Race, discrimination and the right to vote due for African Americans

In America today most citizens have the right to vote regardless of race, or ethnicity. This was not always the case. Before 1965 many were denied the right to vote due to who they were. African American males were able to vote in 1870 with the 15th amendment and women in 1920 when women won the right to vote with the 19th amendment.

The problem was that even though the right to vote was granted through systematic prejudice and discrimination many were denied this right predominantly in the south. Before the 1965 voters right act was enacted it was difficult and, in many cases, impossible to vote.

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In the deep South registration was at times limited to only two days and if a someone who was Black tried to register, they might be harassed by the all-white local police force and face possible arrest or retribution against their family.

Employers, local businesses and even banks might enforce economic restrictions upon these individuals. Banks might not approve needed loans and force foreclosures; business might not purchase goods or sell them, and employers might dock pay. If these tactics did not work the KKK might become involved and in these cases violence would result. Rape, arson, murder, lynching’s and drive by shootings were some of the tactics used to prevent registration and voting.

In Alabama an African American would have to register at the court house. You would have to take the day off work. If a white employer allowed this then he could be called to appear before a council and have to answer questions and face consequences. On registration days the local police would be close by and harass, insult and possible arrest those going into court. The clerks would then continue the harassment of the individuals.

If you made it to the registration process you had to have someone vouch for you and they could not be white. The next step was to take an oath and then take the literacy test. All of these requirements could be changed at any time during the process. You might be called in front of a panel to recite parts of the Constitution and then take the written test. The 1965 Alabama Literacy test consisted of 68 questions and you had to get less then 7 wrong to pass. A Board of registrar would later make the final determination if you passed even if you received a hundred, they could deem you unworthy and fail you. If you were white you were grandfathered in and did not have to go before the board or take the test.

Due to the measures many states took to make sure that individual did not vote it should not be surprising that in these states white registration was close to 100% while African American registration was close to 0. The Supreme court would step in and declare these procedures and test unconstitutional and would then enact the 1965 Voters right Act. The act prohibits any type of racial discrimination against voters and guarantees the voting rights guaranteed by Constitution.

1) Take the 1965 Alabama Literacy test then look at the answers to see how you did. If you only answered partially mark as wrong, If you misspelled, abbreviated where they wanted a name or put a name instead of an abbreviation mark as wrong. Your answer must exactly match the correct answer.

/content/enforced/128810-SOC101_002_20SP_F1/1965 Alabama Literacy Test.docx

/content/enforced/128810-SOC101_002_20SP_F1/Answers to Alabama Literacy Test.docx

2) How did you fl after taking the test? How would you feel if I stated based on the test you would not be able to vote?

3) Why do you think southerners did not want anyone who was not white to voting? What were they afraid of? Make any connection to racism and other sociological issues such as power, politics, economics, ethnocentrism etc… in your answer.

4) As we learnt in the lecture If you were white, then you were grandfathered in and you did not have to take the test. This led to the 1965 voting rights act being enacted that protected all voters. Recently the Supreme court overturned section 4 of the act. What do you think might occur now that the part of the act has been overturned and do you think it is necessary to have legal protection for voters today?

5) What are your feeling on Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” in relation to the issue.

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