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(An Editorial Opinion)
(One Shared by a whole lot of others)

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Birth Place of America's Music and Drug War
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[NOTE: The following contains opinions on our part, but opinions that are shared by a whole host of other historians]

Ever wonder why the “War On Drugs” seems so un-winnable?   Why, after spending billions and billions of dollars and arresting who knows how many of our young people, that Drugs today are not only more readily available, but of a higher quality than ever before.   The war therefore appears to fly in the face of logic and reason, which would dictate that after more than a hundred years (especially given the kinds of money we've spent on this thing), that someone, somewhere would have figured out some kind of solution a long, long time ago.   Yet, NOTHING, and the only solution the prohibitionists can keep coming up with are requests for yet more money, more jails, tougher laws, longer prison sentences, more, more, more of the same thing that hasn’t worked in the past.   And the reason for this failure is simple.   We’ve NEVER HAD A “WAR ON DRUGS,” NOT EVER.   Instead, what we’ve had right from the get-go has been a “War On Blacks” masquerading itself as a Drug War, which it never was.

A situation that begs the following question; “Where exactly and under what conditions did this war come from?”   ---- The answer is simple and there is no guess work, the law books provide a clear path to its origin.   MISSISSIPPI 1890, the year that the good people of Mississippi decided to tweak their state constitution in such a way that . . . . well, let’s just say that those in power wanted to stay in power.

But before we can go further into this subject, we must first learn two things about JIM CROW.   First, Jim Crow (contrary to what many still believe) is and was not a series of laws designed to enforce racial segregation.   Instead it might be best to think of it as a tapestry (or a spider's web actually), of not just laws, but also of cultural, religious morals, of economic factors, and most of all of historical factors.   For our purposes here, just remember that Jim Crow was NOT about any one thing (a law, a religious taboo, etc.), but a myriad of laws, a myriad of social and economic factors.   In other words, it was not one thing, but a lot of things all happening at once.

Second, we must understand that Jim Crow, unlike other forms of (what we today would call) racism, was COVERT as opposed to OVERT.   Just think of an Ayn Rand novel in which the characters talk about the public good, how a new law was needed to serve the public, while in the back rooms all along scheming to enrich themselves from these laws.   In other words, what they said and what they meant were two different things.   --- Now with that short lesson about Jim Crow in mind, let's get back to what happened in 1890.

Although there were probably various other reasons why Mississippi held its Constitutional Convention in 1890, most if not all historians feel that the disenfranchisement of black voters was foremost on the minds of white voters and for very good reason.   There are those who still claim that it was the “Night Riders of the Triple-K,” through intimidation or whatever, who drove the black voters away from the voting booths.   Thus (at least in their minds) they were saving the old south by restoring white control, etc.   Which (at least in one person’s opinion), is just so much bull.   Yes, these clowns did indeed influence things a bit, but the real reason that southern whites were able to wrestle power away from blacks (even in places where black voters outnumbered the whites), had more to do with Education than anything else.   It was the whites who were educated at the time, and thus it was they who understand how the legal systems worked, how to lobby the politicians and influence political elections, etc.

Here whole books can be written about this subject, but for our purposes, it is enough to say that by the year 1890, things by now had changed quite a bit.   It could no longer be assumed that a black man walking down the street was illiterate.   Just like it was no longer unheard of to hear of a black doctor, or even a black lawyer.   Granted, one might have to go up a couple of counties up the road to meet one, but still there they were.   Simply put, education was no longer a white monopoly and it was becoming obvious that sooner or later blacks were going to start asking for their fair share of the pie.   Thus something had to be done, and done quickly; ---The solution, rewrite the constitution of Mississippi in such a way so as to ensure that blacks would stay in their place.

Now, it is true that there are those who disagree with the above statements, for example according to the New York Times:
“A key provision in the 1890 Constitution, later adopted by a number of other Southern states, provided that in order to vote a person must be able to read and understand any section of the State Constitution.   That provision was used to keep thousands of illiterate blacks from voting in the 1890's and later became the vehicle that virtually eliminated voting by blacks in Mississippi. “. . . . “Among other anti-black provisions in the 1890 Constitution was a poll tax for voting, a requirement that separate schools be maintained for black and white races and a prohibition of marriage between whites and blacks or whites and people of mixed ancestry.”
Thus implying that it was illiteracy that was used to keep blacks out of the voting booths.   However, I for one disagree.   Anyone who has read Booker T. Washington’s autobiography “Up From Slavery,” knows just how much value the recently freed slaves placed on education.   Booker Washington himself once said that as a boy he saw some white children going into a school house, and thought to himself that he would give up his right arm to be one of them.   And how (after the Civil War), blacks got together, even in makeshift shantytowns, and through their own efforts, set up the first black schools there.   And the national statistics confirm this as being the case, according to: https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp , (as per the U.S. Census Bureau)
1870 - Already over 20 percent of all backs (nationwide) were literate, and note that this was ONLY 5 years after the end of slavery.

