Poll taxes Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Procedure initially used to raise revenue. Payment of such taxes eventually took the place of property ownership as a stipulation for voting, frequently keeping the poor, both white and black, from voting.

To get around the Fifteenth AmendmentFifteenth Amendment;poll taxes[poll taxes], which guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, states throughout the South required only African American voters to show payment of the poll tax. In Williams v. Mississippi[case]Williams v. Mississippi[Williams v. Mississippi] (1898), the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Mississippi solution, which required poll taxes, literacy tests, and residency of black voters. Along with other devices employed to deny the franchise to African Americans, such as white primaries and the grandfather clause, poll taxes persisted. In Breedlove v. Suttles[case]Breedlove v. Suttles[Breedlove v. Suttles] (1937), the Court upheld a poll tax as a qualification for voting.African Americans;poll taxes[poll taxes]

During a parade for victory in World War II, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People displayed a monkey in a cage to protest poll taxes.

(Library of Congress)

In 1964 the Twenty-fourth AmendmentTwenty-fourth Amendment was passed and ratified, eliminating poll taxes in federal elections. In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections[case]Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections[Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections] (1966), the Court declared poll taxes a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in state elections. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, amended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, successfully removed discriminatory voting practices, of which poll taxes were an integral part.

Breedlove v. Suttles

Civil Rights movement


Equal protection clause

Fifteenth Amendment

Grandfather clause

Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections

Twenty-fourth Amendment

Vote, right to

White primaries

Williams v. Mississippi

Categories: History