The price of your ability to vote

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I have seen too many people, young people in particular talk about how inconvenient it is to vote.

It reminded me of some tweets by historian Kevin Kruse who while doing research for a book on the civil rights movement, shared these short stories and pictures.

Read these and consider what Americans sacrificed to get full access to the ballot


Reverend George Lee in Belzoni, Mississippi, used his pulpit and his printing press to encourage African Americans to register to vote. For his troubles, he was assassinated by three men with shotguns in May 1955.





A few months later, Lamar Smith -- who had been busy trying to convince local blacks to vote -- was gunned down by three men on the lawn of the courthouse on a Saturday afternoon. A crowd watched it happen, but originally police could find no witnesses to it.




In 1961, voting rights activist Herbert Lee was murdered by a state legislator in front of a dozen witnesses. After a few years, one of the witnesses offered to testify about the murder. The night before he was going to testify, he was killed outside his home.





In Jackson, Mississippi, the family of the NAACP state field secretary, Medgar Evers, stayed up late to see what their father thought of the president's speech and all that had unfolded on June 11, 1963. 

Around midnight, Medgar Evers' children heard the familiar sound of their father's Oldsmobile pulling into the driveway. He got out of the car, picked up a stack of sweatshirts stenciled "JIM CROW MUST GO" and turned to enter his home.

Across the street, hidden among the honeysuckle vines, a white supremacist named Byron de la Beckwith squinted through the scope of a 30.06 Winchester rifle, squeezed the trigger, and ripped a bullet through the activist’s back.

At the crack of the gun, his kids inside threw themselves to the floor, precisely as their father, a veteran of the Normandy landing, had trained them. When no more shots came, they hurried outside to find their dad face down and bloodied in their driveway. In the early hours of June 12, 1963, Evers passed away. After the civil rights breakthroughs of the day before, in Tuscaloosa and Washington DC, and across the country, too, his assassination proved a powerful reminder of just how much further the nation still had to go.


In the summer of 1964, three voting rights activists -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner -- were detained by cops and then murdered by Klansmen in Philadelphia, Mississippi.













During the climactic voting rights protests in Selma, 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot by Alabama state troopers in February 1965. He died soon after.













Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston, was beaten by white supremacists who attacked him and two other clergymen who had come to Selma to support voting rights. Reeb died two days later.












Four Klansmen murdered Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five from Detroit who had been giving rides to voting rights marchers after the Selma-to-Montgomery march. They chased her in their own car and shot her twice in the head.






In August 1965, Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopalian seminary student from Boston, was arrested along with a Catholic priest for supporting a voting rights campaign in Lowndes County, Alabama. Almost immediately after their release, Daniels was shot to death by a deputy.







In January 1966, Vernon Dahmer, a well-off grocery store owner, announced on the radio in Hattiesburg that he would pay poll taxes for anyone who wanted to vote but couldn't afford it. The

Klan attacked his home that night.

The Klansmen threw jugs of gasoline into his home and set it on fire. As the fire spread, Dahmer fired his gun to scare the Klansmen off and got his wife and kids out of the house. He finally made it out, but soon died from the severe burns and smoke inhalation.

"I've been active in trying to get people to register to vote," Dahmer told a reporter. "People who don't vote are deadbeats on the state. I figure a man needs to do his own thinking. What happened to us last night can happen to anyone, white or black."




These stories are from one short period of just United State history, this leaves out the entire story of the women who fought and struggled to gain the vote or the wars we fought to gain our ability and others the ability to vote.


But, sure, I hear you.

Voting can be a real hassle.

Why bother.

1 comment:

  1. Powerful piece, Seth. Thank you for sharing these stories.

    ReplyDelete