Register and Vote, Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council), undated, Voter Education Project organizational records Voice Your Vote
The History of African
Americans and the Right to Vote
2

In November 2020, we will find ourselves at the precipice of a historic election. Although in many ways it seems as if America has taken steps back in recent years, we cannot forget that less than 60 years ago African Americans in many states were barred from exercising their constitutional right to vote through intimidation and violence. Through court battles and civil disobedience, the right to vote was eventually secured for African Americans in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. This historic legislation not only increased the influence and power African Americans had in determining electoral outcomes, but it also opened the doors for African Americans to become city council members, mayors, members of Congress, and eventually, President of the United States.

400 Years, Jim Alexander, 1978 400 Years Jim Alexander
1978
AUC Woodruff Library
3 Pickets, DeCarava, Roy, 1946, Clark Atlanta University Art Museum Pickets Roy DeCarava
1946
Clark Atlanta University Art Museum

In a country that may be imperfect in many ways, it is important for us to look back, not only to the struggles of the civil rights movement, but also to the hope that its participants held for America to become a more perfect union. It is imperative to remember that a democracy cannot thrive unless all citizens participate. We the people have the power to create the change we want to see in our country. #VoiceYourVote in 2020 and in every election year.

Line of voters outside Ebenezer Baptist Church led by Martin Luther King, Sr., 1946 July,Grace Towns Hamilton papers Line of voters outside Ebenezer Baptist Church led by Martin Luther King, Sr. 1946 July
Grace Towns Hamilton papers
4

Primer of Voting Rights Organizations

Many individuals and organizations fought for the right to vote during the Civil Rights era. The following organizations are considered to be led by five of the "Big Six" members of the Civil Rights movement. The leaders who were instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom were Martin Luther King, Jr. (SCLC), James Farmer (CORE), John Lewis (SNCC), Roy Wilkins (NAACP), and Whitney Young (NUL). The sixth member of the "Big Six" was A. Phillip Randolph, who organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominately African-American labor union.

Click each acronym to find out more about the role these organizations played in winning the right to vote.

NAACP SCLC SRC SNCC NUL CORE
History

History of African Americans and
the Right to Vote

The struggle for enfranchisement for African Americans is one steeped in blood, sweat and tears, and began immediately after the abolishment of slavery. This would become a fight that would drag on for decades and continue to be questioned and impeded through the present era.

While the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship for African Americans, “this did not always translate into the ability to vote” (Library of Congress).

6

Through underhanded practices, African Americans, especially in the southern states, formally the Confederate States of America, were systematically denied the right to take part in political elections. In order to combat this practice, the United States Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thus granting the right for African American men to vote. This momentarily allowed African Americans to gain political representation in many southern state legislatures during the immediate years after the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era.

The First Colored Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States,,undated,Rucker, Aiken, Mollison, Harper Family papers The First Colored Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States undated
Rucker, Aiken, Mollison, Harper Family papers
The First Colored Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States,,undated,Rucker, Aiken, Mollison, Harper Family papers

Reflection Question:
What was the significance of African American men getting the right to vote before both white and black women?

8

In 1870, Hiram Revels became the first African American to serve in the United States Congress for the state of Mississippi. Soon, other black men from southern states would join both the United States Senate and House of Representatives for the 41st and 42nd United States Congress, including Jefferson Franklin Long, Georgia’s 1st African American Congressmen and the first African American to speak on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1871. A political organizer, Long aided in the fight for voting rights by encouraging African Americans in Georgia to register and vote. In 1867, 32 African Americans were elected to the Georgia state legislature.

The Story Of Hiram R. Revels,Chicago Defender Magazine,1949 April 9,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection The Story Of Hiram R. Revels Chicago Defender Magazine
1949 April 9
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Will He Lose His Vote?,The Worker Magazine,1946 October 27,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Will He Lose His Vote? The Worker Magazine
1946 October 27
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
When Federal Troops Seated Negroes in the Georgia Legislature,,1966 August,SNCC Vertical File When Federal Troops Seated Negroes in the Georgia Legislature When Federal Troops Seated Negroes in the Georgia Legislature
1966 August
SNCC Vertical File
9 WHAT Has Become of the New DEALERS?,The AFRO Magazine,1947 April 5,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection WHAT Has Become of the New DEALERS? The AFRO Magazine
1947 April 5
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection

