The Cost of the Vote

George Elmore and the Battle for the Ballot

Carolyn Click

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University of South Carolina Press img Link Publisher

Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte


One man's struggle for the ballot reveals the sacrifices of those who shaped the civil rights movement in the American South

On August 13, 1946, George Elmore arrived at his regular polling place in Columbia, South Carolina. He requested a ballot to vote in the Democratic Party primary but was turned away. While the general election would not occur until November, everyone in South Carolina understood that the results of the election would really be decided on that late summer afternoon. South Carolina was a one-party state, and the segregationist Democratic Party had endured as the uncontested rulers of state politics since the end of political Reconstruction in the late 1870s. No Black man or woman had cast a meaningful ballot in South Carolina in nearly as long. For Elmore and others in the state, the day had come to reclaim this most precious American right.

Carolyn Click's The Cost of the Vote centers on Elmore and the activists and lawyers who successfully challenged the all-white primary in South Carolina. Although Elmore's court challenge would prove successful, he paid a steep personal price. He died a decade after the case, ruined financially, and his family was scattered because of the hostility provoked by his activism. The political rewards for Black voters also remained long in coming, and Elmore would not survive to see the full flowering of the 1960s voting rights movement.

The Cost of the Vote is the story of a man who believed, with uncommon boldness, that he and other Black Americans were guaranteed the right to vote.



segregation, civil rights, South Carolina, democratic all-white primary, 1946, Elmore v Rice, violence, economic hardship