Voting During the Civil Rights Movement

Courtesy of
W.E.B. Du Bois

The Civil Rights Movement was a period in time that first began following the Civil War and lasted until the late 1970s. The Civil Rights Movement came about as a result of African Americans being deprived of the rights that all people are supposed to have. Among many things, these rights include the right to own property, work, live and work together with those of all races, and the right to vote. The Civil Rights Movement heightened between the 1940s and the 1970s. At this time desegregation and voting rights were two central issues of the Civil Rights Movement, “The right to vote did not come easy for African Americans,” says Catherine Nobles, a retired school teacher of thirty-six years who witnessed and supported the movement, “Many African Americans sacrificed their jobs, homes, safety of their family, and even their lives so that the right to vote could be secured for future generations.”

In 1947, a well-known civil rights activist, was one of the first to bring racial discrimination to the attention of the United States government. This came about due to the Jim Crow system. This system separated the races in education, government services, public facilities, transportation, and restrooms. In addition to this, voting rights were still being talked about. In 1954, hundreds of African Americans and those supportive of the movement filed voting-rights lawsuits in state and federal courts. Many of these lawsuits ended in losses or if won, they were not enforced. “Even in the face of adversity the spirit of those involved in the movement remained strong and many African Americans became even more dedicated to the cause,” says Mrs. Nobles.

Malcolm XCourtesy of

Later on, non-violent protests of this unconstitutional deprivation of rights became important and very effective tactics. Sit-ins, freedom rides, marches, and boycotts became common occurrences. During the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, close to a thousand civil rights workers of all races and backgrounds from all over came together to support voting in Mississippi. Following this meeting, thousands came together in Selma, Alabama, and surrounding counties to register to vote. In the face of beatings, gassings, and even worse, murder, these civil rights activists stood their ground because of their beliefs.

Those against African Americans voting were the KKK and White Citizens Councils. Organizations such as CORE, SCLC, and SNCC became involved in the movement and assisted in protests held in the Deep South. After much struggle for voting rights, the government issued the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed all voting requirements, authorized the Federal government to take over voter registration in areas that constantly denied African Americans voting rights, and stipulates that fluency in English isn’t a determining factor in ability to vote. 

Martin Luther King Jr.
Courtesy of

Initially the Act wasn’t wholeheartedly enforced; by the end of 1966, it became enforced appropriately. “The sacrifices of the men and women who worked for voting rights were not in vain. Future generations now have the ability to choose who is in office in the country they live in,” says Mrs. Nobles.

Courtesy of

Other Related Sources



Mississippi and Freedom Summer

Voting Rights History


This web page was created as a Junior Project at Brunswick High School
Fall 2004