The black political power of the Reconstruction era was short lived. With the removal of federal troops from the South in 1877, the Democratic Party regained control of Southern legislatures and began to reestablish white supremacy with the suppression of African American rights, including voting. A major tactic used in attempts to disenfranchise African Americans was the passing and enforcing of Black Codes, which were restrictive laws intended to limit the Freedom of African Americans by denying them equal rights and protections under the law. Others included poll taxes, literacy tests, whites-only primary elections, and death threats to deter African Americans from voting at the polls. The fight for black suffrage would continue for decades after the Fifteenth Amendment was passed.

Jefferson F. Long, First Member of Race to Address House,The Pittsburgh Courier,1949 March 5,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Jefferson F. Long, First Member of Race to Address House, The Pittsburgh Courier
1949 March 5
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
10

For further reading about voting
restrictions in the South

Click on the image to read the brochure fullscreen.

Voting Restrictions
11

Reflection Question:
Compare and contrast the political progress of African Americans during the Reconstruction era and the post-Obama era as it pertains to voting rights and representation in elected office.

Fannie Lou Hamer, Bengu, Bongi,2000,Clark Atlanta University Art Museum

The Fight for
Enfranchisement and the
Civil Rights Movement: Organizations for Change

Fannie Lou Hamer Bongi Bengu
2000
Clark Atlanta University Art Museum
13

Though the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote, African American men and women, particularly those living in the South, still fought for their basic civil rights as citizens of the United States. The Jim Crow South brought heavy obstacles to African Americans. As a result, the creation of organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Regional Council (SRC), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Urban Leagues worked both independently and collaboratively for the purpose of ensuring rights and protections for African American citizens.

Alabama's Amendment May Become Decisive In Negro Vote Battle,Washington Post,1947 August 24,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Alabama's Amendment May Become Decisive In Negro Vote Battle Washington Post
1947 August 24
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Negro Poll Dynamited in Florida,NY Post,1952 May 27,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Negro Poll Dynamited in Florida NY Post
1952 May 27
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Application for Registration, Questionnaire and Oath,,circa 1957,Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Application for Registration, Questionnaire and Oath circa 1957
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
The Voting Status of Negroes in Virginia,Virginia Voters League,1945,Clarence Bacote collection The Voting Status of Negroes in Virginia Virginia Voters League
1945
Clarence Bacote collection
14

Collectively, these organizations aided in the fight for African Americans and their right to vote. The modern Civil Rights Movement catapulted this issue to the national stage. Activists, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and John Lewis along with student-led organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Atlanta Student Movement, actively began to protest and bring the discriminatory practices and lack of civil liberties faced by African Americans to the attention of White America.

15

The Southern Regional Council (SRC) is an organization founded in 1919 that focuses on the “intractable issue of racial injustice in the south” (Southern Regional Council). Still in existence today, the organization was “unique in its focus on interracial cooperation and struggle against massive resistance in the South. In 1962, the Voter Education Project (VEP) was adopted as a program under SRC. The brainchild of then United States Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, VEP was originally crafted by Kennedy with the idea that by establishing a program focused on support for voter registration that the protest spurred by the ongoing Civil Rights Movement would be quelled.

History of VEP, Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),1979 January,Voter Education Project organizational records History of VEP Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)
1979 January
Voter Education Project organizational records
16



The program was enacted to help distribute funds to various non-partisan civil rights organization in the effort to support voter registration drives. Some examples included SNCC’s voter registration project in Selma, Alabama in 1962-1963, in which VEP granted $5,000.00 toward the project–the equivalent of $40,000.00 today. This project was the catalyst for the Selma to Montgomery March, orchestrated in part by SCLC and SNCC that culminated in the infamous Bloody Sunday. The Albany Movement, organized by SNCC, NAACP and SCLC, and the Freedom Vote Campaign in 1963 are other examples of voter registration projects funded in part by VEP.

17

Voter Education & Advocacy

Click on the flyer to open the gallery.

How to Conduct a Get Out the Vote Campaign,Voter Education Project, Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.),undated,John H. Calhoun, Jr. papers
18

Click on the image to read the brochure fullscreen.

