While some folks are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence and others are remembering glamour queen Marilyn Monroe and the 50th year of her death, Rep. Charles Rangel reminds us that Monday, Aug. 7 marked the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
This was a landmark decision that provided a lot more political muscle for achieving the right to vote for all Americans regardless of color, something the 15th Amendment promised in 1870.
“When I marched 54 miles with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, Blacks across the South were effectively barred from registering to vote and, if they somehow managed to register, the chances of them actually being able to vote were minimal,” Rangel said in a recent press release.
“That all changed with the Voting Rights Act, passed only months later,” he said. “The Voting Rights Act recognized these fundamental truths: that the people who lead the government and those it represents are all people, equally deserving of the right to vote, regardless of their race. We have passed the time when great swaths of our population were unjustly denied the right to vote.”
This historic reminder is not out of the blue. It’s a timely wake-up call with the GOP and its minions doing all they can to suppress the vote with the call for voter ID and restricting voting on the weekends or setting up voting booths miles from registered voters, all of whom would favor Democratic candidates. These steps, Republicans contend, are to guard against voter fraud, which is about as frequent as Halley’s Comet.
“We must remain ever vigilant to prevent any instances of voter suppression,” said Rangel. “States across the country are attempting or have succeeded at implementing rules like voter ID, which keep people away from voting. So on this anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, let’s not just remember how far we have come in terms of racial justice, but how far we still have to go. Our union may never be perfect, but we can do our best to perfect it. Let’s get to work.”
If Rangel had chosen to be a historian rather than a concerned elected official, he could have noted that the Voting Rights Act came in the wake of the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white homemaker from Detroit who dropped out of college, left her family and dedicated her life to the civil rights movement. Liuzzo was savagely killed on that same highway that Rangel traveled on by members of the KKK. A shotgun blast hit her while she was returning to Montgomery to chauffeur marchers back to Selma. There is a monument on the highway where she was killed.
Liuzzo was just one of many martyrs that Rangel could have recalled, but it’s enough that the good congressman is alert and helping us to keep our eyes on the prize.