Essay: Voting and discrimination in the US

For many years, gaining equality has been an objective of many blacks in America. Having endured slavery, discrimination, and constant denial of their fundamental rights by white Americans, blacks began standing up for their rights and demanding those freedoms delegated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence affirms that all men are made equal and guarantees no person or class of persons shall be deprived of their unalienable rights, such as their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

One of the denied civil liberties of blacks was the right to vote. When that right was finally granted, many barriers were set in place to further keep blacks from exercising their right to vote, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and other prerequisites. This brings me to the terms ‘suffrage’ and ‘franchise,’ which refers to the right to vote and special privileges given by the government to individuals to participate in certain undertakings.

In the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendment, the constitution prohibits discrimination of voting on the basis of race, color, previous enslavement, and gender, but awards the right to vote to all U.S. residents 18 and older. The point of the Fifteenth Amendment was to force states to give blacks their fundamental right to vote. It prohibited disenfranchisement by state and federal governments on account of a person’s ethnic group or past enslavements. Because of this amendment, southern states came up with a plethora of alternative methods intended to disenfranchise blacks. For example, Georgia initiated a poll tax and required back taxes be paid before being allowed to vote. It was to exclude people from voting, not to gain income, since not one state took suit on any human being for not paying the tax. Those individuals that didn’t own property could pay a poll tax to exercise their right to vote. The Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibited poll taxes as a qualification to vote in elections for the President, diplomatic constituents, and congress. It also granted Congress the authority to carry out the twenty fourth amendment with fitting legislature. The Joint Committee on Reconstruction promoted the idea of suffrage for all races prior to the fifteenth amendment.

South Carolina came up with the first literacy test where its voters had to use separate boxes for separate electoral offices. The boxes was frequently rearranged so that people that could read couldn’t help the voters that couldn’t read by placing their votes in the correct order. About 60 percent of blacks were illiterate and less than 18 percent were white. It wasn’t until Davis v. Schnell in 1949, when a Federal court struck down biased dispensations of the literacy test. With the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress put an end to literacy tests in the South in and ended it on a national scale. While the Supreme Court declared poll taxes unlawful and direct abuse of the equal protection clause in the fourteenth Amendment, the Voting Rights Act banned the poll tax in government elections. Congress addressed widespread voting injustices against blacks, thus pushing voting rights advocates to push for federal legislation to remove the remaining barriers to voter registration after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act.

The Nineteenth Amendment prohibited the state and federal government from not allowing people their privilege to vote based on their gender and gives Congress the authority to enforce this statute through legislation. In 1787, the Constitution created was a sex-neutral and did not exclude women from voting. The Framers gave each state the right to determine who could partake in elections. With that, all states granted suffrage to men. The only state that granted suffrage to both women and men was New Jersey. Since the Constitution didn’t exclude women from casting their vote, no amendment was needed for women to exercise suffrage. Advocates of women’s suffrage concentrated on persuading states to get rid of voting qualifications related to gender. In 1890, when Wyoming entered the Union with suffrage for women, it became the first state since New Jersey to allow women to partake in elections on an equal basis with men.

Our Twenty-sixth Amendment establishes that Congress can introduce legislation to ensure U.S. inhabitants 18 and older are entitled to vote.

In Closing, histories account of black disenfranchisement shows us that blacks have come a long way; it also shows us the failure of congress to exercise its federal power under the fourteenth amendment. Sadly, it took a Supreme Court to undercut executive commands to secure blacks’ right to vote, a job that Congress should have been doing. Voting is a fundamental right of every citizen in our country, many have died and fought hard for us to be granted this right and it’s a right that no citizen should take for granted.


“The Equal Protection Clause and the Right to Vote.” The Equal Protection Clause and the Right to Vote. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <>.


“Techniques of Direct Disenfranchisement, 1880-1965.” Techniques of Direct Disenfranchisement, 1880-1965. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <>.

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