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The Selma Voting Rights March and Its Legacy
Participants in 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Photo credit: Peter Pettus, Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ppmsca-08102
In March 1965 it took civil rights protesters three tries to overcome violent opposition to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as part of a peaceful crusade for Black voting rights. A few months later President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Now, more than 50 years later, new laws and court rulings have put voting rights in danger, especially for Black Americans.
Photo credit: Chuck Burton/AP
The Shadow of Selma by The Shadow of Selma evaluates the 1965 civil rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, the historical memory of the campaign?s marches, and the continuing relevance of and challenges to the Voting Rights Act. The contributors present Selma not just as a keystone event but, much like Ferguson today, as a transformative place: a supposedly unimportant location that became the focal point of epochal historical events. By shifting the focus from leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to the thousands of unheralded people who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge?and the networks that undergirded and opposed them?this innovative volume considers the campaign?s long-term impact and its place in history.The volume recalls the historical currents that surrounded Selma, discussing grassroots activism, the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson during the struggle for the Voting Rights Act, and the political reaction to Selma at home and abroad. Using Ava DuVernay's 2014 Hollywood film as a stepping stone, the editors bring together various essays that address the ways media?from television and newspaper coverage to "race beat" journalism?represented and reconfigured Selma. The contributors underline the power of misrepresentation in shaping popular memory and in fueling a redemptive narrative that glosses over ongoing racial problems. Finally, the volume traces the fifty-year legacy of the Voting Rights Act. It reveals the many subtle and overt methods by which opponents of racial equality attempted to undo the act?s provisions, with a particular focus on the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that eliminated sections of the act designed to prevent discrimination.Taken together, the essays urge readers not to be blind to forms of discrimination and injustice that continue to shape inequalities in the United States. They remind us that while today's obstacles to racial equality may look different from a literacy test or a grimfaced Alabama state trooper, they are no less real.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2018
The House by the Side of the Road: The Selma Civil Rights Movement by On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. and 600 followers set out on foot from Selma, Alabama, bound for Montgomery to demand greater voting rights for African Americans. As they crossed the city's Edmund Pettus Bridge, state and local policemen savagely set on the marchers with tear gas and billy clubs, an event now known as “Bloody Sunday” that would become one of the most iconic in American history. King's informal headquarters in Selma was the home of Dr. Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson and their young daughter, Jawana. “The House by the Side of the Road” is Richie Jean's firsthand account of the private meetings King and his lieutenants, including Ralph David Abernathy and John Lewis, held in the haven of the Jackson home. Sullivan Jackson was an African American dentist in Selma and a prominent supporter of the civil rights movement. Richie Jean was a close childhood friend of King's wife, Coretta Scott King, a native of nearby Marion, Alabama. Richie Jean's fascinating account narrates how, in the fraught months of 1965 that preceded the Voting Rights March, King and his inner circle held planning sessions and met with Assistant Attorney General John Doar to negotiate strategies for the event. Just eight days after Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson made a televised addressed to a joint session of Congress on Monday, March 15. Jackson relates the intimate scene of King and his lieutenants watching as Johnson called the nation to dedicate itself to equal rights for all and ending his address with the words: “We shall overcome.” Five months later, Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act on August 6. The motion picture Selma now commemorates the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In it, Niecy Nash and Kent Faulcon star as Sullivan and Richie Jean Jackson. A gripping primary source, “The House by the Side of the Road” illuminates the private story whose public outcomes electrified the world and changed the course of American history.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2011
Reflections of the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama by An account of the commemoration of the defining event of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. It tells the story of how race relations in America have progressed since the 1950's and 60's. Dr. Jans-Thomas revisits an important location in the Civil Rights movement and walks through various places along the march from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama. Her stories are largely anecdotal, but the overall portrait she paints of the towns are vivid because she outlines how the culture has changed since the 1950's and 60's. The portrayal of the towns is suitable, not only for introductory college students, but advanced high school students as well. The book reads like a historical narrative and a sociological field study, and its importance derives from the juxtaposition of past struggles mixed with signs of the contemporary triumphs that the Civil Rights movement achieved. Collectively, we all participate in history. The purpose of this study is to show that agents of change have an important role to play in shaping the future of the communities they impact. Through a field study told as an anecdotal personal narrative The Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama: Historical Reflections on Race Relations in the United Statestells the story of how race relations in America have progressed since the 1950's and 60's. Dr. Jans-Thomas travels through several towns in Alabama on her way to the 40th Anniversary Commemoration of Bloody Sunday, where many activists lost their lives marching in favor of voting rights for African-Americans. She describes in detail the social implications of historical events that transpired during the American Civil Rights movement. The events had a tremendous impact on the southern communities, and in the book she shows that there is a broader representation of African-Americans there at the current time, which would have been impossible without the sacrifice of these brave Freedom Fighters.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2012
