Fifty years ago, SNCC fought hand-in-hand with local people in the Deep South to gain full and fair access to the ballot for all Americans. The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a major step toward securing that goal. In Lowndes County, Alabama, African Americans used their newly-protected right to create the independent Lowndes County Freedom Party. “It is going to attempt to go into areas where no one has bothered to go before, and to talk to people who up until now have not been considered worthwhile to deal with or represent,” SNCC field secretary Courtland Cox explained. Its major emphasis was “to bring the poor and excluded, political power on the county level […] We say that those people know their needs and too long have they been ignored.”
Today, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and an outpouring of restrictive state laws are again disenfranchising Americans. Two articles, one by historian and Editorial Board member, Hasan Kwame Jeffries, and the other by President Barack Obama, lay what is needed to protect voting rights today.
Hasan Kwame Jeffries’ article, “Voting Rights Require Organization and Legislation,” in the New York Times, Aug. 5, 2015
President Obama’s Letter to the Editor in the New York Times Magazine, Aug. 12, 2015