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Celebrating and mourning 50 years of the Voting Rights Act
Written by Solomon Jones on August 13, 2015
I want to be proud on this, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but I can’t.
Not while mourning I’m the untimely demise of all that the Voting Rights Act represents.
I mourn because just 27 percent of eligible voters participated in Philadelphia’s mayoral primaries. I mourn because we’ve been lulled into believing that the struggle for the vote is over.
I mourn, most of all, because these sad truths have emerged as a result of our apathy.
It wasn’t always this way. When discriminatory practices like poll taxes and literacy tests were used as state sanctioned tools to keep from voting, we fought, bled, and died to gain that basic right.
Under the Voting Rights Act, we achieved it. Black voter registration and turnout soared. So did the number of black elected officials, culminating in the 2008 election of the nation’s first black president. But in the 2013 Supreme Court decision that declared a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Voting Rights Act had done its job, and federal oversight was no longer needed.
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