TYLER, Texas (KETK) – August 6, 1965. Why does this date matter?
It’s the date that African Americans gained the right to vote. The same day president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act, which made it illegal to impose restrictions on federal, state, and local elections designed to deny black people the opportunity to vote.
Before the act was passed, Africans Americans and white people put their lives on the line to make black voting a reality. Now, in 2020, some East Texans remember just how much their ancestors sacrificed to make their voices.
“Our fore-parents were beaten, they were denied the right to vote, dogs were put on them, doors were closed in their face,” says Gloria Washington, Texas African American Museum.
Having the knowledge of what happened in the past empowers East Texans for the future.
“Putting our voices on that piece of paper, it’s more powerful than a bullet,” says Shirley McKellar, Tyler City Council.
The late congressman John Lewis is quoted saying, “The vote is the most powerful non-violent tool we have.”
“He’s one of the ones that was on the ground, running, and gave blood sweat and tears just so we can have to the right to vote,” says Kierra Green, community activist.
African American voters are one of the most highly sought after groups during an election. In Southern states, they make up a large portion of votes, especially for the Democratic Party.
The Texas Democratic Party says there are more than 1.5 million black voters in the state.
The 2020 election is only a few months away, and voter participation is a key issue.
“That ground work’s been laid already, so now we just have to show up to the polls and actually vote,” says Cornelius Shackleford, community leader.
A simple action that pays tribute to a complicated past.