1880 - A figure that by this year had now grown to 30 percent.

1890 - Which by 1890 had now grown to over 43 percent of the black population
Now granted, these were nationwide statistics, but regardless, the trend was obvious, blacks were becoming literate in larger and larger numbers, and soon were going to begin demanding their fair share of the pie.   Thus if action (to prevent black equality) was ever going to take place, it would have to be done quickly or else whites were soon to lose their privilege status.   Thus the need for and the logic behind the 1890 constitutional convention; So as to ensure that things stayed pretty much as is.

Which brings us now to the specific section of the ingenious 1890 constitution, which would one day lead to the creation of the Drug War as we know it today.
Sec. 241.
Every male inhabitant of this State, except idiots, insane persons and Indians not taxed, . . .. . . . . . and who has never been convicted of bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy, and who has paid, on or before the first day of February of the year in which he shall offer to vote, all taxes which may have been legally required of him, and which he has had an opportunity of paying according to law, for the two preceding years, . . . [more] . . is declared to be a qualified elector;
This section (Article 12, Sec. 241) is so important (historically speaking), that it might be best to go over its concepts, one by one.
    At first glance it appears that to be protecting the right of the voter, specifically stating that; “Every male inhabitant . . . is declared to be a qualified [voter].”   However, look a bit more closely as the wording also contains lots and lots of exceptions.

    Now, examine the wording; "Every Male."   This phrase is key to understanding why so many Black Men (but not Black Women), are incarcerated each and every year for drug crimes.   Simply put, women didn’t have the right to vote back then and so (for the purposes of Jim Crow) no one cared about them.   The idea was to go after the black men, not the women.

    Next, note the part about “ EXCEPT IDIOTS," which translates into (in my own words); “All voter registrants MUST be able to pass an intelligence test, [1] which for whatever reason, ALL whites seem to pass but few if any blacks ever did.”

    Then note the part about the "TAXES," which translates into a poll tax of two dollars [2] MUST BE PAID in order to be allowed the privilege of voting.   And we can be assured that an 1890’s dollar was worth a lot more than what it is today.   According to “www investment watch blog com”, those two 1890’s dollars (for the poll tax) would be the equivalent of more than fifty dollars in today’s money.   And it appears (depending upon interpretation) that you had to have paid this tax for the last two years.   Additionally, it should be noted that even today, there is a disparity between the income of blacks as opposed to other groups.   A disparity that was much, much greater back then.   Simply put, blacks just didn’t have the required two dollars.   However, on the good side, if you read closely, the poll tax was to be used for public schools (probably the white ones), so one can say that it's all done "For The children."

    Poll Tax Receipt 1917
And we can assure you that there is more, lot’s more scattered throughout the wording of the new constitution.   Just remember that Jim Crow was a multi-headed hydra, as well as a covert instrument.   --- NOW, let’s move on to the phrasing that would one day, lead to the creation of the drug war.
Sec. 241.”. and who has never been convicted of bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy”
Sounds innocent enough, in fact unless one were looking backwards in time, following the trail of the drug war, this phrasing would probably just slip by.   But look at the wording again, note that it is a list of crimes that automatically disenfranchise anyone convicted of any one of them.   Meaning mostly black people.

