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5 Events Leading Up to the Formation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

By    |   Wednesday, 04 November 2015 09:46 PM

The landmark piece of legislation known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been called “one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history,” according to History.com. It effectively removed all barriers that had prevented African Americans and other minorities from having their voices heard at the polls.

The events that led to the formation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 can be traced back to the years immediately following the Civil War.

Here is a brief timeline:

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1. The 14th and 15th Amendments
Following the Civil War, the 14th and 15th amendments were passed. The U.S. Senate website summarized these amendments. The 14th Amendment “granted citizenship to all persons ‘born or naturalized in the United States,’ including former slaves, and provided all citizens with ‘equal protection under the laws,’ extending the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states.” Meanwhile, the 15th Amendment prohibited discrimination by states toward any voter “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Essentially, those two amendments were ratified with the idea of ending racial discrimination at the polls. However, it would be many years of long struggle to see it through.

2. Circumvention of Voter Rights
Despite the ratification of the 14th and 15th amendments, voting rights for African Americans and other minorities were still being circumvented. Laws known as the “Jim Crow Laws” were “a formal, codified system of racial apartheid that dominated the American South for three quarters of a century beginning in the 1890s. The laws affected almost every aspect of daily life,” PBS reported.

The laws even had an impact on voting. Study.com said: “The Jim Crow laws prevented black people from voting by imposing literacy tests, poll taxes, property ownership requirements, moral character tests, document interpretation tests, and in some cases, the requirement that one’s grandfather had voted.”

3. Passage of the 24th Amendment
Poll taxes as voting requirements were outlawed with the ratification of the 24th Amendment. The five states that had previously enacted poll taxes were: Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Despite this measure, discrimination and segregation remained prevalent.

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4. Civil Rights Act of 1964
The act prohibits discrimination in the following settings: voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, federally assisted programs, and employment. The act also establishes the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

5. “Bloody Sunday”
On March 7, 1965, a group of African-Americans marched into Selma, Alabama, as a peaceful protest against voter suppression and was attacked by state troopers in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” This series of events prompted Congress to draw up the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law five days after the bill was introduced, History.com noted.

Since the original passage of the act, there have been a number of revisions. The most recent was in 2013 when, in a controversial decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 5 of the act (which mandated certain states receive pre-approval from Congress before altering their voting laws) to be unconstitutional, The Leadership Conference, noted.

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The landmark piece of legislation known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been called "one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history," according to History.com.
voting rights, events
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 09:46 PM
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