On August 6th we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing by Lyndon B. Johnson of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And of course, our own, the late Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink was instrumental in is formation and passage.
Almost one hundred years after the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting voting rights to everyone, non-whites in America had not enjoyed the full measure of freedom. The cost of Freedom was exceptionally high.
We, The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition- Hawaii are requesting that you join with us in a VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE. We feel that it is the best way to commemorate this event as well as celebrating the lives of all of the people who sacrificed so that we may enjoy the right to vote.
Many people from Hawaii made huge sacrifices and involved themselves in the voter registration campaign in the southern states. Southern Blacks who tried to register to vote--and people of other races who supported them--were typically harassed, beaten or killed.
For years, hundreds of thousands of people had worked and died to secure human rights for everyone in the U.S. July 2, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act into law. Yet some of the southern states still resisted granting voting rights to everyone. The physical abuse was unimaginable and the economic manipulation deplorable for those who tried to register to vote.
The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with “billy-clubs” and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge. On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong.
“At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama (March 7, 1965). “There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem,” President Johnson said in his message to Congress three weeks after the televisions images of Bloody Sunday were shown to the world.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required equal access to public places and outlawed discrimination in employment, was a major victory of the black freedom struggle, but the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was its crowning achievement. The Act had an immediate impact. Within months of its passage on August 6, 1965, one quarter of a million new black voters had been registered. Winning the right to vote changed the political landscape of the United States. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, barely 100 African Americans held elective office in the U.S.; today there were more than 10,000.
The biggest impediment to voting is not the KKK or the white citizens council or economic sanctions; it is apathy. Today, far too many people do not appreciate or do not know of the struggles that women, African-Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and other minorities have gone thru for the right to vote.
The Voting Rights Act was costly—100 years, thousands were arrested and served time in jails across America, while others gave their lives for the right to vote. People stand today on the ground won by people yesterday, it is a debt we owe.