Now before going any further, we should take note that disenfranchising criminals was nothing new.   Long before 1890, it was recognized (even by the U.S. Supreme Court), that states had the right to deny convicted criminals the right to vote.   Even Mississippi’s (1817) Constitution called for disenfranchisement of convicted criminals and read as follows: [3]
" Laws shall be made to exclude from... suffrage, those who shall thereafter be convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors."
So disenfranchisement of criminals was nothing new.   WHAT WAS NEW is that before Mississippi 1890, disenfranchisement was imposed on all criminals who had committed what were then termed, “high Crimes” (felonies), meaning both whites as well as blacks were affected.   So what Mississippi did was brand new, in effect (as their purpose was to disenfranchise blacks but not whites) was to selectively use this method of disenfranchisement.   Thus, why the term “high crimes” was removed and an actual listing of disenfranchising crimes was created.   Example, note that Murder is NOT on the list, that is because (at that time) whites committed murders at the same rate as blacks.   Yet, burglary, an almost exclusively black crime was included.   In fact, let's go over the list to see just how rotten the whole thing was.
Crimes Committed Primarily by Whites: Granted such crimes as Bribery, Forgery and Embezzlement were primarily white crimes.   However, let’s be realistic, just how many convictions are going to result from those crimes per year?   Maybe a whole three individuals if that many at all?

Crimes Committed by both Blacks and Whites in Equal Numbers: "It must be presumed that crimes such as Bigamy, Perjury, Arson and (at least at first) Obtaining money or goods under false pretenses," are to be viewed as crimes equally being committed by both groups.   However, barring the later, (obtaining money or goods under false pretense), the reality is that few if any are going to be convicted for any of those crimes.

Crimes Committed Primarily by Blacks: Consisting of Burglary, Theft and to some extent, Obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, and here’s where we hit the Jack-Pot.   Crimes like House Burglary were not only epidemic back than but almost exclusively a crime committed by blacks.   Thus, the constitution virtually guaranteed large number of black voter disenfranchisements.
And the new constitution worked way, way beyond the expectations of even the most ardent supporters of white supremacy.   By taking advantage of this loophole in the US constitution (which allowed it to withstand every court challenge), the state was legally able to disenfranchise incredibly large numbers of blacks.   In fact, it was so successful that it soon became a model used by various other states (both north and south), which also had (ah) worries about black voters.

And while there will be some who will question the logistics of giving every black male a felony conviction, take assurance in what is happening today.   Example: Some time ago, it was noticed that Paterson New Jersey, while having a large black population, had very few African American registered voters.   So a voter registration campaign was launched.   However, when the campaign was actually initiated it turned out that somewhere around a third of all African American males living in Paterson N.J., were ineligible to vote due to felony convictions.   In fact, the number of all African American males with felony convictions stands today at around 20%, while in the general population the figure is less than 2%.   And this is in our era, with so many protections in place.   One can only imagine what it must have been like to have lived in pre-Civil rights Mississippi, when police (ah, how shall we say it), used less restraints on who they arrested and what kind of drugs (or knifes, or whatever) they planted as evidence.   Convicting any (ah) uppity up Negro, must have been an easy breezy action back then, and the best part was that not only did you intimidate all the other uppity-up Negro’s, but you didn’t have to spend too much money on incarceration costs, as all that was required for disenfranchisement was a conviction.   Even a conviction and a fifty-cent fine was more than enough.

Pancho Vila

Drug laws in America are nothing new.   Poison Control Laws (as they were termed back then), can be traced all the way back to the colonial times.   However, in general poison control laws were viewed as just that, laws meant to protect the public against questionable substances (aka Quack Medicines).   And while true, some communities did make use of such laws as a form of morality enforcement (mostly against alcohol), still in general there was no thought of creating a Drug War of any kind.   Simply put, these laws were similar in nature to today’s consumer protection laws and that was all.

However, all that was soon to change; --Using Mississippi’s Constitutional ‘Selective Crimes’ disenfranchisement’ clause as a model.   One that due to the court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution itself had withstood all federal court challenges.   Other states quickly followed suit, and needless to say, those in power soon began looking for yet other crimes to add to the list.   Crimes which, needless to say, were seemed to be committed primarily (if not exclusively by people of color), but not by whites.

Given such conditions, and a very strong desire not to see black people voting, one can quickly see how NOT JUST drugs, but specifically the Marihuana laws came into play.   And after all, why shouldn’t they? Was it not a fact that (at least in the opening days of the anti-Marihuana drives) Marihuana use was primarily (if not solely) used by Brown and blacks skin peoples?   Thus, laws preventing the legal use of Marihuana began making their way through state legislatures.

Triple K

-- While most of us today see groups like the Triple-K as a sort of running joke.   The white sheets, the burning crosses, etc.   And contrary to the myth (while taking some role) they were not the main driver preventing blacks from voting.   Still it must be remembered that (leaving race out of the picture for now), the Klan et al, also stood for family values.   Being in many cases full supporters of alcohol prohibition.   Thus one can see how drug laws, especially the Brown Skin Marihuana laws, would also fit in well with their agenda.

