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Encyclopedia > Guinn v. United States
Guinn v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States
Argued October 17, 1913
Decided June 21, 1915
Full case name: Frank Guinn and J. J. Beal v. United States
Citations: 238 U.S. 347; 35 S. Ct. 926; 59 L. Ed. 1340; 1915 U.S. LEXIS 1572
Prior history: Certificate from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Holding
A state statute drafted in such a way as to serve no rational purpose other than to disadvantage the right of African-American citizens to vote violated the 15th Amendment.
Court membership
Chief Justice: Edward Douglass White
Associate Justices: Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., William R. Day, Charles Evans Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, Joseph Rucker Lamar, Mahlon Pitney, James Clark McReynolds
Case opinions
Majority by: White
Joined by: McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney
McReynolds took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XV

Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347 (1915), was an important United States Supreme Court decision that dealt with Jim Crow laws, which helped enforce segregation in the United States between 1865 and 1964. The Oklahoma statute in question, while appearing to treat white and black voters equally, allowed an exemption to the literacy requirement for those voters whose ancestors had either been eligible to vote prior to January 1, 1866 or a resident of "some foreign nation"—an exemption that favored illiterate white voters while continuing to disenfranchise illiterate black voters. Image File history File links Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court. ... Federal courts Supreme Court Chief Justice Associate Justices Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures State Courts Counties, Cities, and Towns Other countries Politics Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the United... Languages Predominantly American English Religions Predominantly Christianity and Islam Related ethnic groups Sub-Saharan Africans and other African groups, some with Native American groups. ... Amendment XV in the National Archives 1870 celebration of the 15th amendment as a guarantee of African American rights 1867 drawing depicting the first vote by African Americans Amendment XV (the Fifteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution provides that governments in the United States may not prevent a citizen... Edward Douglass White (November 3, 1845 – May 19, 1921), American politician and jurist, was a United States Senator, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and the ninth Chief Justice of the United States. ... Joseph McKenna (August 10, 1843–November 21, 1926) was an American politician who served in all three branches of the U.S. federal government, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as U.S. Attorney General and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. ... Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ... Categories: People stubs | U.S. Supreme Court justices | Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit | U.S. Secretaries of State | Spanish-American War people | American lawyers | 1849 births | 1923 deaths ... Charles Evans Hughes (April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948) was Governor of New York, United States Secretary of State, Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the United States. ... Willis Van Devanter (April 17, 1859 - February 8, 1941), associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, January 3, 1911 to June 2, 1937. ... Joseph Rucker Lamar (October 15, 1857 – January 2, 1916) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court appointed by President William Howard Taft. ... Categories: People stubs | U.S. Supreme Court justices | New Jersey Supreme Court justices | New Jersey State Senators | Members of the U.S. House of Representatives | 1858 births | 1924 deaths ... Justice McReynolds, c. ... Amendment XV in the National Archives 1870 celebration of the 15th amendment as a guarantee of African American rights 1867 drawing depicting the first vote by African Americans Amendment XV (the Fifteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution provides that governments in the United States may not prevent a citizen... // The United States Reports, the official reporter of the Supreme Court of the United States Case citation is the system used in common law countries such as the United States, England and Wales, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia and India to uniquely identify the location of past court... 1915 (MCMXV) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Federal courts Supreme Court Chief Justice Associate Justices Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures State Courts Counties, Cities, and Towns Other countries Politics Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the United... The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and Border States of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965 and affected African Americans and many other races. ... 1865 (MDCCCLXV) is a common year starting on Sunday. ... 1964 (MCMLXIV) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1964 calendar). ...