The Street Where You Live
Know Your Georgia Government,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),undated,John H. Wheeler collection

Reflection Question:
For years "Get out and Vote" campaigns consisted of door-to-door canvassing, printed mailers, voter registration drives, and most recently social media ads. Many of these practices are still used today. Are they still effective? Why or why not? If not, how can these methods be innovative in order to increase the effort to mobilize voters?

20 Defend the Right to Vote circa 1975
Political Posters Collection
Defend the Right to Vote, circa 1975Political Posters Collection
VEP

VEP In Focus

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1960 mandated, among other protections, preservation of registration and voting records in federal elections and judicial appointments of voting “referees” to compile evidence of voting rights violations. However, African Americans who protested unjust treatment or attempted to register to vote were often met by a violent pushback from Southern whites. The surge of negative press regarding civil rights protests caught the eye of the Kennedy administration, with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy believing that a privately funded voter registration program would eliminate the need for these protests. The Southern Regional Council (SRC), with the full support of the Kennedy administration, established the Voter Education Project (VEP) in 1962.

No Excuse,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),circa 1984,Voter Education Project organizational records No Excuse,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council) circa 1984
Voter Education Project organizational records
22


Initially a 2 year pilot project, the VEP provided grants to Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Despite President Kennedy’s request that, with the formation of the VEP, these groups halt protest activities, only the NAACP complied.

When the VEP launched in Atlanta in 1962, only about 25% of voting age African Americans were registered throughout the South, with states like Mississippi having only about 6% of its voting age African Americans registered.

23

In its first two years, VEP efforts increased African American voter registration in Southern states from roughly 25% to roughly 40%, with nearly 800,000 new African American voters registered. Despite the success of the initial VEP campaign, the organizations funded by the VEP continued to face brutality and police repression against their voter registration campaigns. The collective national frustration over the dangers VEP volunteers faced ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the subsequent Voting Rights Act of 1965.

100 Plus Project flyer,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),circa 1980,Voter Education Project organizational records 100 Plus Project flyer Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)
circa 1980
Voter Education Project organizational records
24

After its initial two year pilot project, the SRC proposed making the VEP a permanent program, expanding its goals to maximum voter registration, leadership training, and citizenship education and opening offices throughout the Southern states. The VEP continued to work under the auspices of the Southern Regional Council until 1971, in large part due to the United States Tax Reform Bill of 1969, when it became an independent organization under the leadership of former SNCC chair and current United States Congressman John Lewis. As a separate organization, VEP continued to help fund voting initiatives throughout the South, and grew to become an authoritative source for statistics on southern elections.

Correspondence regarding tax legislation impacting voter registration drives,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),1969 October,John H. Wheeler collection Correspondence regarding tax legislation impacting voter registration drives Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)
1969 October
John H. Wheeler collection
VEP News Vol. 1, No. 2,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),1967 July,John H. Wheeler collection VEP News Vol. 1, No. 2 Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)
1967 July
John H. Wheeler collection
VEP voter correspondence,Voter Education Project, Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.),1972 November 1,John H. Wheeler collection VEP voter correspondence, Voter Education Project, Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.)
1972 November 1
John H. Wheeler collection
Black Candidates Southern Campaign Experiences, Julian Bond, 1940-2015,1969 May,Vivian W. Henderson papers Black Candidates Southern Campaign Experiences Bond, Julian 1940-2015
1969 May
Vivian W. Henderson papers
25

While the VEP continued to be a nonpartisan organization, under Lewis’s leadership the VEP expanded its services to the poor and people of color outside of the African American community. Along with former SNCC activist and Georgia state Representative Julian Bond, Lewis toured the South on VEP’s Voter Mobilization Tours. The two men traveled door-to-door, encouraging southerners to register and vote.
The economic recession of the 1970s hit the VEP hard, forcing the VEP to reduce office staff and restructure its activities. Later in the decade, the VEP was able to participate in national voter campaigns, expanding its reach to television and radio. John Lewis resigned as Executive Director in 1977 to run for Congress, and the VEP continued to struggle financially, nearly closing its doors in 1981. Though Executive Director Geraldine Thompson managed to temporarily salvage the VEP during the 1980s, the VEP finally ceased operating in 1992.

