50 Years Later: Voting Rights Act of 1965

Georgetown commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which prohibited racial discrimination in voting – with faculty experts in history, psychology, conflict resolution, communications, culture and technology sharing their perspectives as the anniversary of key events related to the voting rights movement draws near.


The Importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Marcia Chatelain, assistant professor of history, and Adam Rothman, associate professor of history,   explain why the ratification of the voting law was a necessity even after the passage of the 15th Amendment – which declared that the right of citizens to vote should not be denied on account of race.

From the late 19th century through the 1960s, many states used poll taxes, literacy tests, quizzes and various forms of intimidation to keep African Americans from voting. Rothman breaks down the constitutional right to vote in the United States.


Voting Rights Highlights: 1965 and Beyond

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shake hands after the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shake hands after the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.


A History of Struggles and Restrictions

Rothman explains how the right to vote in America has never been a given, with restrictions over the years for people of color, women and others, making it necessary to ratify not only the 15th Amendment, but the 19th and 26th amendments and a number of other legislative measures.


The Impact of Civil Disobedience

Law professor Paul Butler explains the power civil disobedience has on movements – from the attack on nonviolent protesters on Bloody Sunday and the successful March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to the protests and die-ins staged by present-day protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

 
Law enforcement officers use tear gas and clubs on nonviolent voting rights protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during their attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, also known as  Bloody Sunday . 

Law enforcement officers use tear gas and clubs on nonviolent voting rights protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during their attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, also known as Bloody Sunday


Modern Day Voter Suppression, Corruption, Disenfranchisement

Though the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits racial discrimination in voting, voter ID, felon voter and redistricting laws and practices by various states have been scrutinized as present-day forms of disenfranchising low-income residents, the elderly and people of color. Maurice Jackson, associate professor of history; Fathali Moghaddam, professor of psychology and director of the conflict resolution program; and Diana Owen, associate professor of political science in the communications, culture and technology program, share their perspectives.  


Should Voting Be Mandatory in America?

Other countries such as Australia, Brazil, Belgium and Singapore require their citizens to vote. Moghaddam explores whether voting should be mandatory, like paying taxes or reporting for jury duty.


Be a Part of the Political Process

Chatelain says citizens should celebrate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by registering to vote if they haven't already, researching candidates and issues before elections and remembering to vote.