In a 1985 edition of Southern Changes: The Journal of the Southern Regional Council, Allen Tullos penned an article on the attempted prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in West Alabama. Tullos’s article, “Crackdown in the Black Belt,” was recently cited in a New York Times piece about the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions was the United States attorney in West Alabama who pursued and lost the case against the activists in 1986. Check out the excerpt below and read the full Times article, “The Voter Fraud Case Jeff Sessions Lost and Can’t Escape.” Dr. Tullos is Professor of History and Co-Director of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship.
In Perry County, the polls were only open for four hours in the afternoon, even though nearly one-third of adults worked outside the county and another 15 percent were over the age of 65. White voters used absentee balloting to keep their level of participation high among local residents and also to include some who had moved away. “Letters would go out from white elected officials to a list of people they knew who owned land locally but lived elsewhere: ‘Make sure you vote absentee,’” says Allen Tullos, a historian at Emory University who has written about the Turner case. “The white power structure felt under siege, so there was a sense of ‘We’ve got to call in our friends and families to roll this back.'”