John Lewis and Julian Bond speak to group about voting rights,August, 1971, Allen, Archie E. John Lewis and Julian Bond speak to group about voting rights August, 1971
Allen, Archie E.
No Excuse,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),circa 1984,Voter Education Project organizational records

Reflection Question:
Does the past struggle for voting rights mandate that you exercise the right yourself? Is not voting disrespectful to this legacy? Why or why not?

27

VEP Campaign Posters & Flyers

Click on the flyer to open the gallery.

Don't Act Like a Goat, Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council), circa 1970, Voter Education Project organizational records
Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

Some of the earliest victories in the fight for voting rights occurred in the courts. In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled in Guinn v. United States (the first case in which the NAACP filed a brief) that states implementing a "grandfather clause" exemption to electoral literacy tests were in violation of the Constitution. Grandfather clauses exempted voters whose grandfathers had been eligible to vote prior to the Civil War, disenfranchising African American voters whose relatives were enslaved at that time. The 1944 Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Allwright found whites-only primaries to be unconstitutional.

Milestone, St. Louis Post-Dispatchcirca 1960Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Milestone St. Louis Post-Dispatch
circa 1960
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
29 U.S. Orders Vote Examiners Into 3 Dixie States, Chicago Sun-Times1965 August 10Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection U.S. Orders Vote Examiners Into 3 Dixie States Chicago Sun-Times
1965 August 10
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection

Despite these legal victories, Southern legislatures continued to pass voting laws designed to disenfranchise African Americans. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 banned intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the rights of voters and established the Commission on Civil Rights as well as the Office of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. 1964 brought about passage of another Civil Rights Act that further expanded the federal government's authority to protect civil rights, as well as ratification of the 24th Amendment, which prohibited the poll tax.

30

Despite this progress, African American voters throughout the South continued to face violence and retaliatory job loss when they tried to register to vote. When law enforcement wasn't directly participating in this intimidation, they often looked the other way. Organizations, including SNCC and SCLC, began to mobilize throughout the South in a meaningful way, but, wherever these organizations arrived, violence followed. By the 1960s, however, the violence and intimidation that Southern governments had traditionally employed began to appear more frequently in the mainstream press, turning the tide of public opinion in support of the goals of the Civil Rights movement. Pivotal events like the burning of churches in southwest Georgia in 1962, the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers in 1963 and Bloody Sunday in 1965 illustrated the mortal cost of attaining equal rights for African Americans.

31 The Student Voice, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)1962 OctoberSNCC Vertical File The Student Voice Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)
1962 October
SNCC Vertical File
Homage to Medgar Evers, Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1968, Clark Atlanta University Art Museum Homage to Medgar Evers Robert Chesley Osborn
1968
Clark Atlanta University Art Museum
Mississippi 1963 SNCC Vertical File Mississippi 1963
SNCC Vertical File
Stop Police Brutalitycirca 1963Political Posters Collection Stop Police Brutality circa 1963
Political Posters Collection
32

As a direct result of the efforts of VEP, SCLC, NAACP, SNCC and various other civil rights organizations, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by president Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965–a little over 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and 95 years after the Fifteenth Amendment granted African American men the right to vote. Though the bill faced resistance from Southern legislators, overall public opinion was squarely on the side of the Civil Rights movement. This law aided in dismembering the legal barriers (such as poll taxes and literacy tests) at state and local levels that prevented African Americans from participation in voting.

"No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." - Voting Rights Act of 1965, Pub. L. 89-110, 79 Stat. 437.
President Signs Voting-Rights Bill, Chicago Sun-Times1965 August 7Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection President Signs Voting-Rights Bill Chicago Sun-Times
1965 August 7
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
33

The legislation expanded protections for African Americans under both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. By the end of 1965, 250,000 African Americans were registered to vote – only one third were by federal examiners, thus the other two-thirds were a direct result of grassroots efforts from organizations like SNCC, NAACP, SCLC and help from VEP. This would usher in a new era of politics as it related to African American and political life.

