Campaigning for the Senate

Against Russell, Roosevelt, and Racial Equality

"I don't believe in racial equality!"

“Georgia would tax her white people and give 90 percent of the money to the negroes. You know and I know that not 10 percent of the white people would qualify. I protect the negros in his rights. I have friends among the Negroes of the state. I have been amongst them as they labored on my farms. But I don’t believe in racial equality and I don’t believe the negroes and good white people of Georgia do either.” 

Editor's Note: In July 1936, Eugene Talmadge announced he would campaign for senator against the incumbent, Richard Russell. As senator, Russell was an avid supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Talmadge, on the other hand, was a vocal critic of the New Deal and ran on a platform to eliminate and undermine New Deal programs in Georgia. The quote above comes from a July 20th, 1936 campaign speech in which Talmadge criticized Russell’s support for the New Deal and, the Social Security Act. Talmadge argued that an old age pension such as Social Security opened the door to integration and equal rights for African Americans.

In opposing the Social Security Act and other New Deal programs, Talmadge often made the racist claim that the New Deal would only give benefits to African Americans while white workers would see few benefits and ever higher taxes. For Georgia voters, the 1936 Senate election came down to a choice between supporting or opposing the New Deal. Georgia citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of the New Deal and Richard Russell. Talmadge ran for senator one more time against Walter George in 1938 and would again lose the election.