Du Bois Central (Special Collections & University Archives)
Resources on the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois
Special Collections & University Archives
Bookmark and ShareEssays on Voting Rights

In the United States, the right to vote is often taken for granted and for many years, turnout at all but the most highly contested elections has been dismal. Too many Americans forget, however, that the extension of votes to women, African Americans, and (to some degree) poor whites is a relatively recent phenomenon and was won only through concerted struggle. Even today, the struggle to maintain the right to vote is necessary.

Du Bois recognized the power of the ballot box and used the vote as a centerpiece of his plans to bring about social reform and racial equality in the United States. In his early writings, change and equality are intrinsically intertwined, and are only achievable through the extension of the suffrage to every American citizen, regardless of age, race, or sex. Du Bois is persistent in his beliefs that if one has the right to vote, one has the obligation to do so: voting to bring about social change is a civic responsibility, not a burden to be brushed off or discarded. Du Bois is equally insistent upon the importance of voting your conscience. During the 1910s, when the question of granting women the right to vote was a major political issue, Du Bois regularly devoted space in Crisis to both side of the issue, encouraging his readers to know the issues at hand and to vote in any way they believed. He was a staunch supporter of women’s suffrage, believing that granting suffrage to all would afford the common man (and woman) with a means to have his voice heard on the national scale.

“Women’s Suffrage” (1915)
Du Bois designed this editorial to demonstrate his support for the passing of women’s suffrage. However he urges his readers to familiarize themselves with the arguments surrounding the issue and to vote their conscience. Voting and making one’s voice heard is ultimately the most important goal.
“The Risk of Women’s Suffrage” (1915) by Dean Kelly Miller
Although written by Dean Kelly Miller, not Du Bois, this article appeared in the Crisis as a response to an August 1915 Crisis symposium supporting women’s suffrage. Miller discusses the reasons that women should not be given the right to vote. It is based on archaic ideas of inequality among the sexes and argues the differences between Negro and Woman suffrage.
“Votes for Women” (1915) A Symposium by Leading Thinker of Colored America
In an effort to persuade black America to support the cause of women’s suffrage, Du Bois and Crisis recruited the leading black thinkers of the early 20th century to comment on their personal reasons for wanting to grant women the right to vote.
“Votes” (1919)
Though short, this editorial sends a strong message. It stresses the need to put black Americans in positions of political power and argues that it is through the vote and the work of black men in government on behalf of their kinsmen that blacks in America will achieve equality and freedom from oppression.
“The Black Vote of Philadelphia” (1905)
Du Bois understands the position of the average black citizen in American society, their struggles, ideals, and politics. This article stresses the need for the American government to instill in its citizens the ideals necessary for them to understand the importance of the democratic process and the rewards of exercising ones rights.

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