This blog post was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Supervisory Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. This act helped disenfranchised African Americans to register to vote and gave the federal government power to oversee the registration and election processes in the South. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the percentage of African Americans registered to vote rose and the number of black politicians at the local, state, and national levels increased. The act also banned the discriminatory literacy tests and cut down on a lot of the racial violence in the South.
There was a long journey to achieve the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Since the end of Reconstruction, southern African Americans were denied access to the ballot that was guaranteed under the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. They were harassed, lost their jobs, beaten, or even killed for attempting to register to vote. Organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) tried to register southern blacks to vote through teaching people how to pass the literacy tests, protest marches, and appealing to politicians.
Other series, file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 include:
- Congressional Record Showing Debate of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 6037291) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
- Letter from George Neu Opposed to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 2173238) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
- President’s Daily Diary Entry, August 6, 1965 (NAID 192457) from the series President’s Daily Diary, 11/22/1963-1/20/1969 (NAID 192429)
- Engrossed Copy of H.R. 6400, Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 5637803) from the series General Records, 1791-2010 (595069)
- Remarks of the President at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act [Ford Speech or Statement] (NAID 7340475) from the series Press Releases, 1974-1977 (NAID 653577)
- Records Relating to Participation in the Voting Rights Program, 1965–1967 (NAID 12006979)
Check out related blogs from the National Archives related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965:
- Enforcing the Voting Rights Act (posted on November 8, 2011)
- Displaying the Civil Rights Act, 1964 (posted on July 15, 2014)
- Striving Towards the Great Society: Remembering LBJ, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Momentous Year that Encompassed it (posted on November 4, 2014)
- Record of the Week: Selma, Edmund Pettus Bridge FBI Case File (posted on February 19, 2015)
- FBI Case File #44-28492: Bloody Sunday (posted on February 24, 2015)