- History & Culture
How the U.S. Voting Rights Act was won—and why it’s under fire today
In 1965, this historic civil rights law prohibited discrimination against Black voters. Though it has since been gutted, calls are mounting to renew it.
When Fannie Lou Hamer went to a county clerk’s office in Indianola, Mississippi, to register to vote in 1962, she was told to write an essay about a section of the Mississippi state constitution.
“That was impossible,” she recalled in an oral history recorded by the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Oral History & Cultural Heritage. “I didn't even know what it meant, much less [how] to interpret it.” Hamer was threatened with arrest on her way home—and when she got there, her landlord told her to withdraw her voter registration or get out. “I had to leave the same night,” she said.
Hamer’s experience was typical for Americans of color who attempted to vote in the South during