1965 August 6

LBJ Signs Historic Voting Rights Act


President Lyndon Johnson on this day signed the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination in voter registration on account of race. Passage of the law was a direct result of the civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama (see the famous “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965) and Johnson’s famous Voting Rights Speech on March 15, 1965.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act transformed Southern politics, resulting in the election of innumerable African-American officials at all levels of government. By the 1980s, Mississippi has more elected African-American officials than any other state in the nation. The law was renewed on June 30, 1982 (signed by President Ronald Reagan who did not want to renew the law) and on July 27, 2006 (and signed by President George W. Bush whose Republican Party also opposed extending the law). On June 25, 2013, however, the Supreme Court declared a key provision of the law unconstitutional, as the struggle over race and the right to vote continued.

Watch LBJ’s remarks on signing the Voting Rights Act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2k9AFAoKrU

Watch excerpts from Lyndon Johnson’s famous voting rights speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNjlwwf2K9g

Read: Chandler Davidson and Bernard Groffman, Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act, 1965-1990 (1994)

Learn about some of the cases that enforced the Voting Rights Act in the 1970s and 1980s: https://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/aclu-history-changing-face-american-politics

Learn more: Ari Berman, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (2015)

Read: Steven Lawson, Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944–1969 (1976)

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