The Black Women Who Fought to Turn Georgia Blue Say It Took Decades for Democrats to Listen

Illustration for article titled The Black Women Who Fought to Turn Georgia Blue Say It Took Decades for Democrats to Listen
Photo: Justin Sullivan / Staff (Getty Images)

When Democratic candidate Joe Biden pulled ahead of Donald Trump in Georgia, many people across the nation were surprised to see a state that had voted exclusively Republican in recent Presidential elections go blue during such a tight race. But activists in the state had always known it was possible. The New York Times talked with some of the Black women whose long-term work organizing around voter suppression in Georgia was integral to the state going to the Democrats in the 2020 Presidential election.

Felicia Davis has been organizing in her home of Clayton County for decades, choosing to canvass around issues rather than specific candidates, and always prioritizing her community.

“I am unapologetically Black,” Ms. Davis said. “My agenda is Black. My community is Black. My county is Black. So what I do is Black. And for 20 years, we’ve been trying to tell people what was possible.”

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Nse Ufot, who runs voter registration organization New Georgia Project, pointed out that it took a long time for national Democratic organizations to invest in the Black women organizers and activists who had been doing work to combat voter suppression on the state and local level for years.

“National campaign committees and presidential campaigns, like the D.N.C. and the D.C.C.C., would have their favorite pastor or their favorite community activists just run programs,” she said. “No accountability. No data.”

Ufot also pointed out that for years, Democrats had dismissed the idea that spending time, energy, and campaign dollars in Georgia and other Southern states was worth their time.

“Foundations were not supporting social justice and community building work here,” she said. “No one was looking at what’s happening in our rural areas, and no one’s looking at the small ways that people were being cheated out of their own democracy by having these voter suppression laws. People weren’t even paying attention, because they thought that’s just the way it was here.”

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Stacey Abrams, who many have designated as the face of the fight against voter suppression in Georgia, credits local organizers with doing the hard work necessary to help the Democratic Party gain traction in the state.

“... When I got into those places, there was always someone there to meet me — who had been waiting for someone to come to help connect and help them build this network.”

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Despite the necessity of the work done by Black women in Georgia to help turn the state blue, Abrams dislikes the slogan “trust Black women.”

“I appreciate the necessity of that battle cry,” Ms. Abrams said. “And in my approach, in Georgia in particular, Black women have been instrumental. But I chafe at this idea that we then objectify one group as both savior and as responsible party.”

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The Black women whose tireless work helped win Democrats the Presidential election don’t think their work is over—after all, they were doing this work long before this particular election. Deborah Scott, the founder of Georgia Stand Up, a nonprofit that organizes around alleviating poverty in the state, explained it perfectly.

“We weren’t surprised that Georgia turned blue, because we’ve been working on it for over 15 years.”

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Freelance writer & night blogger at Jezebel. Lover of television, astrology, and sandwiches.

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DISCUSSION

73vk13
Sandwich Librarian

Reminds me of Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy, grassroots organizing, getting into the weeds, and believing that progress, even victory, can be had if you get your message out.