cover image Blackballed: The Black Vote and U.S. Democracy

Blackballed: The Black Vote and U.S. Democracy

Darryl Pinckney. New York Review Books, $16.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-59017-769-3

The tactics have changed since the days when an “all-white school board in [Alabama] fired 32 black teachers who’d applied to register,” and when “no blacks were registered to vote” in a Mississippi county “that was 81% black,” but as novelist and essayist Pinckney (High Cotton) observes, there are now “new means by which to achieve the old aim: voter exclusion.” Pinckney conveys, calmly and lucidly, what this portends for American democracy. Other themes are embedded in his observations about the ballot: the impact of Obama’s presidency, which encompasses both his profound symbolic significance and the unfulfilled promise of a post-racial society; a purposeful and moving tribute to Pinckney’s parents and their generation’s engagement with civil rights; and the changes that have occurred since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the “most important piece of civil-rights litigation since the Fifteenth Amendment.” The emergence of new forms of discrimination include “gerrymanderings, redrawing districts, or at-large voting instead of district-by-district voting,” all “in the direction of trying to reduce the impact of the minority vote.” Pinckney’s book, which is the outgrowth of a lecture, is much like Doctor Who’s TARDIS: it appears small on the outside, but a capacious and mind-opening experience awaits within. (Oct.)