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Introduction   African Americans    Women    Native Americans    Voters Today

After this article was written, the fight for African American suffrage raged on for another fifty years. In the 1930s Mr. Trout described the situation this way; "Do you know I've never voted in my life, never been able to exercise my right as a citizen because of the poll tax? ... I can't pay a poll tax, can't have a voice in my own government."

Many brave and impassioned Americans protested, marched, were arrested and even died to make it easier for the Mr. Trout's of the world to vote. In 1963 and 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought hundreds of black people to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama to register. When they were turned away, Dr. King organized and led protests that finally turned the tide of American political opinion. In 1964 the Twenty Fourth Amendment prohibited the use of poll taxes. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act put federal teeth into enforcing the right to vote for African Americans.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act created a significant change in the status of African Americans throughout the South. The Voting Rights Act prohibited the states from using literacy tests ... and other methods of excluding African Americans from voting. Prior to this, only an estimated twenty-three percent of voting-age blacks were registered nationally, but by 1969 the number had jumped to sixty-one percent.

From the African American Odyssey exhibit.