I’ve heard: “my vote doesn’t matter,” “the election is rigged,” and “I don’t have time.” If votes were of no consequence, politicians wouldn’t spend millions vying for your vote. If your vote had no value, there would be no history of people fighting for the right to do so against forces trying to deny that right to so many others.
January 1965 – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched a voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama. In Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up slightly more than 50 percent of the population, less than 1 percent of eligible African American voters were registered to vote. When attempting to register to vote, or organize others to vote, African Americans were harassed, assaulted, jailed, and even murdered.
In that place, in that time, achieving the right to vote was a seemingly impossible feat. Consistence, courage, and determination brought about change. People died for what too many Americans take for granted. Lives have literally been lost for a right guaranteed by the Constitution, the right to vote.
In the midst of the campaign, on March 7, 1965, at roughly 9:30 p.m., ABC news broadcaster Frank Reynolds interrupted the premier of “Judgment at Nuremberg”— being watched by nearly 50 million Americans. What followed was horrifying footage from Selma, Alabama. This day would become known as Bloody Sunday.
Hosea Williams, representing the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and John Lewis, a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairman (future U.S. congressman), had been leading nearly 600 voting rights advocates on what was to be a 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery.
As demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met with state troopers wearing helmets and armed with guns, billy clubs, and tear gas. The troopers were backed by sheriff’s deputies, some of them on horses. What followed was peaceful marchers being charged and knocked to the ground, struck with clubs, and covered in tear gas.
A march for the right to vote – free from Jim Crow laws – was met with brutal violence.
Voter suppression and discrimination is real and deeply rooted in American history. Dating back to 1776, only white men that owned property were allowed to vote. In 1870, the 15th Amendment extended the right to vote to African American men, but states responded with “grandfather clauses” and Jim Crow laws used to prevent them from voting. After more than 50 years, the women’s suffrage movement culminated in 1920 with the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. It was not until 1924 that Native Americans were given the right to vote, after reprehensible, prior requirements that they disassociate from their tribes to gain the right. And, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act began officially ripping down the barriers that had long kept African American people from having a say in the government that governed them.
If voting had no value, there would be no efforts to disenfranchise voters.
Voting is not only a right, but it is a privilege. It is your opportunity to be heard and to vote for what you want America to become.
Election day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Yet, you don’t have to wait. Early voting is underway in Texas through Friday, October 30, 2020.
When we vote, we are part of a collective effort. When likeminded people vote for like-minded interests, that is when real change happens.
Know Your Interests. Vote Your Interests. Know the value of your vote.