Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be celebrated

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thursday marks the 44th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The measure was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson to prohibit states from imposing any qualifications or practices to prevent U.S. citizens from voting on account of race or color.

Specifically, the law was passed to outlaw the practice of requiring qualified voters to pass so-called literacy test to register to vote. Many Southern states, including Alabama, required African-Americans to guess how many bubbles in a bar of soap; to write essays explaining the U.S. Constitution or to guess how many pennies in a jar.

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Historians credit the Selma-to-Montgomery March of 1965 with helping to pass the bill and the national attention it garnered because law enforcement mounted on horses rode into a group of protesters as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the first attempt of the march.

In the spirit of that march and the law that followed, the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute will celebrate the 44th anniversary with a Voting Rights Act birthday party.

The celebration is set for Thursday, noon, at the Slavery and Civil War Museum, 1410 Water Ave.

“We are asking that each person bring an unregistered voter and to participate by becoming a member of the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute,” said Lawanda Richardson, administrative assistant of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute.

The event also kicks off the institutes’ membership drive, which will last until Nov. 1.