The Crisis - Suffrage Special Issue 1915


The Crisis - Suffrage Special Issue 1915


With the New York referendum looming, The Crisis published its second special issue on women’s suffrage in August 1915. The cover was an arresting composite of Abraham Lincoln & Sojourner Truth. 🧵

26 essays by men and women took up almost the entire issue. Even regular features like “Men of the Month” were devoted to women. [Read about @thecrisismag's first suffrage issue, in 1912 👉 ]

The summer of 1915 was an optimistic moment for voting rights. The Supreme Court had just struck down grandfather clauses in a case from Oklahoma, and women in New York were still optimistic about their chances of winning the vote. (See yesterday’s post.)

Later, the Supreme Court win would turn out to be toothless - Oklahoma grandfathered its grandfather clause, automatically adding all white men to the rolls while giving Black men 12 days to register. And women would lose the New York referendum, resoundingly.

But the clarity of @thecrisismag special issue endures. It’s an artifact of how the nation’s most prominent Black men and women argued for the inextricability of race and sex at the ballot box.

Highlights include: “Many colored men doubt the wisdom of women suffrage because they fear that it will increase the number of our political enemies.” She defends suffragists based on 40 years experience in the movement, asserting: “We can afford to follow those women.”

Mary Church Terrell & her husband Judge Robert Terrell make overlapping arguments about the necessity of supporting voting rights for all. She points out sharply that anything less risks weakening the 15th Amendment.

Judge Terrell quotes Senator Benjamin Wade, a radical Republican who supported universal suffrage: “I have a contempt I cannot name for the man who would demand rights for himself that he is not willing to grant to every one else.”

Nannie Helen Burroughs, leader of the Women’s Convention of the Baptist Church, is blunt: “The Negro Church means the Negro woman. Without her, the race could not properly support five hundred churches in the whole world. Today they have 40,000 churches in the United States.”

Fittingly, poet/novelist/diplomat James Weldon Johnson has the most engagingly wry essay. He begins: “There is one thing very annoying about the cause of Woman Suffrage and that is the absurdity of the arguments against it which one is called upon to combat."

The fight for the vote began so long before John Lewis, of blessed memory. We will continue it until every person’s vote counts, no matter how long that takes. We are up to the challenge. (Photo by @AlyssaNo_L via @AJC) #BlackSuffragists #Suffrage100


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “The Crisis - Suffrage Special Issue 1915,” Daily Suffragist, accessed July 14, 2024,

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