“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” ~ 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Ratified March 30, 1870
It has almost been 145 years since these words became the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting black men—mostly former slaves—the right to vote. It had been long fought for, and well deserved.
Still, their rights were denied.
The States found ways to block their right to vote with Jim Crow laws. Requiring such things as literacy tests and paying poll taxes, both which disqualified most black men, these laws’ primary goal was to prevent black men from voting. In landmark legislation, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned just Jim Crow laws during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. It took 95 years for black men (and women) to actually achieve this right.
We feel we have come so far. Sadly the Supreme Court struck down key parts of this legislation almost 50 years later.
On June 25, 2013, Section four of this act was banned under the mistaken belief that conditions have changed enough that the most prejudice states no longer need permission to do things like move polling places or redraw election districts, both tactics used to disenfranchise minority voters.
This was done at a time when we are starting to see history repeating, such as states currently adopting voting I.D. laws that target minorities.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: I have a dream…
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Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Timothy Young/Flickr