The given historical analysis will primarily focus on the events of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The message will be communicated to a specific audience, which has no current knowledge of American history and its intricate elements of the development as well as internal racial issues. The Voting Rights Act was caused by voter suppression laws and violent responses to peaceful protests, and its impact was evidenced by the increased political power of minority groups.
The main causes of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were voter suppression laws. It should be noted that the Fifteenth Amendment states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (National Constitution Center, 2021, para. 1). Despite its introduction and ratification in 1870, there were other voter suppression laws, which primarily affected minority communities and groups. Therefore, the key underlying factors were literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses (History.com Editors, 2021). All of these legal instruments were used to diminish the political influence and voter impact of minorities by restricting access to the voting process. In the case of poll taxes, some individuals were denied their voting rights on the basis of non-payment of the taxes, where a tax collector would refuse to accept their money. In other words, there was an orchestrated procedural pitfall, which was abused to suppress the votes of minorities, especially African Americans.
In the case of literacy tests, voter suppression was aimed at Black Americans since these communities had high illiteracy rates at that time. It is stated that “Black people, whose population suffered a high rate of illiteracy due to centuries of oppression and poverty, often would be forced to take literacy tests, which they sometimes failed” (History.com Editors, 2021, para. 7). African Americans were denied their voting right through incorrect application form filling or poor literacy skills (History.com Editors, 2021). In other words, there were legal systems of voter suppression enabled by poll taxes and literacy tests. However, the tipping point and immediate cause was the Selma to Montgomery march, where state troopers violently attacked the peaceful protesters in Alabama (History.com Editors, 2021). The event led to the quick passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Lyndon B. Johnson (History.com Editors, 2021). Therefore, the march and trooper brutality led tipped the scales through a national outrage.
Course of Events
The course of events began with the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. However, some states still were able to conduct voter suppression through literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses. The Civil Rights Movement was becoming more active during the 1950s and 1960s, which heightened the racial tensions in the United States (History.com Editors, 2021). President John F. Kennedy’s assassination led to Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency in 1963 (History.com Editors, 2021). Selma to Montgomery march took place March 7, 1965, which led to a violent response by state troopers of Alabama (History.com Editors, 2021). The event resulted in a national outrage and immediate action from Lyndon B. Johnson. The Voting Rights Act “passed in the U.S. Senate by a 77-19 vote on May 26, 1965. After debating the bill for more than a month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 333-85 on July 9” (History.com Editors, 2021, para. 9). On August 6, 1965, the bill was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in a ceremonial event, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent activists were present (History.com Editors, 2021). Therefore, the most important participants were Lyndon B. Johnson, civil rights activists, and Selma to Montgomery march protestors. The president signed the bill to eliminate the voter suppression laws, whereas civil rights activists and protestors raised the issue to the public eye. The perspectives of these participants did not differ significantly since they worked towards a single goal of voter nondiscrimination.
The immediate consequence of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was rooted in the fact that African Americans and other minority groups gained political power due to voting rights protection. In the long term, the bill facilitated the process of increasing the level of racial equality, which enabled all of the progress made from 1965 to today. It had a significant impact on American society since African Americans and other minority groups were finally active participants in the democratic process. Their issues became more voiced in the political arena, which decreased racial inequality in the United States. Although the nation still has race-related problems even today, the overall degree of progress should not be overlooked, which was the result of efforts and sacrifices made by civil rights activists.
Although the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was multifaceted, the most appealing source of evidence was the changes in the political climb to power among African Americans. It is stated that the bill “fostered local black office-holding, particularly in the powerful county commissions, controlling local public finances. The change in the racial composition of county governments led to faster capital spending growth” (Bernini et al., 2019, p. 1). In other words, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed African American individuals to be able to gain political influence not only through means of activism or protests but also within the political institutions.
Bernini, A., Facchini, G., & Testa, C. (2019). Race, representation and local governments in the US South: The effect of the Voting Rights Act. SSRN: CERP Discussion Paper, DP12774, 1-62. Web.
History.com Editors. (2021). Voting Rights Act of 1965. History.
National Constitution Center. (2021). Right to vote not denied by race. Interactive Constitution.