However, remembering that Jim Crow was a covert, as opposed to an overt, instrument, here comes the tricky part.   How do you outlaw something (say like using Marihuana), which plainly only colored folks were using at the time, while not attracting the ire of those damned northern white liberals? The solution was simple.   Just start calling Cannabis (its scientific name, used by the medical profession at the time), by a derogatory name like Marihuana (such as in those brown skin marijuana’s) and refer to it as a new deadly drug.   Thus after a little demonizing, Jim Crow would then say that it was all being done to “protect the children.”

Perhaps it would be enlightening to work through a hypothetical example:

Let's pretend, that a group of dark skin races are in political power.   And this group (in power) is simply hell-bent on preventing light skin people from being able to vote.   Now, let’s also pretend that these same people in power were also kept in check by a bunch of goody-goody liberals at the Federal level.   So how does one go about stopping those light skins from voting WITHOUT drawing the ire of those liberals at the federal level?   The answer is simple;
  •   You first find something that is being done by light skins that is not being done by the darks.   Something like say, using sun-tan lotion.
  •   Next, you target (in this case Sun Tan Lotion) for demonizing.   You start referring to it as “Demon Lotion”, or some such name.
  •   Then you have the cops (those you can trust) going out and speaking about the evils of the Demon-Lotion.   Claiming that some of its addicts (the users are addicts now), are running amuck chopping people's heads off or something.
  •   Some newspapers begin to carry editorials about how we had to outlaw this demon lotion.
Thus the law was NOT designed to discriminate against light skins, but to protect the children.   And the fact that a conviction under this new law would lead to voter deregistration, well again, the law was there solely to “protect the children,” and those who oppose the law, why they were simply against the children.

As stated elsewhere, Jim Crow was and is, a multi-headed hydra, meaning that it did not rely on any one thing to accomplish its goals.   However, the use of “Selective Disenfranchisement” by any measure was one of their most successful tactics.   Even to this very day, as one little old lady so well put it.   "I’m against drugs, however I now support legalization here in DC because I just found out that eight out of every nine of those arrested for Marihuana are black."

Richard Nixon
John Ehrlichman
John Ehrlichman

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “WAR ON DRUGS.”   He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.   Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer.   In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use.   Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations. . . . [4]

It would be another 45 years until we were told what had really happened.   In the words of John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s adviser on domestic affairs.
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.   You understand what I'm saying?   We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.   We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.   DID WE KNOW WE WERE LYING ABOUT THE DRUGS?   OF COURSE WE DID."   ---John Ehrlichman president Richard Nixon’s adviser on domestic affairs

  Sec. 224 of the (1890) Mississippi Constitution reads as follows:
“On and after the first day of January, A. D., 1892, every elector shall, in addition to the foregoing qualifications, be able to read any section of the constitution of this State; or he shall be able to understand the same when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation thereof. “
And while on the surface, every potential voter would have to take such an intelligence test, the way things would actually work out, it appears that whites had a very easy time of it, while blacks just couldn’t pass.
[2]-   Sec. 243 of the (1890) Mississippi Constitution reads as follows:
“A uniform poll tax of two dollars, to be used in aid of the common schools, and for no other purpose, is hereby imposed on every male inhabitant of this State between the ages of twenty-one and sixty years, except persons who are deaf and dumb or blind, or who are maimed by loss of hand or foot; said tax to be a lien only upon taxable property.   The board of supervisors of any county may, for the purpose of aiding the common schools in that county, increase the poll tax in said county, but in no case shall the entire poll tax exceed in any one year three dollars on each poll. “
And we can be assured that an 1890’s dollar was worth a lot more than what it is today.   According to “www investment watch blog com”, those two 1890’s dollars (for the poll tax) would be the equivalent of more than fifty dollars in today’s money.   And it appears (depending upon interpretation) that you had to have paid this tax for the last two years.   Additionally, it should be noted that even today, there is a disparity between the income of blacks as opposed to other groups.   A disparity that was, much, much greater back then, simply put, blacks just didn’t have the required two dollars.
[3]-   http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000016
“Mississippi's (1817) constitution states:   "Laws shall be made to exclude from... suffrage, those who shall thereafter be convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors."
[4]-   some wording taken from:

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