His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by An intimate and revealing portrait of civil rights icon and longtime U.S. congressman John Lewis, linking his life to the painful quest for justice in America from the 1950s to the present. John Lewis, who at age 25 marched in Selma, Alabama, and was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, was a visionary and a man of faith. Drawing on decades of wide-ranging interviews with Lewis, Jon Meacham writes of how this great-grandson of a slave and son of an Alabama tenant farmer was inspired by the Bible and his teachers in nonviolence, Reverend James Lawson and Martin Luther King, Jr., to put his life on the line in the service of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." From an early age, Lewis learned that nonviolence was not only a tactic but a philosophy, a biblical imperative, and a transforming reality. At the age of four, Lewis, ambitious to become a minister, practiced by preaching to his family's chickens. When his mother cooked one of the chickens, the boy refused to eat it--his first act, he wryly recalled, of nonviolent protest. Integral to Lewis's commitment to bettering the nation was his faith in humanity and in God--and an unshakable belief in the power of hope. Meacham calls Lewis "as important to the founding of a modern and multiethnic 20th- and 21st-century America as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Samuel Adams were to the initial creation of the Republic itself in the 18th century." A believer in the injunction that one should love one's neighbor as oneself, Lewis was arguably a saint in our time, risking limb and life to bear witness for the powerless in the face of the powerful. In many ways he brought a still-evolving nation closer to realizing its ideals, and his story offers inspiration and illumination for Americans today who are working for social and political change.
Call Number: E-Book available free through PLS
Publication Date: 2020
March: Book One by Rep. John Lewis is an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence took him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president. Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis wrote March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. March is a vivid first-hand account of Lewis's lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis's personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans Lewis's youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
Publication Date: 2013
March: Book Two by After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence -- but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the Deep South, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ... and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Publication Date: 2015
March: Book Three by By the fall of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has penetrated deep into the American consciousness, and as a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is guiding the tip of the spear. Through relentless direct action, SNCC continues to force the nation to confront its own blatant injustice, but for every step forward, the danger grows more intense: Jim Crow strikes back through legal tricks, intimidation, violence, and death. The only hope for lasting change is to give voice to the millions of Americans silenced by voter suppression: "One Man, One Vote." To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative campaigns, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and an all-out battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. With these new struggles come new allies, new opponents, and an unpredictable new president who might be both at once. But fractures within the movement are deepening ... even as 25-year-old John Lewis prepares to risk everything in a historic showdown high above the Alabama river, in a town called Selma.
Publication Date: 2016
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Voting and the November 2020 Election
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy by In her New York Times bestseller “White Rage,” Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With “One Person, No Vote,” she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice. Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans.
Publication Date: 2018
Our Time Is Now by Stacey Abrams offers a blueprint to end voter suppression, empower our citizens, and take back our country. A recognized expert on fair voting and civic engagement, Abrams chronicles a chilling account of how the right to vote and the principle of democracy have been and continue to be under attack. Abrams would have been the first African American woman governor, but experienced these effects firsthand, despite running the most innovative race in modern politics as the Democratic nominee in Georgia. Abrams didn't win, but she has not conceded. The book compellingly argues for the importance of robust voter protections, an elevation of identity politics, engagement in the census, and a return to moral international leadership. “Our Time Is Now” draws on extensive research from national organizations and renowned scholars, as well as anecdotes from her life and others' who have fought throughout our country's history for the power to be heard. The stakes could not be higher. Here are concrete solutions and inspiration to stand up for who we are--now.
