On this, Martin Luther King Day, we should learn about the struggle that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Why should you vote; because people were beaten, jailed, killed and otherwise suffered so that you could.
Voting Rights History
Two Centuries of Struggle
Much of this brief timeline describes oppression, persecution, and discrimination in regards to voting rights. In all of these cases those affected were not passive victims — rather they fought back with whatever means they had.
Similarly, much of this short summary is presented in the form of legislative and legal milestones. But all of those laws and court cases were the direct result of popular struggles and mass political pressure. In no case did benevolent legislators enact civil rights laws or magnanimous judges rule against discrimination without being forced to do so by we the people.
The stories of the freedom struggles and resistance to oppression that resulted in the milestones presented here would (and does) fill books. A single webpage cannot document the details of those battles, but it is crucial to remember that from every act of oppression grew a hundred forms of resistance. And every victorious milestone on the Freedom Road was achieved with blood, sweat, and tears.
The two main issues addressed by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were ending the "Jim Crow" system of segregation and winning the right to vote for African-Americans (and Latinos, Native-Americans, Asians, and others) in the South and elsewhere.
But the Freedom Movement of the 1960s did not spontaneously spring up out of nowhere, nor did it disappear when its work was "done." Rather the Civil Rights Movement was but one episode in a centuries-long struggle for human freedom and civil rights that continues to this day. The Movement grew out of what came before and evolved into the struggles being waged today. Nothing illustrates this point better than the long battle for voting rights.
Voting Rights Milestones
In essence, the struggle for voting rights in America over the past two centuries has been a two-part battle. The first part was to win citizenship rights for people of color. But citizenship was only the first half of the fight. The second half was to win voting rights for all citizens regardless of gender, economic status, race, or national origin.
Read Timeline Here