- President Donald Trump during a rally in Nashville claimed African-Americans have been voting for Democrats “for over a hundred years.”
- Trump made that comment during a long-winded missive on Tuesday about his dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party. The point was tied into remarks he gave about the November midterm elections.
- Though the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave the right to vote to all men regardless of their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” state and local governments implemented policies meant to discourage and prevent African-Americans from exercising that right.
- It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, just 53 years ago this year, that some of those barriers were addressed.
During a rally in Nashville on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump claimed that African-American voters have been choosing Democrats almost exclusively “for over a hundred years.”
That comment was couched in a long-winded missive about the upcoming midterm elections in November, in which Trump aired some of his familiar grievances about the Democratic Party and some of its highest-profile lawmakers.
“African-Americans vote for Democrats, for the most part,” Trump said. “Vast majority. They’ve been doing it for over a hundred years,” he added.
While the 15th Amendment in the US Constitution, ratified in 1870, allowed for all men to vote regardless of their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” black people, particularly in the South, have faced certain barriers aimed at preventing them from exercising that right.
History teaches of the literacy tests, poll taxes, and other measures instituted at the state and local levels that sought to make voting far more difficult for African-Americans. Organizations like the NAACP tried to counter that, and it made some strides by October 1964 when it announced it had registered 5.5 million African-Americans to vote across 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Despite this, the opposition continued, and some people resorted to violence.
Perhaps the most memorable example was the protest march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. It’s known as “Bloody Sunday” because police confronted demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the lawmen attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas.
It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law five months later that some of those institutional barriers were addressed. Voter registrations in the South rose dramatically as a result.
So, African-American voters have only enjoyed sufficient freedom to vote for just over 50 years. Trying to exercise that right before 1965 was a potentially life-threatening proposition.