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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Black Women and the Vote

Honor our history, fight for our future: Vo

When I went to vote on Super Tuesday, I was the only voter in the room.

There were probably seven friendly people volunteering to help, but nobody else taking that particular time to exercise their civic duty. Later in the day the mayor said that 29% of registered voters showed up. 

I’m continually surprised and disappointed by low voter turnout, because when I was growing up, my parents instilled in me that voting was the civic responsibility and obligation. Too many of my people—Black people and women—fought for, were injured, or died for the right to vote. 

And since it’s Women’s History Month, I’ll call special attention to the fight for women’s suffrage. Black women had been fighting for full citizenship from the start. Sojourner Truth famously spoke at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, asking “Ain't I A Woman?” At the turn of the 20th century, Boston’s own Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Charlotte Forten Grimké helped found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). 

While the 19th Amendment in 1920 officially gave women the right to vote, in practice only white women’s votes were protected. A few years later, Native American men and women were granted citizenship and voting rights. It wasn’t until 1952 that Asian American men and women were guaranteed a vote. 

But, all this time, Black people attempting to vote in the South were violently suppressed—a phenomenon that civil rights activists began drawing national attention to in the 1960s. The organizing and testifying of Amelia Boynton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, and others led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians and others who couldn’t read English voting materials continued to be kept from voting for at least a decade after the Voting Rights Act became law. It wasn’t until the 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act that jurisdictions could be required to translate the materials, thereby ending discrimination against so-called “language minorities.” 

And today, Black women are again at the forefront of protecting the right to vote as the Supreme Court deflated the Voting Rights Act in 2013. 

For women and people of color, the right to vote was hard won. This Women’s History Month, let’s remember these heroines. 

Learning our history is important. And so is safeguarding our future. 

This year is not the time to sit out. The political parties have very different approaches to women’s basic rights. 

Vote like your life depends on it.


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