The Struggle for Black Political Empowerment in Three Georgia Counties

  • Author(s): Hanks, Lawrence J.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1990-02-08
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $28.95 | Buy Now

Although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed the last legal barriers to voting in the South, the anticipated increase in black political power has not been realized. In his analysis of black political participation in three predominantly black Georgia counties between 1960 and 1982, Lawrence J. Hanks seeks to explain why black political empowerment has not increased as expected but also why it has met with such widely varying degrees of success.

Why did blacks in come counties achieve empowerment while others sis not? Arguing that models that focus on individual voting patterns or on political barriers to empowerment fail to account for the varying rates of black participation, hanks draws instead on the literature of collective action. He finds that only in those counties where there was a successful black political organization, backed by strong leaders and sufficient resources, did blacks achieve political empowerment. Once established, such an organization gained popular support through programs of economic development and was able to overcome barriers like ignorance, poverty, and fear and thus promote effective political mobilization.

Approaching his subject historically, Hanks tells the real story of real people working for political change at the local level. He concludes that the franchise alone does not insure political effectiveness, and that blacks need to work toward greater organizational, economic, and political sophistication in order to reap the benefits of the vote.

Lawrence J. Hanks is chair of the department of political science at Tuskegee University.