Bending toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy

By Savage, Sean J. | The Historian, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Bending toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy


Savage, Sean J., The Historian


Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy. By Gary May. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2013. Pp. xxi, 300. $28.99.)

The author of this book provides an excellent account and analysis of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its political and legal consequences. Gary May's book includes a brief history of voting rights for African Americans in the South in its prologue. May contends that the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition of denying the right to vote on account of race, which was added to the US Constitution in 1870, was not effectively codified until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (ix-x).

This book is especially detailed in its historical research and insightful in its political analysis concerning the linkage between the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, and the signing of the Voting Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965 (169). The remainder of May's book is mainly devoted to the implementation of this law in the Deep South immediately after its enactment and the political and legislative issues regarding its

renewal, extension, and revision in 1975, 1982, and 2006. May notes that Ronald Reagan's bill-signing ceremony in 1982 was brief and perfunctory. By contrast, George W. Bush's bill-signing ceremony in 2006 was laudatory and effusive with a celebration that included more than six hundred guests on the White House's South Lawn (234).

The last chapter of Bending Toward Justice illustrates how much the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has changed American politics and government. …

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