Congress Passes the Voting Rights Act (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant extension of voting rights to African Americans since the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Summary of Event
The Voting Rights Act was the culmination of a ninety-five-year effort to extend voting rights to all Americans regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” These words are from the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave Congress the power to pass “appropriate legislation” to ensure voting rights. Although this amendment was ratified on March 30, 1870, it was not until 1965 that the United States Congress exercised that power in a significant fashion. Congress had indeed proposed the Twenty-fourth Amendment, outlawing poll taxes for federal elections, but that measure required ratification by the states. In less than two years, thirty-eight states had ratified this amendment, making it part of the Constitution on January 23, 1964. This action was important but did not reflect the kind of positive congressional response called for by civil rights leaders. Poll taxes had been merely one of many devices used in the South to discourage blacks from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Literacy tests, examinations, and errors or omissions on applications were also used to deny suffrage to blacks. The Twenty-fourth Amendment had symbolic importance, but it did not...
(The entire section is 1700 words.)
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