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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Double voting discriminates against Native Americans

This excerpt offers a brief look at a subtle form of discrimination. Nakell describes double voting, a source of controversy in Robeson County. Nakell explains that city residents in certain areas could vote for both city and county boards of education, while county residents could vote only for county school boards. Double voting gave city residents a disproportionate hand in how schools in the area were run, and it seems that rural Native Americans were thus denied some influence over how their schools operated. (For more specificity and accuracy, researchers interested in double voting should parse Nakell's explanation themselves.)

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So when we started talking about the situation of education in Robeson County, we talked about various problems of oppression, racial oppression of racial tensions, but one that stuck out as one that we might address next, should address next was the problem of double voting. That’s a very clear name, very expressive name. It’s not exactly right. It was more like partial double voting. The situation was at the time that there were six boards of education in Robeson County. One was called the county board of education. Five were called city boards of education. There was a Lumberton Board of Education, a Red Springs Board of Education, et cetera. By the way feel free to interrupt me at any time. MM: I will. You’re doing great. But I’m sort of making a few notes but keep going. I will if I need to. BN: Well, you may be familiar with this general situation, but I’ll describe it. MM: Yeah, please do. BN: The law at the time provided that--well, let me back up a little bit and say that the county, each board of education had jurisdiction over the schools within its area only. So the county board of education was responsible for the schools in the county area only and had nothing to do with the governance of the schools in any of the city areas. The city boards of education governed the schools in their area and had nothing to do with governing the schools in the county at all. They were all separate and ran the schools in their separate areas, much like right now we have a city and county school board in Orange County here, but the county school board has nothing to do with the city schools. So the name county school board is a kind of a misnomer. It ran the schools outside of the cities. But it did not run all the schools in the county. It had nothing to do with the schools, governance for the schools, in the cities. So that’s the way, so all the six boards of education were all entirely separate. All ran their own schools. The election process was our concern. The law at the time provided that anybody who lived any place in the county would vote for the county school board, but only people who lived in the cities could vote for each, lived in each city could vote for each city school board. So, the upshot was that everybody in the county elected the county school board, but only people who lived in Lumberton elected the Lumberton School Board. Only people who lived in Red Springs elected the Red Springs School Board. Only people who lived in Maxton elected the Maxton School Board et cetera. As it happened, most of the Indians in Robeson County were in the county schools, the schools administered by the county board of education. The upshot of this meant that because people who lived in the cities could vote for the county school board, the people who lived in the county area, which were largely the Indians, did not control their own schools. They were controlled instead by people who lived in the cities. Whereas people who lived in the cities, each city, they controlled their own school board. So the name double voting meant that the people who lived in the cities could vote for their own school board plus the county school board. I call it partial double voting because the people who lived in the county, largely Indians, could only vote for the county school board, couldn’t vote for the city school boards.