Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Right to Vote Was Paid in Blood

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Right to Vote Was Paid in Blood

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

One of the most gripping scenes in the film "Selma" was one that showed how one black woman endured a series of wrongs to exercise a basic right.

Civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper, who was played by Oprah Winfrey, filled out her voter registration application only to have the elections clerk accuse her of stirring up trouble by doing so - and make a veiled threat to tell her employer about it. He then asked her to recite the Preamble to the Constitution, which she started to do before he interrupted her with a new question.

"How many county judges does the state of Alabama have?" he blurted?

"Sixty-seven," she replied.

"Name them," he said.

Cooper walked away, holding back tears of humiliation and anger as her application was denied. She would later make history for punching Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark after he poked her in her neck with his billy club when she refused to vacate the courthouse after waiting for hours to register to vote.

That scene alone should speak volumes to African-Americans who believe that their votes have no power. If it didn't, people like that clerk and Clark wouldn't have fought so hard to keep black people away from the polls.

If the vote holds no power, why did Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and countless other brave activists endure being beaten, gassed and shot by state troopers and racist mobs simply to get a law that guaranteed them access to the voting booth without having to endure officials making up the rules as they go?

Unfortunately, too many African-Americans still don't see it that way.

According to a YouGov poll conducted on the eve of the 2014 midterm election, 33 percent of black people who responded were not registered to vote and only 44 percent said they definitely intended to vote.

Of white people who responded, 26 percent said they were unregistered, while 59 percent said they definitely intended to vote. …

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