By Lee Ross
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, prophetically, in the “lost” speech on ending a false supremacy that there would be gains and new oppositions to fight, making it feel at times like African Americans were fighting a never-ending battle for equality.
“We must all maintain faith in the future and believe that the American dream can and will become a reality. This is my faith. I know that dark days still lie ahead. Gigantic mountains of opposition will still stand before us.” King said. “And there is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, ‘Truth crushed to earth will rise again.’”
The law had a huge impact on many Southern states. For example, Black voter registration rates in Mississippi increased from a mere 6.7% in 1965 to 59.8% in 1967, according to the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights.
For a state that’s historically around 40% Black, this represented a massive shift in politics — a change that much of the predominantly white leadership at the time feared but would have to accept due to the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act invalidated the use of any test or device to deny the vote and authorized federal examiners to register voters in states that had disenfranchised Blacks. As a result, more Blacks became politically active and elected Black representatives.
Additionally, with new representatives, came better jobs, contracts, facilities, and services for the Black community. Combined, these struck a blow against the false supremacy tied to disenfranchisement.
By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new Black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50% of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975 and 1982.
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