Vanderbilt Law Review


Armand Derfner

First Page



Lawyers in voting discrimination cases are fond of quoting Justice Frankfurter's dictum that "the [Fifteenth] Amendment nullifies sophisticated as well as simple-minded modes of discrimination."' Unfortunately for historical accuracy and for the health of our society, this statement simply has been false for most of the century since the passage of that amendment. In the past fifteen years, however, a change has begun, and the right to vote without discrimination has gained substance. This Article is an effort to describe today's law of voting discrimination, and how that law developed. Because the present state of this area is so largely a product of its tortured history, it will be necessary to begin with a history of black enfranchisement. This history revolves chiefly about three major,short periods of dramatic change, separated by years of generally downward drift. For each of these periods, this Article will examine the varying response of the federal branches to the unceasing disfranchisement efforts of the states.