1937 December 6

Supreme Court Declares Poll Tax Constitutional

 

In Breedlove v. Suttles, decided on this day, the Supreme Court ruled that the poll tax was constitutional. The poll tax was one of the devices used to disenfranchise African-Americans in Southern states, although it also had the effect of disenfranchising poor whites as well. The Court reversed itself and ruled the poll tax unconstitutional in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, on March 24, 1966, under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The poll tax had been abolished for federal elections by the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on January 23, 1964, but several states continued the poll taxes for state elections.

The Court: “Levy by the poll has long been a familiar form of taxation, much used in some countries and to a considerable extent here, at first in the colonies and later in the states.”

Learn more about the history of the right to vote: Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in America (2009)

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!