On This Day

Voting Right Act, lbj mlk, lyndon johnson martin luther king, lbj mlk handshake
Yoichi R. Okamoto/LBJ Library
President Johnson shakes the hand of Martin Luther King on the day he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On This Day: Voting Rights Act Signed

August 06, 2011 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Aug. 6, 1965, President Johnson Signed the Voting Right Act, which banned discriminatory election laws that resulted in the disenfranchisement of black voters.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Voting Rights Act granted the federal government broad federal oversight of elections to prevent states for unfairly disenfranchising voters on a racial basis. It banned discriminatory tactics such as literacy tests and poll taxes, which Southern states had used to prevent blacks from registering to vote.

States and counties that had a history of discriminatory voting practices (primarily in the South) would have to receive approval (known as preclearance) from the federal government before making any changes to their election procedures.

President Lyndon Johnson had proposed the legislation five months earlier, following “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., where local authorities attacked voting rights demonstrators. In a March 15 speech, Johnson declared, “Their cause must be our cause too,” he said. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Following the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Johnson gave remarks at the Capitol. “This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. Its only purpose is to right that wrong,” he said. “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.”

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