Publication Date: 2020
Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act by Voting rights are a perennial topic in American politics. Recent elections and the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down key enforcement provisions in the Voting Rights Act (VRA), have only placed further emphasis on the debate over voter disenfranchaisement. Over the past five decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have consistently voted to expand the protections offered to vulnerable voters by the Voting Rights Act. And yet, the administration of the VRA has become more fragmented and judicial interpretation of its terms has become much less generous. Why have Republicans consistently adopted administrative and judicial decisions that undermine legislation they repeatedly endorse? Ballot Blocked shows how the divergent trajectories of legislation, administration, and judicial interpretation in voting rights policymaking derive largely from efforts by conservative politicians to narrow the scope of federal enforcement while at the same time preserving their public reputations as supporters of racial equality and minority voting rights. Jesse H. Rhodes argues that conservatives adopt a paradoxical strategy in which they acquiesce to expansive voting rights protections in Congress (where decisions are visible and easily traceable) while simultaneously narrowing the scope of federal enforcement via administrative and judicial maneuvers (which are less visible and harder to trace). Over time, the repeated execution of this strategy has enabled a conservative Supreme Court to exercise preponderant influence over the scope of federal enforcement.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2017
This Bright Light of Ours: Stories From the Voting Rights Fight by This Bright Light of Ours offers a tightly focused insider's view of the community-based activism that was the heart of the civil rights movement. A celebration of grassroots heroes, this book details through first-person accounts the contributions of ordinary people who formed the nonviolent army that won the fight for voting rights. Combining memoir and oral history, Maria Gitin fills a vital gap in civil rights history by focusing on the neglected Freedom Summer of 1965 when hundreds of college students joined forces with local black leaders to register thousands of new black voters in the rural South. Gitin was an idealistic nineteen-year-old college freshman from a small farming community north of San Francisco who felt called to action when she saw televised images of brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators during Bloody Sunday, in Selma, Alabama. Atypical among white civil rights volunteers, Gitin came from a rural low-income family. She raised funds to attend an intensive orientation in Atlanta featuring now-legendary civil rights leaders. Her detailed letters include the first narrative account of this orientation and the only in-depth field report from a teenage Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project participant. Gitin details the dangerous life of civil rights activists in Wilcox County, Alabama, where she was assigned. She tells of threats and arrests, but also of forming deep friendships and of falling in love. More than four decades later, Gitin returned to Wilcox County to revisit the people and places that she could never forget and to discover their views of the "outside agitators" who had come to their community. Through conversational interviews with more than fifty Wilcox County residents and former civil rights workers, she has created a channel for the voices of these unheralded heroes who formed the backbone of the civil rights movement.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2014
The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote by The Politics of Voter Suppression arrives in time to assess actual practices at the polls this fall and to reengage with debates about voter suppression tactics such as requiring specific forms of identification. Tova Andrea Wang examines the history of how U.S. election reforms have been manipulated for partisan advantage and establishes a new framework for analyzing current laws and policies. The tactics that have been employed to suppress voting in recent elections are not novel, she finds, but rather build upon the strategies used by a variety of actors going back nearly a century and a half. This continuity, along with the shift to a Republican domination of voter suppression efforts for the past fifty years, should inform what we think about reform policy today. Wang argues that activities that suppress voting are almost always illegitimate, while reforms that increase participation are nearly always legitimate. In short, use and abuse of election laws and policies to suppress votes has obvious detrimental impacts on democracy itself. Such activities are also harmful because of their direct impacts on actual election outcomes. Wang regards as beneficial any legal effort to increase the number of Americans involved in the electoral system. This includes efforts that are focused on improving voter turnout among certain populations typically regarded as supporting one party, as long as the methods and means for boosting participation are open to all. Wang identifies and describes a number of specific legitimate and positive reforms that will increase voter turnout.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2012
When the Letter Betrays the Spirit: Voting Rights Enforcement and African American Participation From Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama by When the Letter Betrays the Spirit examines the wide latitude provided to the executive branch and to the Supreme Court by the text of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Drawing from government enforcement data, legislative history, Supreme Court rulings, the 2006 reauthorization debate on the VRA, and from the 2007 scandal involving the firing of U.S. attorneys under the Bush Administration, the book examines when, why, and how executive and judicial discretion facilitates violation of voting rights. Connecting Johnson to Obama, the book outlines why the executive-centered model of voting rights enforcement relegates Congress to the sidelines, and outlines why a Congress-centered approach provides the best protection against the effects of the law enforcement axiom: the law is neither self-executing nor self-interpreting. The book also examines 2008 survey results about public support for a Jim Crow-era election reform policy that would require voters to read a passage of the Constitution. Describing the civic literacy dimensions of voting rights law from Shaw v. Reno (1993) to Northwest Austin Utility v. Holder (2009), the book highlights the complicated nature of the post-racial rhetoric surrounding the 2008 election cycle and surrounding the upcoming post-2010 census redistricting cycles.
Call Number: E-Book
Publication Date: 2011
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Voting Rights Timeline
Did You Know...
- that the U.S. Constitution initially allowed only White men who owned property to vote?
- that women couldn't vote in national elections until 1920?
- that it took nearly 100 years after the 15th Amendment gave Black men the vote that Blacks were in reality able to vote?
See this Timeline from the iVote Civic Education Fund to learn how suffrage has expanded from 1789 to the present. The American Civil Liberties Union has an Interactive Timeline on the history of voting rights.
Voter Education and Voting Rights Organizations