March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

March on Washington for Jobs and
On August 28, 1963 more than 200,000
people came to Washington D.C. from
across the country to highlight the civil
rights struggles of African-Americans
and to call for a passage of the Civil
Rights Act in Congress. The march
culminated on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial with Martin Luther King Jr.
delivering his now famous “I Have a
Dream” speech as he looked out at the
crowds surrounding the Lincoln
Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Voting Rights in 1963
The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed African-American men the right to vote in
1870 stating, "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or
abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous
condition of servitude."
However half a century later there were still barriers created to restrict or prevent
groups of people from voting including African- American, Native Americans, Asian
Americans, Alaska Natives and Latinos.
Before 1965 federal laws did not challenge the authority of states and localities to
establish and administer their own voting requirements. Around the country various
tactics were used to block minority populations from voting.
Literacy Tests and Voter Registration Forms
In some states the voter registration system was changed four times within a single
year and there could be as many as 100 versions in existence at the same time
making it an impossible test to study for.
Questions from a 1960’s literacy test
Poll Tax
This tax for voting in federal and state elections often included a
grandfather clause. The clause allowed for any adult male whose
father or grandfather had voted in specific year prior to the abolition
of slavery to vote without paying the tax.
As a result the white population in states with a poll tax law did Not
have to pay a tax to vote.
“Do you know I've never voted in my life, never been able to exercise my
right as a citizen because of the poll tax?”
-Mr. Trout
Atlanta, Georgia.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the
Federal Writers’ Projects, 1936-1940
Threats and Intimidation
Americans that gathered to nonviolently protest these laws were
met with physical violence by
individuals, groups, and
sometimes law enforcement
In some states African-Americans
and Latinos were discouraged
from even attempting to register
to vote through threats of
violence, loss of jobs, and home
Police attack marchers in Selma, Alambama 1965
English Only Ballots
Voting ballots were only
written in English even in
communities with large
populations of
non-English speaking
Photograph by myJohn
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