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Voting Rights

     In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution extended the right to vote to Black men. Earlier, the 13th and 14th Amendments had abolished slavery and extended citizenship to America’s Black population. The extension of the vote to Black men alienated white women, who were offended that African Americans could vote when they could not. It also caused the white citizens of the Nation’s Capital to forego the vote and home rule, thereby changing the political status of the city for a century, rather than endure the threat of Black male suffrage and its potential impact upon the city’s political landscape. The late 19th century and much of the 20th century were thereafter marked by efforts to deter and eliminate suffrage among Blacks, especially in the former . Confederate States of America. The actions of Blacks and others to resist these efforts culminated in the groundbreaking Voting Rights Act of 1965.

     This issue of HUArchivesnet focuses on the Voting Rights Act in its feature articles and many of its other components. Ably guest-edited by political scientist Dr. Ronald Walters of the University of Maryland at College Park, and coordinated by Assistant Guest Editor Dr. Janet Sims-Wood, the issue builds upon the Voting Rights Act Oral History and Documentation Project, which received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and matching funding from the Ford Foundation. This Project was the focus of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center’s 1999 Archives Week activities, a symposium which generated the presentations which are featured. These include Walters’ "Voting Rights and Black Self Determination; the Efficacy of Racial Representation," a cogent examination of the effect of the Voting Rights Act on African American political representation. Walters’ paper includes an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr.’s speech expressing his unequivocable view on the importance of the right to vote to Black America.


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November 1999