[Justice Oliver Wendell] Holmes did our society a grave injustice when, in 1903, writing for a majority of six, he held that Negroes could not bring an action in the federal courts to protect their constitutional right to vote by forcing state officers to register them (Giles v. Harris, 189 U.S. 475). Why? Because, he said, the issue was "political" not "justiciable." The remedy, in other words, was to be found in political procedures; there was not a judicial remedy.
Yet imagine! What "political" remedies did black people have in Alabama at the turn of the century? The votes were with the whites, and control was in the hands of the anti-black political machine. The voices of blacks were muted, for they had no audience. The whites put them in their "proper" place, and kept them there. They were citizens by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment, but their citizenship was second-class. There are, of course, as Holmes said, many "political" issues which are left either for the executive or the legislative exclusively, issues in which the judiciary has no hand. But the protection of the right to vote, expressly conferred by the Constitution, is grist for the judicial mill, as dozens upon dozens of cases illustrate. When Holmes rejected the Negroes' plea in 1903, he left them without an effective remedy for sixty years. Congress in time acted, but meanwhile two generations of black people were denied the franchise. Political equality, as envisaged by the Constitution, was long defeated, and conditions in the ghettoes festered.
— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, The Court Years: 1939-1975, 134-35 (1980).