Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Shameful History Of Blacks People And The Vote

5America has always had a shameful history when it comes to blacks and the vote. Since the Civil War when blacks were given the right to vote, wink-wink; although, it really did not! There were many ways created to circumvent the process; remember it did not give the right to vote to black women! They said they did this because by claiming to give the right to vote to them was supposed to make them think they were free. I remind you of this because it is election time now and blacks are about to be hoodwinked again! Let’s be clear, black people have always been marginalized and not seen as central to our society.

Society’s context has changed, somewhat, there are many links between the freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s and today. The Voting Rights Act (VRA), signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965, was a victory for the Civil Rights Movement but was it democracy. It outlawed strategies that had been used by white supremacists to disenfranchise Black citizens. Together with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act ended some legal forms of white supremacy. Although this was important, it did not end all forms of racial discrimination, many of which were, and are, deeply embedded in the structures of the American society.

Let’s look back at the history of blacks and voting rights. Following the Civil War, black people used the Reconstruction Amendments to democratize the South. To be clear, only men were allowed to vote in formal elections and often had to bring weapons for their protection. Whites established oppressive Jim Crow laws that remained in place until the modern Civil Rights Movement. They used, effectively, murder and the destruction of black newspapers to help accomplish this goal.

Whites and their textbooks generally do not list the Jim Crow practices or the grandfather clauses, literacy tests, or the poll tax, but less well known are the economic terrorism and violence that backed up these strategies they used to Black voting. For example, a Mississippi sharecropper Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer describes what happened when she took the registration test in 1962: she was viciously beaten in jail, and in 1964 denied the right to vote.

Another example was in 1944, the NAACP won a landmark case, Smith v. Allwright, ruling that white primary where only white voters could participate in political primaries, later ruled unconstitutional. This victory inspired an upsurge in Black voter registration that was reinforced by Black veterans returning home from overseas. One of these veterans was Medgar Evers, who became Mississippi’s first NAACP field secretary and was assassinated in June 1963 for his civil rights work. The Supreme Court gradually outlawed discriminatory practices, like the grandfather clause, the white primary, and the poll tax, but the federal government played a passive role.

Some white supremacist judges blocked the department’s work at every turn and the FBI only reluctantly carried out the necessary investigations. And after initially promising to protect anyone working on voter registration, the Kennedy administration backtracked, and the FBI refused to protect civil rights workers, even when they were attacked on federal property in front of agents.

White supremacists responded to the voting rights campaign by manipulating the registration process, firing and evicting people, burning and bombing homes and churches, beating and even murdering people. White officials then used the low numbers of African Americans registered to vote to insist that Blacks had no interest in politics. In response, SNCC organized Freedom Days, first in Selma, Alabama, in 1963and in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1964.

Whether in the punishing sun or pouring rain, people lined up to demonstrate their desire to vote. With little chance of actually registering, much less voting, they stayed in line and refused to be intimidated by white threats and harassment. Then in 1963, SNCC and other began to challenge the whole idea of requiring literacy to vote. They had encountered many people who had been denied education but still had more than enough wisdom to vote on their representatives.

For example, in Lowndes County, Alabama, with an approximately 80 percent African American population, but no Black registered voters. So their efforts equip the people with the information and skills essential to running the county themselves not just as new voters but also as political leaders. The SNCC “developed a unique political education program that used workshops, mass meetings, and primers to increase general knowledge of local government and democratize political behavior.”

SNCC’s work followed Ella Baker’s belief that “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. . . It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

Moving forward to today, in July 2013, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Arguing in part that it is arbitrary and no longer necessary to focus exclusively on the former Confederacy, the Court’s majority eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for nine Southern states. This means that the Justice Department can no longer check for racial bias in new laws in these states.

This along with other forms of voter suppression enacted throughout the state in this country; it is clear that we still need robust, proactive tools to protect voting rights for all citizens, but particularly African Americans, students, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.

Rather than being curtailed, the Voting Rights Act should be extended. No doubt future historians will look back at today’s voter ID laws, ex-felon disenfranchisement, and other forms of voter suppression (including Jim Crow voting booths) as a 21st-century version of the literacy tests, poll tax, and grandfather clause of the last century.

Ella Baker’s words still echo today. In 1964 she said, “Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I agree! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


Happy Birthday Dick Gregory

5Today, on Brother Gregory’s birthday, I want to applaud him for the gift of his commitment, wisdom, and his genius! Dick Gregory, whose government name is Mr. Gregory was active in the civil rights movement from the beginning.

