Take your souls to the polls

Tuesday is Election Day and it is time to vote. If you fail to show up, your vote still counts, but in support of those you oppose.

For African Americans, the right to vote has always been contested. We had to fight to win the right to cast our ballots. We had no right to vote under the original Constitution, although states could count slaves as three-fifths of a person in determining congressional representation.

It took the Civil War and the first reconstruction to abolish slavery and give African Americans the right to vote. For a short period after the war, multi-racial coalitions running under the Republican banner (the party of Lincoln) elected officials across the defeated states of the confederacy.

That spurred a fierce reaction. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized African Americans seeking to assert their rights and whites who dared to join with them. Jim Crow laws enforced various ways to keep blacks from voting — poll taxes, history tests, ID requirements. A corrupt deal at the federal level ended the Reconstruction and abetted the reaction. The South turned to apartheid, legal segregation, with the Civil Rights Amendments gutted.

It took decades, a powerful civil rights movement, and the sacrifice of many — Dr. King and others — to move Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. And under Lyndon B. Johnson, a second reconstruction began to fulfill the guarantee of equal opportunity.

That, too, triggered a fierce reaction. Gerrymandering was used to weaken the power of the Black vote. Nixon’s Southern strategy perfected race bait politics to consolidate control, with the Republican Party becoming a party of white sanctuary.

But the movement kept building, and with the election of Barack Obama and the emergence of a majority built upon people of color, single women and young voters, a third reconstruction beckoned.


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