|I list them in that order and
not alphabetically because that was the way we initially mapped out our strategy for
interviewing state legislators, marching due South and then West until the Project
The Project had several research objectives but the overarching one was to seek to answer precisely how the Act changed the political landscape in the latter half of the 20th Century and for whom; particularly to determine the status and consequence of the Act to Black state legislators. We wanted to learn from this group, many of whom were still involved in the political experience, whether the sea of change which took place in the first 30 years of the Acts enforcement was still occurring, and at what rate. We planned to ask for their assessment of the Act then and now, and who, in their estimation, it benefited most. For example, did the Act give access or power to the Black voter? Did it provide the direct economic benefit to Blacks that Martin Luther King and President Johnson had envisioned by its passage? We also wanted anecdotal evidence of the ways in which the white political power structure had attempted to subvert the terms of the Act by enacting measures that diluted the importance of the Black vote: for example, through annexation of nearby unincorporated areas that contained a large white population; or by moving from district or ward representation to at-large government; or by diluting a Black district's strength by redrawing the boundary lines to incorporate a larger white population; or redrawing the boundaries so that a majority of Black voters in a jurisdiction, no matter how widely dispersed, were contained on one single voting unit.
The actual Project proposal was developed in fits and starts over an 18-month period, sandwiched in between more pressing responsibilities. During that period, a considerable amount of time was spent in literature review and interviews with people like David Bositis at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies who were directly monitoring the redistricting efforts in Voting Rights Act-covered states. In fact, I owe a real debt of gratitude to the Joint Center because of the tremendous library of resources they maintained on the Voting Rights Act and their state files on Black elected officials. They were very generous in granting me access for research and I made liberal use of this opportunity in developing the justification for the project and also the list of potential interviewees.