The Chicago Journal

A Throwback of Black Vote and the Supreme Court

Black Vote – On March 7, 1965, is a date to remember as the 54-mile march happened in a church in Selma towards the state capital of Montgomery. People gathered together and led by two black men: John Lewis, the 25-year-old son of an Alabama sharecropper, and Hosea Williams, who had a master’s degree in chemistry who had wounded in World War II.

Finally the government has made something. On March 15, President Lyndon Johnson appeared before a special joint session of Congress and told the assembled senators and representatives:

“The harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes. Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists, and if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.”

The Selma march has changed the perception of prejudices towards the Black Community and it transformed the level of thinking of bigotry and race equality. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. 

Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Mike Mansfield, and the minority leader, Republican Everett Dirksen, together introduced a bill to guarantee voting rights to African Americans. A similar bill was soon introduced in the House of Representatives. The proposed law made noise and by Southern congressmen, the bill passed in both houses. On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The Black American Community was triumphant and delighted with the life-changing news.

For the information of everybody, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was immediate success. In Selma, President Johnson signed the bill, federal officials helped 381 African Americans register to vote, more than had been able to sign up in Dallas County for 65 years.

 “Our country has changed,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a strong dissent, in which she was joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. She agreed that racial discrimination at the ballot box in the states that still required preclearance had decreased, but that was precisely because the law had remained in place. “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,” she argued, “is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

If the requirement was eliminated, the dissenters predicted, discrimination might well begin again. And so it has. According to the Brennan Center for Justice:

“The decision in Shelby County opened the floodgates to laws restricting voting throughout the United States. The effects were immediate. Within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced that it would implement a strict photo ID law. Two other states, Mississippi and Alabama, also began to enforce photo ID laws that had previously been barred because of federal preclearance.”

Other states have followed suit. In July 2017, in Georgia, 600,000 people, 8% of the state’s registered voters, were purged from the rolls and required to reregister; an estimated 107,000 of them simply because they hadn’t voted in recent elections. In 2018, the state blocked the registration of 53,000 state residents, 70% of whom were African American.

Everything changed when the law was signed. The right of suffrage was finally given to the Black Americans and other civil rights were also granted. 

Opinions expressed by The Chicago Journal contributors are their own.