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With the recent Supreme Court ruling declaring the right to vote will be again subject to the whims of those in power, it is important to understand why we needed the Act in the first place.

Photograph of President Lyndon Johnson Signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., with Other Civil Rights Leaders in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC, 08/06/1965

The efforts to treat Blacks in the US as chattel failed eventually. But there was little to stop the white majority from enacting other laws that made Blacks just as powerless.

In the century following Reconstruction, African Americans in the South faced overwhelming obstacles to voting. Despite the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which had enfranchised black men and women, southern voter registration boards used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic impediments to deny African Americans their legal rights. Southern blacks also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, African Americans had little if any political power, either locally or nationally. In Mississippi, for instance, only five percent of eligible blacks were registered to vote in 1960

The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  grew out of both public protest and private political negotiation. Starting in 1961, CORE joined SCLC in staging nonviolent demonstrations in Georgia, and Birmingham. They hoped to attract national media attention and pressure the U.S. government to protect Black's constitutional rights. Newspaper photos and TV broadcasts of Birmingham's racist police commissioner, Eugene "Bull" Connor, and his men violently attacking the protesters with water hoses, police dogs, and nightsticks awakened the consciences of whites.        

In many states violence was a part of ensuring that Black voters could not have their voices heard. As were laws meant to ensure gaining the vote was impossible.
In 1902 the legislature passed the poll-tax law (see ELECTION LAWS), and the next year Texas Democrats implemented the white primary. These mechanisms disfranchised blacks, and Mexican Americans for that matter, for white society did not regard Tejanos as belonging to the "white" race. Progressive reformers of the age viewed both minority groups as having a corrupting influence on politics. By the late 1920s, Texas politicians had effectively immobilized African-Texan voters through court cases that defined political parties as private organizations that could exclude members. Some scholars have estimated that no more than 40,000 of the estimated 160,000 eligible black voters retained their franchise in the 1920s.

Newer Jim Crow laws in the early twentieth century increased the segregation of the races, and in the cities, black migrants from the rural areas joined their urban compatriots in ghettoes. The laws ordinarily did not target Mexicans but were enforced on the premise that Mexicans were an inferior and unhygienic people. Thus Tejanos were relegated to separate residential areas or designated public facilities. Hispanics, although mostly Catholic in faith, worshiped at largely segregated churches. Blacks and Hispanics attended segregated and inferior "colored" and "Mexican" schools. As late as the mid-1950s, the state legislature passed segregationist laws directed at blacks (and by implication to Tejanos), some dealing with education, others with residential areas and public accommodations. Gov. R. Allan Shivers, who opposed the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, went so far as to call out the Texas Rangers at Mansfield in 1956 to prevent black students from entering the public school (see MANSFIELD SCHOOL DESEGREGATION INCIDENT). Although Marion Price Daniel, Sr., Shivers's successor, was more tolerant, the integration process in Texas was slow and painful. Supreme Court decisions in 1969 and 1971 ordered school districts to increase the number of black students in white schools through the extremely controversial practice of busing.

Violence in the era until the Great Depression years resembled that of the nineteenth century. In the ten-year period before 1910, white Texans lynched about 100 black men, at times after sadistic torture. Between 1900 and 1920, numerous race riots broke out, with black Texans generally witnessing their homes and neighborhoods destroyed in acts of vengeance. Similarly, Tejanos became victims of Anglo wrath for insult, injury, or death of a white man, and Anglos applied lynch law to Tejanos with the same vindictiveness as they did to blacks.

Eventually protests got the attention of the media. And white voters of good conscience joined them in their efforts.

Voting Rights Act of 1965

And the only Black member of Congress testified on the Act and why it was needed.

Statement of Congressman John Conyers, Jr., on House Resolution 6400, 04/01/1965 (page 1 of 2)

There was a longstanding effort to remove these voters from voting.

Proposed Disfranchisement of Puerto Ricans - June, 1917

Tests were required of Black voters many graded by white poll workers that were not required to take them.

Literacy Test

 And then there were places that would ask you to guess the correct number of cotton balls in a jar before you were allowed to vote. Or how many bubbles in a bar of soap.

That was an easy one.

 Look at the thirty question test in this article and you will see questions no one can answer.

We know why this law was put in place. To protect the vote. We can clearly look to the past to see how repealing this Act is ruinous to Democracy.

ALEC CROW - 21st Century Disenfranchisement

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