50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders look on. LBJ Library Photo by Yoichi Okamoto

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law 50 years ago this August 6. The landmark federal law banned literacy tests, poll taxes, and other discriminatory barriers that African-American voters, primarily in the South, were facing at the time. Voting rights once again made news in 2013. The Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision stated that measures put into place to protect the voting rights of historically disenfranchised groups were no longer subject to Supreme Court oversight and preclearance measures. Carnegie Corporation has supported groups that seek to pave the way for modernization and inclusivity of all groups when it comes to voting. The article, “Not Left, Not Right, but Forward,” which will appear in the upcoming Carnegie Reporter, highlights some of our grantees’ work, from modernizing the voting system to ensuring that all those who want to vote are able to participate. You can also read more about the historical legacy of the Voting Rights Act and the Corporation’s work supporting voting rights in a piece about the Freedom Summer.