th Century and he is considered the God Father of Pan Africanism. He is twice as smart as anyone who will attempt to comment on this blog site on this issue of whether African American voters should vote in Presidential elections.
    I will respond in-depth to your comments on the above matter and I will give an honest critical critique of Dr. Watkins poorly written article.
    The brillance of Dr Dubois is reflected in his Oct. 26, 1956 speech in which he raises the same exact issues that the people in the Occupy Movement had raised and demonstrated for on Wall Street and throughout the United States of America. Dr. Dubois Oct. 26, 1956 speech is as relevant today in 2012 as it was in 1956.

    The greatest scholar of the 20th Cenury is Dr. W. E. Dubois. Its not even close!

  5. Kim Wilcox (male)

    I agreed overwhelmingly with Dr. WEB Dubois’s comment about the two parties that exist. I am always very frustrated when I vote also. I’ve been told for years to always vote, because if you don’t you are not helping to change things. I myself always vote for the democratic party, not because they are the lesser of two evils, but because there are no other parties to vote for. The Democratic Party is just as bad as the Republican Party. I could never say “All,” because you have alot of white people that lost their lives in our struggle also, but when a large part of these individuals go home and they are in the comfort of their homes, they talk about black people like dogs. This is the main reason we are still in the position we are today. These people still feel they are Gods gift to the world. It’s a very sad thing when the people in power feel this way. I will say this though, things will change one day for the very best, but I’m afraid it won’t be in my life time, or my childrens, or grand-children, or theirs. I’m 54 years old.

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