Mapping the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Act into law in order to end legal and other restrictions to voting by minorities at the state and local levels. These barriers prevented African-Americans from practicing their right to vote under the 15th Amendment and the 19th Amendment for women.
The Atlas of African-American History and Politics by Arwin D. Smallwood published maps related to voting rights especially in southern states. The first map (above, click to enlarge) shows states in light green with the dates they allowed women the right to vote—some before the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The dark green states never ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. This coupled with the discriminatory barriers to minorities voting—poll taxes, literacy tests, property requirements, and violence and actions of the Ku Klux Klan—kept African-American women from voting. The map shows states with a white outline where there was “little or no voting by Black women until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
The second map shows the percentage of registered voters in the African-American voting-age population in 1960. The final map shows the percentage of registered voters in the African-American voting-age population after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1971. Mississippi's percentage jumped from 5% in 1960 to 59% in 1971; Alabama's grew from 14% to 55%.
According to the atlas, the Voting Rights Act “mandated that federal observers be present at polling stations to ensure that Blacks were properly registered and not turned away on Election Day. As a result of the Voting Rights Act, millions of Blacks in the south were enfranchised.”
The Atlas of African-American History and Politics is available from the Ball State University Libraries’ Atlas Collection on the second floor of Bracken Library. Atlases circulate for 28 days or longer.
For more information about cartographic resources related to elections, review the GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) subject guide to political science or contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.