Joseph L. Bernd collection of Federal Bureau of Investigation records on the 1946 Georgia election
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Joseph L. Bernd collection of Federal Bureau of Investigation records on the 1946 Georgia election

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Georgia Historical Society
Creator: Bernd, Joseph L.
Title: Joseph L. Bernd collection of Federal Bureau of Investigation records on the 1946 Georgia election
Dates: 1946
Extent: 0.5 cubic feet (1 box)
Identification: MS 5920

Biographical/Historical Note

Joseph L. Bernd was born on 8 December 1923 in Blacksburg, Virginia. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, he was living in Macon, Georgia that year with his parents, Lawrence and Eva Bernd and his sibling, Augustus. In 1959, he served as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at High Point College in North Carolina, and later joined the staff of the Department of Political Science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Bernd died in May of 1984.

Bernd's publications include: A Study of Primary Elections in Georgia, 1946-1954 (1957); The Role of Campaign Funds in Georgia Primary Elections, 1936-1958 (1958); Recent Restrictions Upon Negro Suffrage: The Case of Georgia (1959); Grass Roots Politics in Georgia: The County Unit System and the Importance of the Individual Voting Community in Bi-factional Elections, 1942-1954 (1960); Some Problems in the Theory of political coalitions (1967); The Theory of Political Coalitions: Problems of Validity and Verification (1968); Equal Protection of Voting Rights: The Logic of One Person, One Vote (1968); and Assassination and Hypnosis: Political Influence or Conspiracy? (1969).

Scope and Content Note

In the summer of 1946, Lamar Caudle, Assistant Attorney General in Washington, D.C. contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to launch a comprehensive investigation of every allegation of deprivation of civil rights of African Americans in the south in connection with the 1946 election. The investigation was based on complaints that the political supporters of Eugene Talmadge, a candidate for Governor, were making efforts "to bring about the wholesale purge" of African Americans from the voter registration lists regardless of their qualifications under Georgia law. The claims led to separate investigations in ninety counties in Georgia including: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Baldwin, Barrow, Bartow, Ben Hill, Bibb, Bleckley, Brooks, Bullock, Butts, Calhoun, Camden, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clark, Clay, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Douglas, Early, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hall, Hancock, Haralson, Hart, Henry, Houston, Irwin, Jackson, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Jones, Lamar, Laurens, Liberty, Long, Macon, Madison, Marion, Meriwether, Miller, Mitchell, Monroe, Montgomery, McDuffie, McIntosh, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Peach, Pierce, Polk, Putnam, Randolph, Rockdale, Schley, Seminole, Spalding, Stewart, Sumter, Taylor, Telfair, Thomas, Toombs, Twiggs, Upson, Walton, Warren, Washington, Wilcox, Wilkes, Wilkinson, and Worth.

The photocopies of FBI reports in this collection detail civil rights and domestic violence claims by countless victims throughout the state and contain interviews with complainants, challengers, members of county Board of Registrars, and others. Also included are diagrams with legends about attacks on homes, memorandums, and speeches. Examples of the numerous claims include: picketers outside polling places armed with sticks and rocks in Manchester, Georgia threatening African American voters; white men burning a fiery cross in Greenville, Georgia where approximately 52 registered voters were prevented from voting; in Meriwether County, 700 challenges were filed against all black voters registered since 1944 and 400 of the voters were disqualified at a hearing of the Board of Registrars or by failure to appear when subpoenaed; in Cairo, Georgia approximately 21 automobiles and trucks containing masked white men shooting rifles, shotguns, and revolvers visited the homes of three prominent African American citizens telling them not to go to the polls and instructing them to their friends not to go to the polls.

The records were obtained by Joseph L. Bernd as part of a thirty-year project that began in the 1950s. The files where used in his research for, This Georgia Rising: Education, Civil Rights, and the Politics of Change and are footnoted on page 131. The files are only partially redacted and in many cases include the names of witnesses, participants, and victims involved in the investigations.

The Georgia Historical Society contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for permission prior to making these records available to the public. According to Associate Division Counsel of the FBI in Atlanta, any information that has gone through the Freedom of Information Act process and made available to an individual citizen is considered to be public information and may be made available to a wider audience for research purposes.

Index Terms

African Americans--Georgia--Politics and government--20th century.
Civil rights--Georgia.
Speeches (documents)
United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Voter registration--Georgia.

Administrative Information

Processing information

This collection is processed at the Basic Level (or collection level). There is no detailed inventory for this collection as it is not fully processed. To request that this collection be added to our priority list of collections to be fully processed as staffing and funding allow, please contact the Library and Archives staff.


Access restrictions

Collection is open for research.