Southern Democrats went well beyond Black Codes, however, and also imposed forced segregation. In 1881, Tennessee became the first State to do so, and over the next decade, several other southern States followed. As a result, schools, hospitals, public transportation, and restaurants became segregated – despite federal laws to the contrary. Those Democratic pro-segregation State laws replaced the anti-segregation federal laws passed by Republicans in 1875 and regrettably became the legal standard for the next seventy-five years.
The sixth device to disenfranchise black voters was bizarre gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the practice of combining enough favorable parts of a district to give a pre-selected candidate or party a majority of voters, thus ensuring that the opponent cannot win in that district. Frequently, the result is an unwieldy-shaped district that – rather than being a simple, tight, and geographically-compact district – instead sprawls illogically, even following sidewalks or rivers in an absurd effort to connect favorable neighborhoods. The first district drawn in this manner was in Massachusetts in 1812; it was drawn to ensure that candidate Elbridge Gerry would win that district over his challenger. That practice has continued over the decades since; and when Democrats regained State legislatures in the South at the end of Reconstruction, they drew districts to ensure that the majority of voters were white Democrats, thereby preventing blacks from being elected. Often these districts would split a single black neighborhood between several different districts in order to dilute the strength of that community. This practice was extremely effective.
For example, while many blacks were elected as Republicans in Texas during Reconstruction, after Reconstruction, Democrats regained the legislature and began to redraw voting lines so that when the last African American left the State House in 1897, not another one was elected – either as a Republican or a Democrat – for the next 70 years until federal courts struck down the way Texas Democrats drew voting lines. Furthermore, although Republicans had been an overwhelming majority in the Texas legislature during Reconstruction, after Democrats redrew election lines, for several decades there were never more than two Republicans serving in the entire legislature at any one time. This pattern was typical in other southern States as well.
The seventh device used to disenfranchise black voters was that of white-only primaries. For example, Democrats in Texas enacted a State law prohibiting blacks from voting in Democratic primaries, but when the U. S. Supreme Court finally struck down this statewide law in 1927, the Democratic Party in Texas, as well as in Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arkansas simply enacted internal Democratic Party policies to prevent blacks from voting in Democratic primaries. And because Democrats at that time solidly controlled every level of government in the South, gerrymandering – original and modern this Democratic Party policy had the same effect as a State law, thus ensuring that no black would be elected. In 1935, the Supreme Court upheld this Democratic Party policy, but in 1944 the Court finally reversed itself and struck down white-only Democratic primaries.