President and Congress: Shaping Voting Bill, The New York Times1965 March 21Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection President and Congress: Shaping Voting Bill The New York Times
1965 March 21
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Will Vote-Right Fight Be Appomattox All Over Again, Robert L. Riggs, circa 1965, Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Will Vote-Right Fight Be Appomattox All Over Again? Riggs, Robert L.
circa 1965
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Virginian Calls Voting Rights Bill a 'War Measure', Chicago Tribune1965 March 30Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Virginian Calls Voting Rights Bill a 'War Measure' Chicago Tribune
1965 March 30
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Harris Poll: Public Backs Voting Rights Bill, 3 to 2, Louis Harris; New York Post, 1965 May 10, Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Harris Poll: Public Backs Voting Rights Bill, 3 to 2 Harris, Louis; New York Post
1965 May 10
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Selma Poster, Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council)circa 1960 Voter Education Project organizational records

Reflection Question:
In 1965 the Voting Rights Act outlawed poll taxes and literacy test that sought to disenfranchise African American and minority votes. What are some modern day hurdles minority voters face today and how can they overcome these obstacles?

Beyond

Voting Rights Act & Beyond: African Americans in the Political Arena

While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been extended several times, it has also faced roll-backs. Nevertheless, the initial signing of the act led to an increased number of African American voters, candidates and elected officials, including Maynard Jackson, the first African American elected mayor of a major southern city–Atlanta; Shirley Chisholm, first African American woman elected to Congress and the first African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties; Grace Towns Hamilton, the first African American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly; Barack Obama, the first African American president of the United States of America and; potentially Kamala Harris, who has the possibility of becoming the first African American woman Vice President of the United States.

36 [Unidentified Swearing Ceremony]1978Maynard Jackson mayoral administrative records: Series F: Photographs [Unidentified Swearing Ceremony] 1978
Maynard Jackson mayoral administrative records: Series F: Photographs
37 Click on the flyer to open the gallery. Mom Is A Congresswoman, Ebony1994 SeptemberCynthia McKinney Biographical File 38

One of the quickest and most notable effects of the passage of the Voting Rights Act was the creation of an African American voting bloc with the power to sway elections. Registration across all races increased throughout the South, but pluralities of African American voters ushered in a wave of African American legislators and became a deciding factor in Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential campaign victory and Barack Obama's historic election in 2008.

What the Voting Rights Bill Has Done, New York Times1970 June 21Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection What the Voting Rights Bill Has Done New York Times
1970 June 21
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Vote the Black Slate, circa 1975Political Posters Collection Vote the Black Slate, circa 1975
Political Posters Collection
Ford Hails Gain In Voting Rights Negro Throngs Register, Chicago Sun-Times
1965 August 11
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Jesse Jackson launches drive for Voting Act, Birmingham News1981 April 5Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Black vote may have put Ohio in Carter country Rice, Joseph D.; Cleveland Plain Dealer
1976 November
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
39 Lowndes County voter education materials, undatedSNCC Vertical File Lowndes County voter education materials undated
SNCC Vertical File

While many of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement, like John Lewis and Andrew Young, pivoted from activism to politics, others made an impact outside of holding political office.Building upon their work with black liberation organizations, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense to challenge police brutality in Oakland, California. Newton and Seale adopted the black panther logo from Alabama's Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a group led by SNCC Chair Stokely Carmichael to register voters in Lowndes County. Also active in the Black Panther Party was Angela Davis, who continues her activism to this day as a leader of the prison abolition movement and honorary co-chair of the 2017 Women's March on Washington.

Free Angela Davis Poster, undated, David Taylor Papers Free Angela Davis Poster undated
David Taylor Papers
40 Angela: Contemplating, Bailey, Herman Angela: Contemplating Bailey, Herman "Kofi"
1971
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
Angela Davis!: This Black Woman is a Heroine, undated, David Taylor Papers Angela Davis!: This Black Woman is a Heroine undated
David Taylor Papers
Angela, Black Kirby. 2012-2018 Angela Black Kirby
2012-2018
41

Political Posters Throughout the Years

Click on the flyer to open the gallery.

