Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Let’s not forget what life was like before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Various tactics, like poll taxes and literacy tests, were used to deny black people the right to vote. Following is an excerpt from Granddaddy’s Gift which demonstrates the problems African-Americans encountered when they went to register to vote.
The next day Granddaddy rode into town and parked his truck in front of the courthouse. He walked like he was going somewhere, the way he always did. As usual, I was right behind him.
He went into one of the offices and told the lady behind the counter that he wanted to register to vote.
The lady went into the back room and came back with a man. “Well now, Joe,” the man said. “You see, there is this test you have to take on the Mississippi constitution. It’s hard, real hard. You’re doing all right, Joe. Just be satisfied with what you have.”
Granddaddy left the office. I turned and walked after him, my head hanging down. I didn’t want to look at Granddaddy’s face, because I knew he felt bad, too.
He waited for me at the top of the courthouse steps. He took my hand. “Daughter,” he said, “Hold your head up high. We have done nothing wrong.”
Granddaddy told me there was something important to strive for in addition to the good things we had. There were some things that made a person feel good inside, like having the rights we were all entitled to as citizens of these United States.
For more information about Granddaddy’s Gift visit: Granddaddy’s Gift