Equal Rights Act of 1965


The document belongs to the period of the sixties. The main events were the landing of a man on the moon, the assassination of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King and the 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Cuban Missile Crisis, public protests, and the Vietnam War. In the 1950s-1960s, Americans were organizing nationwide campaigns and movements as they wanted to be heard. They believed that only through the radical actions, the favorable outcome could be reached. The period of the 1960s was a decade of extreme transformational changes accompanied by backlash, protests, hippie culture, alienation, and idealism. The baby boom generation in the post-World War II era differently perceived at that period. Many significant historical events that occurred in the 1960s still resonate nowadays.



On August 6, 1965, the U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the landmark legislative piece- the Voting Rights Act. Through this act, the authorities sought to eliminate local and state barriers that prevented racial minorities from exercising their fundamental voting right granted by the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This important document significantly expanded privileges to African Americans, and it is deservedly regarded as the most far-reaching legislative piece ever enacted in the USA. The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 was an inevitable event as the public requested an adequate and timely response to Jim Crow laws seeking to restrict the voting right of racial minorities particularly in the Southern states. Since the time of its passage, the law has undergone significant changes including amendments and revisions. However, the main idea remained untouched: the officials cannot deny the racial minorities the right to vote simply because of their skin color. The act helps to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and also prohibits denying individuals the voting right because of failing literacy tests. The voters can inform the authorized bodies about violations of the voting procedure, including prejudice and racial discrimination.

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Author Intent

At the turn of the twentieth century and twenty years after the Reconstruction era, African-Americans were still not allowed to serve in the U.S. Congress. All former Confederate states reviewed their laws, acts, and excluded African Americans and other racial minorities from the voting process. Officials decided to change the situation. By the mid-century, the federal authorities and civil rights activists progressed in providing black people with a fundamental voting right. Unfortunately, some obstacles remained. The registration of voters in the Southern States caused an adverse public reaction: the protesters marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The presidents administration decided to intervene as the troops attacked on the marchers. In the course of time, it proposed a comprehensive voting rights law that required the official intervention in the case if the Fifteenth Amendment did not work. The authors intent was to provide racial minorities with voting rights and eliminate offensive practices based on racial discrimination, bias, prejudice, and inequality. The states should precisely follow the laws and prevent any violations during the voting procedure. After the passage of the law, the registration of black voters was carried out smoothly, and the participation in the process significantly increased. However, many years ago, people were forced to wait in line to vote. Then, due to their illiteracy and the lack of property, their voting was invalidated. This situation caused the irritation among the most concerned individuals. Most of them could no longer endure the racial discrimination, and, therefore, required the adequate legislation that would safeguard their rights. Through the Voting Rights Act, the legislators sought to end this discriminatory practice. The 89th United States Congress enacted the landmark piece of federal legislation in 1965. The main aim pursued by the policymakers was to eradicate discrimination, bias, and prejudice in voting practices and provide all people regardless of their skin color with a fundamental right to vote. Since then, individuals began to be treated with respect.

Historical Significance

The historical significance of the Voting Rights Act cannot be underestimated. For the first time, the federal government took the responsibility and reviewed a voting reform that caused many concerns and controversies. Before that watershed event, the states addressed the most pressing issues. However, it was not sufficient. Prior to the passage of a landmark legislative piece, African Americans and other racial minorities had suffered from violent and deliberate denial of fundamental rights, including a right to vote. For many years, Latinos, Asians, Natives, and black people, who might not be proficient in English, have been suffering from the inadequate, biased, and discriminative system. Therefore, the enactment of a new civil rights law was predictable as the public required effective changes. As a result, the representatives of racial minorities could freely exercise their rights; the legislative and electorate bodies were diversified as well. The Voting Rights Act has helped to eliminate all voting restrictions and served as a guideline to other countries, who still promoted discriminative practices. While developing the law, the policymakers and legislators paid particular attention to the Civil War and its effects. At that time, the U.S. Constitution underwent significant changes seeking to address the specific circumstances of freed slaves. The reference to the Fifteenth Amendment was also necessary as it provided the American residents with a voting right. Such aspects as color, race, and servitude were not taken into account. The major provision of the landmark law declared that no procedure, practice, and standard could be applied by the political body or party if it abridged the U.S. citizens right to vote because of his/her color and race. Despite the fact that the legislators developed the law to address issues facing African-Americans, other racial minorities including Asian Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives could refer to the bill as well.

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The Voting Rights Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1965 is deservedly regarded as a landmark piece of the federal legislation, whose main goal was to protect the fundamental rights of racial minorities. I believe that owing to this law, the discriminative practices were finally eradicated in the voting process. Despite the fact that the early constitutional amendment already safeguarded the voting rights of citizens regardless of their race and color, the passage of additional, more comprehensive law, was an inevitable event as the shortcomings of initial one were evident. Moreover, the Fifteenth Amendment significantly affected the electoral politics in the USA, and those regions, which widely practiced slavery. In my opinion, the strength of the act lies in its effectiveness: after the passage of a bill, the U.S. Congress welcomed the representatives of racial minorities from Mississippi and South Carolina. The election of African Americans to the governmental positions demonstrated the effective work of a law. The bill highlights the illegality to impose restrictions and treat the voters unequally simply because of their background. In my opinion, with the passage of the strong voting-rights law, the local, state, and federal elections became more transparent, and the American way of life was improved as well. Unfortunately, despite the passage of a bill, its enforcement by the local and state officials was weak. The Southern authorities ignored the law at all as they feared that it would undermine the political status quo in the region. However, the Voting Rights Act provided African Americans and other racial minorities with legal means to eliminate restrictions and improve voter turnout. The poll taxes and literacy tests were finally outlawed; only the name registration and the U.S. citizenship were required.

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