Voting Act Of 65 Essay, Research Paper
Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the most significant laws passed in the last century. The act insured the right to vote for African Americans who had been discriminated against ever since 1870, at least so far as de jure segregation is concerned, under the 15th Amendment. The general importance of this act, however, is more clearly seen as one looks at the broad effects and consequences of this act. After this act was passed, America essentially became the democracy our forefathers created nearly two and half centuries ago. The bill of rights had now applied to every citizen of the United States regardless of race, ethnicity, or background. The significance of this act can be revealed most clearly through the fact that black people had the right to vote, America became a more democratic nation, the bill of rights was applied to every citizen, discrimination was outlawed, the states had lost a significant amount of their sovereignty, and the south was forever changed.
The blacks had always had it bad and were always fighting for civil rights. One main right that the blacks were striving for was the right to vote. Many blacks tried to register to vote, but the states would not allow them. Many states made their own tests which the blacks had to pass in order to vote. The tests were designed so that the blacks would fail and the states could say they gave them a chance.
An example of these tests includes the literacy test that Mississippi had. This test would consist of a reading composition that they had to read and answer specific questions pertaining to the composition of the document. The problem, however, remained that the blacks that were trying to register to vote would not be able to read because their parents and grandparents had been slaves and there was no one to teach them how to read (Hudson 61). Even if a black would pass the literacy test, the registar would determine him illiterate. A good example of this is when six blacks in Forrest County, Mississippi, all with baccalaureate degrees and three with masters tried to register to vote but were refused because they were determined illiterate (Hudson 61).
Another example of these tests was the Grandfather Clause which was associated with Louisiana. This clause basically said that if your grandfather was a slave you did not have the right to vote. This was corrupt because nearly every black in Louisiana had a grandfather who was once a slave (Sefton 1). These two examples that I have presented show how the states overruled the national amendments of the United States Constitution. The states wanted to retain their sovereignty and control the rights given out to the blacks because they feared universal suffrage would hamper their local autonomous representation.
Many consequences came about to those blacks who tried to register to vote and to those who supported black voting rights. They were harassed, beaten, or even killed for trying to register or even supporting the registration of blacks (Before 1). Although the violence was tough, the blacks fought through the discrimination. When the violence finally ceased to be an effective deterrent, the whites used economic pressures. For example, in Mississippi the counties of LeFlore and Sunflower, which were very poor counties, had the federal food relief cut off by the whites(Before 1).
The Selma to Montgomery march was one of the most significant times in the tasks to gain complete civil right by gaining the right to vote. The main reason the blacks traveled from Selma to Montgomery was because the old confederacy was held there. Montgomery was the heart of southern pride and classic ideals because Jefferson Davis had had the confederate congress there. The significance was that blacks displayed a symbolic gesture by marching from Selma to Montgomery, the heart of the confederacy, to say you can not discriminate against us anymore.
It was on Bloody Sunday , March 7, 1965, when about 600 civil rights marchers moved east out of Selma toward Montgomery on U.S. Route 80. The marchers only got to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was only six blocks away from their church, where they were bombarded with tear gas and billy clubs by local and state lawmakers and driven back to Selma (From Selma 1). The second march occurred only two days later on March 9 when Martin Luther King Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge. After this trip that Dr. King Jr. led, President Johnson told Governor George C. Wallace that the riots need to stop and the blacks need to stop being beat (From Selma 1). Since President Johnson ordered Wallace to end the violence, the blacks decided to attempt another march on March 21. The march consisted of 3,200 marchers who set out walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. There were 25,000 strong by the time the marchers reached the capitol on March 25 (From Selma 1).
The Selma to Montgomery march had such a significant effect on the Voting Rights Act. In the summer of 1965, Congress was pushed by outrage at the events in Selma so they passed the Voting Rights Act. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote 378 to 74, and the Senate was 79 to 18 (Hudson 55). President Johnson who claimed that the signing of this act was his greatest accomplishment signed the bill on August 6, 1965. For once America was the democratic nation that it was based on and the guarantees of the amendments were given to all citizens (Hudson 55).
An effect of the Voting Rights Act consisted of the split within the civil rights movement. The split of the civil rights movement began to reveal itself at the Selma to Montgomery march. Since the blacks had been getting harassed, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, led by Stokely Charmichael, began to have conflicting opinions with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was a nonviolent group led by Martin Luther King Jr., and they wanted to take a more violent stance (SNCC 1). This group became more violent to try to stop the blacks from being beaten and abused. The Harlem riots of 1964 was a prime example of the turn the S.N.C.C. took away from nonviolence. It was the first urban race riot, and brought the topic of black-initiated violence into public debate. Such actions were no longer assumed to be counter productive (SNCC 1). This event, and eventally the rise of black power, led to the fall of nonviolence in SNCC. At the Selma to Montgomery march the differences between S.N.C.C. and S.C.L.C were evident for the first time as they tried to work together on a joint venture. Out of S.N.C.C. such radical groups as the Black Panthers arose to form what is now known as the Black Power Movement. This movement was responsible for the deterioration of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement had simply become too violent and the public lost interest (SNCC 1).
Another effect of the Voting Rights Act was the end of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or background so far as law is concerned. It was unconstitutional for a state to discriminate based on racial issues. Any individual born in the U.S. was a citizen and thereby had guaranteed freedoms under the protection of the constitution. The Bill of Rights applied to the post civil war amendments(ie. 13th, 14th, and 15th) and the blacks were guaranteed the basic freedoms of a democratic nation (The Effect 1). In 1896 the federal government tried to resolve this issue by ruling that you have separate but equal accommodations so far as segregation issues are concerned (Plessy 1). The reality of the matter was by separating they were discriminating. The ruling stated Our Constitution is color-blind. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law (Plessy 1), yet the reality was that the blacks still did not have the basic rights they were promised under the protection of the Bill of Rights.
Another effect of the Voting Rights Act was that the states lost most of the sovereignty they enjoyed since the founding of our nation. Previously states had the right to override federal jurisdiction without significant consequences, but since this act the federal government would interfere. Every citizen was guaranteed liberty and justice at least so far as the law was concerned (The Effect 1). An example of state sovereignty would be when the Sedition Act of 1798 was passed to ensure that no one spoke with intent to oppose any measure of the government and made it illegal for any person to print, utter, or publish any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government (Foner 1), yet a couple of states notably Virginia refused to enforce this national policy. Virginia there by was in control of its own laws regardless of the mandates of the federal government.
A final effect of the Voting Rights Act was that the South was forever changed. The fact that the blacks were able to vote was very significant in that it changed the political landscape of the south. The Act had an immediate impact. Within months of its passage on August 6, 1965, one quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one third by federal examiners (Hudson 96). Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout, 74 percent, and led the nation in the number of black leaders elected. In 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1 percent turnout; Arkansas, 77.9 percent; and Texas, 73.1 percent. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, barely 100 African Americans held elective office in the U.S.; by 1989 there were more than 7,200, including more than 4,800 in the South (Hudson 96).
The Voting Rights Act was a very significant time in not only the south but also in America. The impact that this act has had on America can even been seen today in our everyday lives. It truly was a turning point in the true democracy direction. Now after this clause every citizen can have equal rights. The blacks have the right to vote. America became a more democratic nation. The bill of rights was applied to every citizen. Discrimination was outlawed. The states had lost a significant amount of their sovereignty. Last but not least the south was forever changed.