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African American Voting History
in High Point, Statewide, and Nationally

The 15th amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, granted voting rights to African-American men only.  The disenfranchisement of African Americans in North Carolina hit a crescendo in 1900. The Democrats won a majority in the NC House and Senate.  They immediately enacted laws to lengthen the residency requirement to register, add an education requirement for registration, and demand a poll tax.  Voters who were registered prior to January 1, 1867 were exempt from the poll tax. As a result, all African American voters in NC were eliminated from voting by 1904.  A few of the questions from the literacy tests given to African Americans are listed below.

  • Draw a line around the number or letter in this sentence

  • Circle the first, first letter of the alphabet in this line.

  • In the space below, draw three circles, one inside (engulfed by) the other.

Consequences of African Americans demanding their lawful rights resulted in loss of employment, violence to self or family members, arrest, and death.  These consequences continued into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

A search of past issues of the High Point Enterprise led to the following tidbits of information:

  • May 23, 1960 – Mayor Jess Washburn pushes to make High Point “The #1 Voting City in North Carolina”.


  • October 9, 1963 – A voter registration drive sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP registered 175 African American voters.  The drive lasted several days and moved from place to place.  Some of the locations included Pilgrim Continental Church, St. Stephens Church, and The Darrel Brooks Apartments Recreation Center.


  • December 1, 1963 – The total number of voters in North Carolina = 2,090,270; total number of African American voters = 217,816


  • August 20, 1964 – A voter registration drive sponsored by CORE registered only 25 African American voters.  Of those 25 only a few came from the all African American precinct #6.  At the time, the total number of voters in High Point stood at 23,249.  The number of African American voters was 3,200.

Disenfranchisement in North Carolina is still active today. The case of Shelby County v. Holder (2013) allows states to change election laws without prior approval of the federal government.  This breaches the fundamental principles of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In 2016, congressional district boundaries were readjusted to favor specific candidates.  

The blood, sweat, and tears of real people throughout history have gone into giving African Americans the right to vote.  We implore you to exercise that right fully.

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