He came to Selma, Alabama and spoke for two hours on a public platform two days before the voter registration drive known as “Freedom Day” (October 7, 1963). In 1964, Gregory became more involved in struggles for civil rights, activism against the Vietnam War, economic reform, anti-drug issues, conspiracy theories, and others. As a part of his activism, he went on several hunger strikes.

There are few people, who dare to speak truth to power. Brother Gregory is a fearless champion of the African American people, and dare I say the world. He has been at the forefront of Civil Rights before it was known as such. His is a comedian, writer, entrepreneur, social activist and critic.

Dick Gregory began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid-1950s. He was drafted in 1954 while attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After being discharged in 1956, he returned to the university but did not receive a degree. With a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago. He said of his early career, “Blacks could sing and dance in the white night clubs but weren’t allowed to stand flat-footed and talk to white folks, which is what a comic does.”

Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar. Based on that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for the white comedian Professor Irwin Corey. Shortly after that Gregory’s first TV appearance was on the late night The Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar, which positioned him to begin appearing nationally and on television.

Gregory currently stands at number 82 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-up comics of all time and has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. There is a grassroots effort afoot to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, spearheaded by Radio One host Joe Madison.

Mr. Gregory was active in the civil rights movement from the beginning. He came to Selma, Alabama and spoke for two hours on a public platform two days before the voter registration drive known as “Freedom Day” (October 7, 1963). In 1964, Gregory became more involved in struggles for civil rights, activism against the Vietnam War, economic reform, anti-drug issues, conspiracy theories, and others. As a part of his activism, he went on several hunger strikes.

Gregory began his political career by running against Richard J. Daley for the mayoralty of Chicago in 1967. Though he did not emerge victorious; this would not prove to be the end of his dalliances in electoral politics. He also unsuccessfully ran for President of the United States in 1968 as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party.

He wrote the book “Write Me In” about his presidential campaign. One interesting anecdote therein relates the story of a publicity stunt that came out of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago where the campaign had printed dollar bills with Gregory’s image on them, some of which made it into circulation, causing considerable problems, but priceless publicity. The majority of these bills were quickly seized by the federal government.

He was an early outspoken critic of the Warren Commission findings that President JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. On March 6, 1975, Gregory and assassination researcher Robert Groden appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s late night ABC talk show Goodnight America. An important historical event happened that night when the famous Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination was shown to the public on TV for the first time in history. The public’s response and outrage to that showing led to the forming of the Hart-Schweiker investigation, which contributed to the Church Committee Investigation on Intelligence Activities by the United States, which resulted in the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation.

In 1998 Gregory spoke at the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with President Bill Clinton in attendance. Not long after, the President told Gregory’s long-time friend and P.R. Consultant, Steve Jaffe, “I love Dick Gregory; he is one of the funniest people on the planet.” They spoke of how Gregory had made a comment on Dr. King’s birthday that broke everyone into laughter when he noted that the President made Speaker Newt Gingrich ride “in the back of the plane,” on an Air Force One trip overseas.

At a Civil Rights rally marking the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Gregory criticized the United States, calling it “the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet. As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 96 percent of the world’s hard drugs”.

Gregory announced a hunger strike on September 10, 2010, saying in a commentary published by the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal that he doubted the official U.S. report about the attacks on September 11, 2001. “One thing I know is that the official government story of those events, as well as what took place that day at the Pentagon, is just that, a story. This story is not the truth, but far from it. I was born on October 12, 1932. I am announcing today that I will be consuming only liquids beginning Sunday until my eightieth birthday in 2012 and until the real truth of what truly happened on that day emerges and is publicly known.”

His most lasting impression resulted from his 1984 founding of the Health Enterprises, Inc., a company that distributed weight loss products. With this company, Gregory made efforts to improve the life expectancy of African Americans, which he believes is being hindered by poor nutrition and drug and alcohol abuse. In 1985 Gregory introduced the “Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet,” a powdered diet mix. He launched the weight-loss powder at the Whole Life Expo in Boston under the slogan “It’s cool to be healthy.” The diet mix, drunk three times a day, was said to provide rapid weight loss. Gregory received a multimillion-dollar distribution contract to retail the diet.

As we celebrate this his born day, I want to pay homage to the Honorable Dick Gregory for his commitment and dedication to speak truth to power and for the knowledge to empower all of us. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


A Supreme Injustice

thomasThe Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Shelby County v. Holder was so disappointing and stalk reminder of days long past, which turned back the hands of time.