Carry It On - Register and Vote, circa 1972Political Posters Collection
Politicians

Atlanta Politicians in Focus

Julian Bond

During his time at Morehouse College, Julian Bond was instrumental in the establishment of SNCC, helped to lead the Atlanta Student Movement, and assisted in the creation of the Appeal for Human Rights. In 1965, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. However, members of the state house voted to not seat him in 1966 due to his endorsement of SNCC’s policy regarding opposition to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court would later decide that the Georgia House of Representatives was required to seat him. Bond was elected for four terms in the state house from 1967 to 1975. After his tenure in the Georgia House, he was a state senator for six terms from 1975 to 1987. After his career in politics, Bond served as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and chairman of the NAACP.

Julian Bond, Atlanta Inquirer Julian Bond Atlanta Inquirer
43 Portrait of Shirley Franklin, undatedMaynard Jackson Mayoral Administrative records Portrait of Shirley Franklin undated
Maynard Jackson Mayoral Administrative records
Shirley Franklin

In 2001, Shirley Franklin was elected to be Atlanta’s first woman mayor and first African American woman mayor of a major Southern city. She served two terms as mayor from 2002 to 2010. Prior to becoming mayor, Franklin served as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Maynard Jackson and then Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager under Mayor Andrew Young. During her tenure, she helped to balance the city’s budget, repair the sewer system, make Atlanta a “green” city, helped launch the Atlanta Beltline, and helped to acquire the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection for the college.

44 Grace Towns Hamilton

Grace Towns Hamilton was elected as the first African American woman representative in the Georgia General Assembly in 1965. She would serve until 1984. During her tenure, Hamilton represented the Vine City area of Atlanta, served on various committees, such as the Reapportionment Committee and the Appropriations Committee, and sponsored numerous bills during her time in the Georgia General Assembly in an effort to expand Black leadership and political representation in city, county, and state governments. She was a principal architect for the 1973 Atlanta City Charter, which allowed Blacks to be elected to the Atlanta City Council in numbers proportionate to their part of the city’s population. Grace Towns Hamilton was a key figure in changing and promoting the city of Atlanta.

Grace Towns Hamilton Portrait, Grace Towns Hamilton, 1907-1992 circa 1984 Grace Towns Hamilton papers Grace Towns Hamilton Portrait Hamilton, Grace Towns, 1907-1992
circa 1984
Grace Towns Hamilton papers
45 Portrait Jackson, undated, Maynard Jackson mayoral administrative records: Series F: Photographs Portrait Jackson undated
Maynard Jackson mayoral administrative records: Series F: Photographs

Maynard Jackson

In 1973, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. became the first African American mayor of Atlanta. He served two consecutive terms (1974-1982) and served a third term from 1990 to 1994. Under his leadership, numerous appointments of women and African Americans were made to high offices for the first time in Atlanta's history. Some of his most notable accomplishments include the construction of Atlanta's airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, overhauling social departments of the Atlanta’s city government, such as the police department, and working to bring the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta.

46

Leroy Johnson

In 1962, Leroy Johnson was the first African American elected to the Georgia state legislature in more than fifty years, since William Rogers in 1907, and the first to be elected to the Georgia State Senate since 1874. He served District 38 of the Atlanta, Fulton County area. Prior to being a senator, Johnson attended Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University and worked as an attorney.

Leroy Johnson on running for mayor of Atlanta, Leroy Johnson, 1928- 1969 August 27 James P. Brawley Collection Leroy Johnson on running for mayor of Atlanta Johnson, Leroy, 1928-
1969 August 27
James P. Brawley Collection
47 John Lewis, undatedVoter Education Project John Lewis undated
Voter Education Project

John Lewis

Before becoming a congressman for the state of Georgia, John Lewis was the chairman of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) during the Civil Rights Movement and served as an executive director of VEP (Voter Education Project). In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council. In 1986, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives for the 5th District in Georgia. John Lewis has been reelected 14 times to the U.S. House. During his tenure, he has worked on various bills and served on the Committee on Ways and Means, as well as been a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

48

Jefferson Franklin Long

Jefferson Franklin Long was the second African American in the United States elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1871. Long was the first African American elected from Georgia, and the first to speak on the floor of the U.S. House. He would be the only African American to represent Georgia in the U.S. Congress until the election of Andrew Young in 1972.

