Feb 21, 2013

Oblivious in 1965

from www.colorlines.com

I was still in high school when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.  I am quite sure it did not enter my privileged consciousness in any profound way –and neither did the Civil Rights Act which was signed into law by President Johnson in 1964.

As it turns out. in order to insure the passage of these two bills, Johnson used all of the considerable tool case he had acquired in the Senate, knowing all the while that he was giving up the South for the Democrats for the foreseeable future.

Ironically, Johnson had been “re”-elected in 1964 by Republican widows who owned stock in electric companies — owing to his having been involved in the concept of wheeling power across grids to prevent blackouts and use electricity to maximum advantage.    In July of 1964, Johnson asked Congress for $45.5 million in order to link the Pacific Coast and the Southwest in a massive power-sharing grid.  Republican widows everywhere took notice.

Back on topic.  The Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress on August 5, 1964 and Johnson signed it into law the next day.  It was again powered by Johnson’s adroit political skill and underscored by the public revulsion at the recent violence in Selma, Alabama.  The Voting Rights Act enforced the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, some 95 years after it had been passed.

“Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices for which preclearance was required. [See South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 327-28 (1966) and Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969)]

The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.” (from www.ourdocuments.gov)

I only learned these things when I was in college and afterwards:   it horrifies me to think that Republicans in this country are now trying to undermine the critical accomplishment of the Voting Rights Act, through both gerrymandering (something I learned about in high school, but with no “real world” examples) and “voter I.D.” laws.

The right to vote is a core value of this country (no taxation without representation) and the republican legislatures which are trying to modify its power are hoping no one will notice.  A lot of this went on before the 2012 election, and it will only get worse in 2014 if Americans everywhere don’t realize that with regard to some of our most basic rights, this country is now way off the mark.

I was oblivious in 1965.  But no longer.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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