"In 1915, in the case of Guinn v. United States, the Supreme Court declared the grandfather clauses in the Maryland and Oklahoma constitutions to be repugnant to the Fifteenth Amendment and therefore null and void." (Franklin, Moss p.353)

Contents

Background

At the time of the admission of Oklahoma into the Union, in 1907, that state adopted a constitution which allowed blacks to vote, in compliance with the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, an amendment to the Constitution soon followed, requiring voters to be literate; a loophole in the amendment allowed illiterates to vote if they could prove either that their grandfathers had been voters or had been citizens of some foreign nation. As a result, illiterate whites were able to vote — but not illiterate blacks, whose grandfathers had almost all been slaves and therefore barred from voting. This and similar laws have been labeled as the first grandfather clause. Official language(s) None Capital Oklahoma City Largest city Oklahoma City Area  Ranked 20th  - Total 69,960 sq mi (181,196 km²)  - Width 230 miles (370 km)  - Length 298 miles (480 km)  - % water 1. ... 1907 (MCMVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... Amendment XV in the National Archives 1870 celebration of the 15th amendment as a guarantee of African American rights 1867 drawing depicting the first vote by African Americans Amendment XV (the Fifteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution provides that governments in the United States may not prevent a citizen... Wikisource has original text related to this article: Constitution of the United States of America Page one of the original copy of the Constitution. ... In American English, a Grandfather clause is an exception that allows an old rule to continue to apply to some existing situations, when a new rule will apply to all future situations. ...


The Oklahoma amendment provided:

"No person shall be registered as an elector of this state or be allowed to vote in any election held herein, unless he be able to read and write any section of the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma; but no person who was, on January 1st, 1866, or any time prior thereto, entitled to vote under any form of government, or who at that time resided in some foreign nation, and no lineal descendant of such person, shall be denied the right to register and vote because of his inability to so read and write sections of such Constitution. Precinct election inspectors having in charge the registration of electors shall enforce the provisions of this section at the time of registration, provided registration be required. Should registration be dispensed with, the provisions of this section shall be enforced by the precinct election officers when electors apply for ballots to vote."

The amendment came into force before the election of November 8, 1910 was held. During that election, certain election officers refused to allow black citizens to vote; those officers were indicted and convicted of fraudulently disenfranchishing black voters, in violation of the 15th Amendment and in violation of Oklahoma State Law. 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ...


The Case

Argued before the Court on October 17, 1913. The case represented the second appearance before the Court of Solicitor General John W. Davis and the first case in which the NAACP filed a brief. October 17 is the 290th day of the year (291st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1913 (MCMXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... The United States Solicitor General is the individual appointed to argue for the Government of the United States in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, when the government is party to a case. ... John William Davis John William Davis (April 13, 1873 — March 24, 1955) was an American politician and lawyer. ... The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is one of the oldest and most influential hate organizations in the United States. ...


The Decision

In its decision handed down on June 21, 1915, the Court ruled that an Oklahoma law that provided an exemption that served no discernible purpose other than to favor white voters at the expense of African-American citizens' right to vote was unconstitutional. June 21 is the 172nd day of the year (173rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 193 days remaining. ... 1915 (MCMXV) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Official language(s) None Capital Oklahoma City Largest city Oklahoma City Area  Ranked 20th  - Total 69,960 sq mi (181,196 km²)  - Width 230 miles (370 km)  - Length 298 miles (480 km)  - % water 1. ... Languages Predominantly American English Religions Predominantly Christianity and Islam Related ethnic groups Sub-Saharan Africans and other African groups, some with Native American groups. ...


The Aftermath

The decision had little short-term effect, as Oklahoma immediately passed a statute that provided that all persons, except those who voted in 1914, who were qualified to vote in 1916 but who failed to register between April 30 and May 11, 1916, with some exceptions for sick and absent persons who were given an additional brief period to register, would be perpetually disenfranchised. That statute, allowing African-Americans twelve days in which to register or avoid permanent disenfranchisement, while exempting the white beneficiaries of the unlawful "grandfather" clause, was declared unconstitutional twenty-three years later in Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 (1939). 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ...


See also

This is a chronological list of notable cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. ... See also: American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) The civil rights movement in the United States has been a long, primarily nonviolent struggle to bring full civil rights and equality under the law to all Americans. ...

External links

  • Full text of the decision courtesy of Findlaw.com

 
 

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