Jefferson F. Long, undated,Rucker, Aiken, Mollison, Harper Family papers Jefferson F. Long undated
Rucker, Aiken, Mollison, Harper Family papers
49 Andrew Young campaign flyer, circa 1970sJohn H. Calhoun Andrew Young campaign flyer circa 1970s
John H. Calhoun

Andrew Young

Andrew Young was an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, serving as the executive director of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Young went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s 5th District from 1973 to 1977. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He became the first African American to have the position and served from 1977 to 1979. Young was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1981, the second African American to be elected. He served as mayor from 1982 to 1990.

Now

The Vote, Now

Voter suppression still effects all African Americans. Despite the fact that extensions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act were signed into law by Presidents Nixon, Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, in 2012 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Shelby County vs. Holder case challenging sections of the Voting Rights Act. In 2010, Shelby County, Alabama sued the federal government arguing that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. Section 5 required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters to submit any proposed changes in voting procedures to the U.S. Department of Justice before they went into effect.

51 The Voting Rights Act: What It Means How To Make It Work For You, American Civil Liberties Union1983 DecemberJohnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection The Voting Rights Act: What It Means How To Make It Work For You American Civil Liberties Union
1983 December
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Know Your Georgia Government,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council),undated,John H. Wheeler collection Know Your Georgia Government,Voter Education Project (Southern Regional Council) undated,John H. Wheeler collection Know Your Voting Rights,North Carolina Voter Education Project,circa 1960,John Wheeler collection Know Your Voting Rights North Carolina Voter Education Project
circa 1960
John Wheeler collection
52

Though two lower courts upheld the constitutionality of Section 5, Shelby County appealed these rulings and in 2013 the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional because the coverage formula used to determine which jurisdictions should be covered by Section 5 was based on an old formula. Despite the majority opinion written by the Court declaring that "The conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions," (Shelby v. Holder, 2013) within 24 hours of the ruling Texas announced implementation of a strict voter ID law. Mississippi and Alabama also began enforcing voter ID laws they had previously been barred from enacting due to Voting Rights Act protections. Although the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Congress and the President can enact legislation to restore its full protections. State governments can also enact legislation to supplement protections guaranteed by the federal government.

The Theme at Ebenezer: Extend Voting Rights Act, The Atlanta Journal1975 January 14Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection The Theme at Ebenezer: Extend Voting Rights Act The Atlanta Journal
1975 January 14
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Ford Hails Gain In Voting Rights, Washington Post1975 August 7Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Ford Hails Gain In Voting Rights Washington Post
1975 August 7
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Ford Hails Gain In Voting Rights Ford Hails Gain In Voting Rights Washington Post
1975 August 7
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
Jesse Jackson launches drive for Voting Act, Birmingham News1981 April 5Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection Jesse Jackson launches drive for Voting Act Birmingham News
1981 April 5
Johnson Publishing Company Clippings File Collection
53

In the face of suppression efforts, voter education efforts, canvassing and practicing your right to vote are more important than ever for their right to vote and to hold elected office, regardless of race, class, sexual identity, gender, or ability. For more information about voting and how you can register, check out our voting resources on the next page.

For additional voting resources, check out the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library LibGuide on voting. To view additional voting rights images from our collections, check out our exhibit collection and Voter Education Project collection!

It's Your Fight, circa 1970Political Posters Collection It's Your Fight circa 1970
Political Posters Collection
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Reflection Question:
Looking forward, what is the biggest legislative hurdle facing African Americans and other minorities today? What legislation would – if you could – write and why?

Resources Voting Resources Georgia
Georgia Secretary of State
Elections
Election Dates
Online Voter Registration System
My Voter Page

Use My Voter Page for the following:
• Voter registration status
• Mail in application and ballots status
• Poll location
• Early Voting Locations
 • Sample ballot for upcoming election
• Provisional Ballot status

Outside of Georgia
Check your registration status
Voter registration information
Fair Fight
All Of Us Are Registered To Vote Are You?, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)undatedSNCC Vertical File All Of Us Are Registered To Vote Are You? Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)
undated
SNCC Vertical File
Voting Rights Organizations History of African Americans &
the Right to Vote
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 Voting Rights Act & Beyond The Fight for Enfranchisement Voting Resources The Vote, Now

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