This Day in History: 1944-04-03

The United States Supreme Court issues a landmark ruling on voting rights in Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944). The decision overturns the Texas state law that authorized political parties to set their internal rules, including the use of whites-only primaries. The court ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to delegate its authority over elections to parties in order to allow discrimination to be practiced. This ruling affected all other states where the parties used the white primary rule. The Democratic Party had effectively excluded minority voter participation by this means, another device for legal disenfranchisement of Blacks across the South beginning in the late 19th century. Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first African American justice on the Supreme Court, led the case as executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and stated that it was his most important case. Learn more.