Does Anyone Have Any Idea How Hard Black People Fought For The Right To Vote?

Bumpy J
Bumpy J
Oct 29, 2020 · 5 min read
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Photo: Bettman/CORBIS — Rev. CT Vivian being beaten by police officers for demanding the right to vote in Selma Alabama, 1965

Black people, I guarantee you, are voting, and on November 3, 2020, despite the threats of white supremacists with guns, despite the anxiety of being denied the vote at the polls on some made up obstacle, will vote, and will likely vote like never before. The history of the country is rooted in the denial of their humanity and the basic rights of Black people, including voting rights.

That history of struggle includes unsung heroes like Fannie Lou Hamer, who, in 1964, put her body on the line for equal justice, so millions could vote. Hamer, like millions of people back in the Civil Rights Movement, was willing to die for the right to vote.

Schools barely teach this history. Children today might know about the famous Selma march but they don’t get enough from our educational systems on this vital part of American history.

But while the struggle might not be known in specific detail, in general, Black people know this right is important and that people died for it. It is passed down, on the porches of our homes speaking to elders, and in barber shops and salons, by community intellectuals. The list of some of the martyrs is well known:

Medgar Evers — shot dead in his driveway, June 12, 1963, for organizing and fighting for the right to vote in Mississippi.

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Medgar Evers — Image Credit: The Guardian

Herbert Lee shot in the head on September 25, 1961 by Mississippi legislator, E.H. Hurst for organizing for voting rights in Mississippi with Bob Moses. One of the witness to the shooting of Lee, Louis Allen was murdered in 1964, right before he was set to leave Mississippi for the North.

Rev. George Lee (to name just a few).

And then, there are soldiers for equal justice like Charles Gomillion who fought and who did not get killed.

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Charles Gomillion

Back, in 1957, Mr. Gomillion was the lead plaintiff in the case of Gomillion v. Lightfoot. At the time, the case was a groundbreaking legal moment in the history of basic civil rights in the U.S. Factually, it is a case about “racial gerrymandering,” :

In the city of Tuskegee in 1957, “African Americans outnumbered whites in the city by a four-to-one margin.” The whites “wanted to block the likelihood of being governed by the black majority,” so “local white residents lobbied the Alabama legislature to redefine the boundaries of the city.” The result: “the legislature enacted Local Law 140, which created a 28-sided city boundary.” The new legislative district “excluded nearly all black voters from the redefined city, but no whites.” (all quotes credited to Journal of Southern History — Samuel Stern )

Charles Gomillion was a Tuskegee University professor at the time. He and others had been fighting for their voting rights for years in a city that was considered slightly liberal on such issues. Yet, still, they met roadblocks.

Racial gerrymandering was declared unconstitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment in the case, and though racial gerrymandering still happens, it was a moment to savor. The struggle continued.

Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, and the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, the efforts to roll back voting rights of Black people and Latinx has become ruthless and overt. Nothing odd about this in fact. The U.S. is in a democratic death spiral. The Republicans are leading the way and racism is their tool. They make no bones about it:

Credit: TMJ4 News

The Kapor Center reported years ago the truth of the GOP racist voter suppression tactics as reported by the Palm Beach Post. The tactics are not only racist but are not in any way based on evidence of voter fraud, which is fiction.

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Credit: The Kapor Center

But, as much as the racism on voting rights continued, the pushback continues. The fight against the tactics continues. It is exhausting but it would be an insult to Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers and Charles Gomillion not to push forward. Greg Palast, the investigative journalist, has become a key ally in this fight this year:

So, even with the long lines, the usual shenanigans like moving precinct locations, threats of violence, and all the other illegal and immoral tactics to stop other human beings from voting, Black people will vote. They are voting. They know blood was spilled for these moments. More than any other Americans, they totally get the madness and will rise above it.

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Vox

Additional Resources, Reading and Viewing:

Eyes on the Prize

Vote.org

Dollars and Sense Magazine

Zinn Project

NAACP — LDF

The People’s World

Politico

99Days

Countdown to Inauguration

Bumpy J

Written by

Bumpy J

Numbers runner. Cigar smoker.

99Days

99Days

99Days is a publication with an expiration date — 1/20/21. It begins in October and ends on or about Inauguration Day, with whatever future that day will foretell. Submissions — Send a note to 99editorial@gmail.com.

Bumpy J

Written by

Bumpy J

Numbers runner. Cigar smoker.

99Days

99Days

99Days is a publication with an expiration date — 1/20/21. It begins in October and ends on or about Inauguration Day, with whatever future that day will foretell. Submissions — Send a note to 99editorial@gmail.com.

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