In its decision, the Supreme Court effectively invalidated Section 4 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. As evidence of its negative impact; within hours of the ruling Texas immediately enacted a Voter ID law and rest assured many other states will revert back to their old ways denying millions of minorities, and African Americans in particular, the right to participate in America’s democracy.

I have seen and remember old Jim Crow and I am deeply troubled by the Supreme Court decision striking critical protections within the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court struck Section 4, a provision which outlines the formula federal officials have used to determine which states must clear new voting laws with the Department of Justice. This decision ignores the persistence of discrimination in voting and weakens a vital tool that has protected the right to vote for all Americans for nearly 50 years.

Most of America knows that it was because of the Voting Rights Act that African American’s were afforded the right to vote; although not a permanent or guaranteed right to vote. Periodically it had to be reauthorized. I was one who thought there would be a president to come along and refuse to sign the reauthorization into law or a Congress such as the one we have today would take away that right. But on June 25, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States proved me wrong by being the culprits that take affectively took that right away.

Let’s take a historical look at some history. In 1865, it was said that slavery was over meaning blacks were free. In thirty years, the Supreme Court of the 1890s ruled in the Plessy v Ferguson that ushered in government sanctioned segregation that lasted until 1965 when President Johnson signed into law a number of Civil Rights Bills including the Voting Rights Act shortly after Bloody Sunday. That means it took a hundred years for this so-called freedom to have some semblance of reality. In the last election we saw the evil forces at work with tricks and schemes to further the disenfranchise minorities, the poor and elderly their right to vote.

So many African American’s gave their lives and blood to obtain the right to vote. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.” She went on to say “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act.”

I must express my distain for the “Negro” justice on the bench because this guy sided with the majority and it is reported that he said he would like to remove the entire Voting Rights Act. Sir your collusion and opinion is a disgrace and you should be ashamed! Make no mistake what you helped them do, in my view, was done to ensure that there will never be another black president.

For the sake of our children’s future we must take a stand and not let this stand! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

I have to wonder if Uncle Thomas can remember this horrible event.

 


Affirm Section 5 Of The Voting Rights Act

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The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was enacted to ensure that African Americans had a right that has almost always been denied since they arrived here in chains. The opposing parties are asking the Court to end a requirement forcing Alabama and other southern states to get Department of Justice approval to change its voting procedures and electoral maps.

The Voting Rights Act already allows governments that have changed their ways to get out from under this humbling need to get permission through a “bailout provision.” Nearly 250 counties and local jurisdictions have done so; thousands more could be eligible based on the absence of recent discriminatory efforts in voting. My question and it should be of every African American is why Section 5 should be removed?

History tells us that after the Civil War when slavery ended, wink, there were very clever measures designed to deny African Americans the supposed most sacred right to vote. There were Amendments to the Constitution that should have been sufficient. However, those Anti-Americans who preached liberty and justice for all found ways to circumvent the law. They used such things as Poll Taxes, Literacy Tests, and when all else failed Terror.

Then there came an era called Reconstruction which resulted in what they called “Separate but Equal” which was nothing more than American Apartheid. Of course that worked out well for the racial extremist. It took one hundred years for America to pass a law that was meaningful to work to some degree, the Voting Rights Act, and now was to dismantle.

Let’s take a look at some very recent history, like last year and last month, to see why this provision should not be removed. In the last election, Republican went to many extremes to suppress minority votes through a myriad of state laws making it a mission to deny their right to vote.  The consequences of those desperate maneuvers, along with the accompanying vitriolic rhetoric, restrictive voter ID laws, encouraged Electoral College gimmickry and professed themselves unconcerned about long wait times at polling places tells us why this act is needed.

The viability of the bailout option could play an outsized role in the Supreme Court’s consideration of the voting rights law’s prior approval provision, although four years ago, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said the prospect of bailing out had been “no more than a mirage.”

I can vividly remember “Bloody Sunday,” nearly 50 years ago, when 600 peaceful, nonviolent protesters attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery to dramatize the need for voting rights protection in Alabama. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers under orders from the Governor attacked with tear-gassed, clubbed, whipped, and trampled them with horses. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized that day.

In response, President Lyndon Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act and later signed it into law. It is very clear that America has come a great distance since then, in large part thanks to the act, but efforts to undermine the voting power of minorities did not end after 1965. They still persist today. Just because a man of color is the president does not mean the battle is won.

John Lewis, a Democrat, represents Georgia’s 5th District in the U.S. Housel

Voting rights is still and danger. So let’s not tamper with one of the few laws that have been a beacon to this thing called Democracy. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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