Voting Rights Act of 1965

Voting Rights Act of 1965

US #3937b features a photo of young protesters at the Selma March.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

The 15th and 19th Amendments to the United States Constitution granted black citizens the right to vote.  However, Southern registration boards used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other strategies to deny this right.

US #3937b – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

The first major progress came in 1957 when Congress passed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  It permitted the Attorney General to sue for people whose 15thAmendment rights were denied and created the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice as well as the Commission on Civil Rights.  There was also the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which pushed for increased voter registration in areas where voting discrimination had been known.

US #3937b – Mystic First Day Cover.

Additionally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided some voting rights protections, including a requirement that literacy tests be distributed equally.  In spite of all these attempts, voting discrimination still persisted.  Shortly after the 1964 elections, President Lyndon B. Johnson told his Attorney General to draft the “toughest voting rights act” he could.

In the meantime, the murder of voting-rights activists in Mississippi in 1964 brought national attention to the issue. Then, on Sunday, March 7, 1965, Selma, Alabama, residents and supporters marched to demand an equal right to vote. Alabama police used tear gas and clubs against them.

US #3937b – Classic First Day Cover.

President Johnson denounced “Bloody Sunday,” and said “Wednesday I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote… It is wrong – deadly wrong – to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.”

The voting rights bill Johnson sent to Congress removed the right of states to restrict who could vote in elections. The Act was passed by large majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law on August 6, 1965.

US #3937 was issued to mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Within months of its passage, a quarter of a million new black voters had registered. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In 1965, barely 100 African-Americans held any elective office in the US; by 1989, there were more than 7,200. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 accomplished its purpose.

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11 responses to "Voting Rights Act of 1965"

11 thoughts on “Voting Rights Act of 1965”

  1. It is so ironic that Democrats, who for so long denied African-Americans the right to
    vote with Poll Taxes. Literacy test, etc., and now 96% of African-Americans are locked into the\same Democratic party.

  2. It takes a long time to overcome that prejudice. I remember my grandfather saying the Democrat Party was “the party of the working man.” He voted Democrat all his life, against his best interests (jobs/economic growth/less regulation/etc). His mind was as set in stone as the heads on Mt Rushmore.

  3. My dad was the same – mostly due to FDR and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. However, when I reached voting age around 1950, I was able to vote on both sides of the spectrum, occasionally even for a third party candidate. It is ironic that the nation (including myself) has become so polarized again.
    Anyway, kudos to LBJ. A remarkable president. His big mistake, of course, was to get involved in a land war in Asia.

  4. It is not the same Democratic Party that existed before the civil rights act. Johnson predicted that once he signed the civil rights act the south would go republican which it did. . One could say that some republican voters vote against their own self interests as well. One sense of the injustice of the literacy test was the question asked of Blacks on some tests : how many coffee beans are in a can of coffee.

  5. It is sad that this many years after the Voting Rights Act became law that quite a few states, mostly so-called “red sates,” are working very hard to restrict voting. They devise all kinds of ways to do this…restricting voting hours, ending early voting, reducing voter precincts, making it difficult and/or inconvenient to register to vote, requiring state issued documents to vote, etc. The net effect and the actual purpose is to reduce the vote by minority groups, young people, working class people, and the elderly. By gerrymandering, they are able to concentrate all of the voters who will “vote wrong” into a few districts so that their overall effect is minimized. The Supreme Court has endorsed this by recent decisions that have gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    • Conrad – you make several good points. But I do have a problem with one of your statements. I had always wondered why showing ID is considered so prohibitive to certain voters. I came to the conclusion that it’s not a real issue, like the other items you mentioned. It’s something people have repeated for years. But it makes assumptions that shows a very low view of minorities. For your consideration:

      • Getting a voter ID is one thing people could do on their own, The other restrictions are a little harder to overcome. For example, if the poll is only open from 8:00 to 5:00, a working person who works from 8:00 to 5:00 with a commute at both ends has a hard time getting to the voting booth. Early voting, say on Saturday or Sunday, might alleviate this problem, but some states have ended that.

  6. I am 66 years old. I have never seen voting restrictions as stated above by Conrad.
    I have voted in every election starting at age 21. When I was younger – Democrat. When I turned 30 and was married -Rebublican.
    What I have learned and hear lately Is all the illegal voting that is being done.
    Shame on the organizations and the people doing this.

      • Thank you for that comment, Jim. The myth massive of illegal voting was and is promoted by those whose real goal is to purge the voter rolls.

  7. As US citizen that not choose the american citizenship, that was impossed in 1917, I live in shame, looking back how is the institutional racism in the US . I prefer be like the Latinamerican countries were the racism is almost inexistent, bu I have faith that as the democratic party change is way of thinking the rest of the nation change as well.


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