A Woman’s History Month Salute to Elaine Harvey

Elaine Harvey one of many quiet unsung heroines for human and civil rights.
Photo Credit: (c) 2017 Harold Michael Harvey

Today, I salute Elaine Harvey. When she turned 18 years old, she asked her dad if he would take her into town so she could register to vote. He did not want to bring the rath of the KKK onto his family farm in Middle Georgia.

Thus, he refused her request, with a stern warning that she was not to go into town “fooling with them white folks.”

Her great granddad, Joseph Harvey, was the first member of the family and among the first Blacks in the county to register to vote when he affixed his “Mark” on a Loyalty Oath on April 30, 1868.

When her dad had gone back to plowing his field, she summoned the courage to jump onto her bicycle and headed towards town. Her siblings and cousins laughed at her as she began her eight mile trek to the county seat. For many years after that day, they continued to make fun of how “silly” it was to think that white people in the county would allow a Negro to vote.

She was undaunted. Reaching the county courthouse, she asked to register to vote. The county registrar without acknowledging her presence, handed her a copy of the U S Constitution and snarled at her:

“Read this!”

“Oh I know all about that book,” she excitedly replied, just having completed her first quarter at Fort Valley State College.

She then began to recite the preamble to the constitution. The registrar snatched the book from her hands and bellowed:

“I said read this,” then thrust the book back into her hands.

Whereupon, Harvey began to fluently read the preamble to the constitution. Before she could finish reading, the registrar handed her a voter registration application and said, “sign right thar.”

Thus, she was able to vote in the 1948 Presidential Election. A vote she cast for Harry Truman.

Hearing this story as a preteen, I could not wait to turn 18 years old. When I did, I registered. My first ballot was cast for Johnny Ford, the first Black mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama.

Last fall, Black women, in the spirit of Elaine Harvey, flocked to Alabama to help elect Doug Jones to the U S Senate, many worked the streets of Macon County, Tuskegee, Alabama. This area gave Jones the largest percentage of its votes than any other county in Alabama.

Jones won! Courageous women, all.

Now you know the rest of the story.


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Published by Michael

Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.

4 replies on “A Woman’s History Month Salute to Elaine Harvey”

    1. Nope, not my fault. 1970 is a long way from 2018.Beside he was not the point of the story, just a historical footnote that what was begun in my mom in 1948 benefited Tuskegee, Alabama at a time they were trying to get from under the control of white segregationist. I think I and other Macon County voters made the right selection in 1970.

      1. My friend that was a joke… Sorry, I put it in this arena. Wasn’t thinking.

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