We should never forget the sacrifices that were made to give us our right to vote. Because the power that our vote represented then and now, extreme measures were taken to keep us from the polls. In 1964, numerous demonstrations were held, and the considerable violence that erupted brought renewed attention to the issue of voting rights. Those who were taking those measures knew that once blacks in America took to the polls, the landscape of this country's leadership would be forever changed.
Their attempts to keep us from the polls only strengthen our resolve. From the murder of voting-rights activists in Mississippi to the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers in Selma, AL, enough national attention was gained to persuade President Johnson and Congress to initiate meaningful and effective national voting rights legislation. The combination of public disgust moved Congress to pass the voting rights bill on August 5, 1965.The legislation, which President Johnson signed into law the next day, outlawed literacy tests and provided for the appointment of Federal examiners. Its language followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color.
The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. In 1966, the first post-reconstruction African American was elected to the U. S. Senate, and one year, later Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. In 1975 we saw our first black elected mayor, and in 1990 our first black elected governor. In 2008, Barack Obama was the African American elected to the office of president of the United States. All of this was accomplish through the power of the black vote.
Because of our current political climate, some may be considering not participating in this upcoming presidential election, but I strongly encourage getting out and vote. We must never forget that our right to vote has not come easy. It came about by the highest cost ever, the lives of those who believed in its cause. Emmitt Till, Herbert Lee, Medgar Evers, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others gave their lives so we can freely exercise our right to vote, and live as citizens with all of our God given and rights and privileges. We have a responsibility to exercise this right at every election, lest we forget the price that was paid to secure it.