September 30, 2020
In this centennial year of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women in the United States the right to vote, we often hear stories of suffrage movement leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony. But how often do we hear the stories of Mary Church Terrell, Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, Jovita Ivar or Mabel Ping-Hua Lee? Each one of these women of color made a major contribution to the struggle to obtain voting rights for women, but their role has largely been removed from historical accounts.
Even after the 19th Amendment was ratified, it didn’t give voting rights to Native Americans, who were granted citizenship in 1924 but not the right to vote, or many Asian Americans, who wouldn’t receive full voting rights until 1952. Black Americans still faced poll taxes and literacy tests at the polls, not to mention the threat of violence, necessitating the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed the discriminatory practices that were preventing people of color from voting.
More than five decades later, the struggle to fully enfranchise people of color and to consistently implement the Voting Rights Act continues. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, ruled against two key provisions of the act: Section 5, which requires that states with a history of disenfranchising voters receive preclearance from the Federal Government to change voting practices and laws, and Section 4(b), which contains the formula that determines which jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices are subject to Article 5.
Why should access to voting concern us?Read More