How Did the National Woman's
Party Address the
Issue of the Enfranchisement of Black Women, 1919-1924?
Alice Paul was a remarkable woman who played a vital role in the achievement of woman suffrage. Still, it is hard to accept the notion that Paul believed that the disenfranchisement of Black women was a race issue and not a women's issue. The documents reprinted here strongly suggest that Paul was accommodating the racism of the white South. She was in the precarious situation of having to please everyone within the Woman's Party if she wanted their continued support. Pleasing everyone was not easy when many southern women within the party believed in white supremacy. Inevitably, the racism of southern white women angered Black women as well as many northern white women. Paul and the Woman's Party rarely excluded Black women from their activities completely, but they were not given the same courtesies as white women. In particular, Black women were not invited to speak at major party functions.
The Woman's Party addressed many issues that were not as directly related to women as the disenfranchisement of Black women. To keep southern support, Alice Paul had to sidestep this issue. The disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South was not remedied until the civil rights movement some forty years later. Perhaps all African Americans would have enjoyed voting rights sooner had the National Woman's Party and other organizations devoted more effort to this cause.