Discoverer In the News: Voting Rights Act

March for Black Suffrage

Demonstrators participating in a march for black suffrage.
by Bruce Davidson/Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, gave African American men the right to vote. But some people in Southern states did not agree with the amendment, and so passed discriminatory laws that made it hard for African Americans to cast their votes. Some parts of the South enacted a poll tax or forced black people to take a literacy test. Sometimes white Southerners harassed or intimidated African Americans when they tried to register to vote.

Almost 100 years later, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act was passed. This 1965 civil law made voter discrimination illegal. So all of the local election rules that made it difficult for African Americans to register to vote or cast a vote were now against national law.

The Voting Rights Act has been upheld by Congress several times. However, in June 2013, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 prohibits states with a history of voter discrimination from making new election rules without special permission. Some people agree with this decision, others do not.

What do you think of this controversial decision? Check out this month’s “Discoverer In the News” feature and decide for yourself. Quiz yourself on the Voting Rights Act and decipher the meaning of an editorial cartoon on this topic.

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