On August 6, 1965, a piece of legislation was signed that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been the culprit for widespead suppression of African American, Colored or Black voters in America.
The language is clear under the 15 amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing certain “voter qualifications or prerequisite” to vote or standard practice or procedure, and race or color. Members of the 89th United State Congress intended the act to outlaw practices for qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to vote, a prime means to prevent blacks from voting in Southern states.
The Voter Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had recently signed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Dr. Martin Luther King JR was in attendance.
Virginia Senator Henry L. Marsh III remembers one of the most exciting days in our history. During our interview on the signing of the Voter Rights Act of 1965, he said, “Virginia tried to resist coming under the act, Sam Tucker, Lester Bank and myself testified before Congress against acting Virginia Attorney General Fred Gray.” Gray tried to convince Congress that Virginia did not do terrible acts that other Southern states had done. Marsh said, ” Virginia amended the constitution in 1901 to provide for poll taxes and literacy tests to vote.”
In Virginia, to vote you had to pay a “poll tax” as an African American, Colored or Black registered voter until 1965.
Marsh, Tucker and Banks convinced the US Congress with lots of evidence that Virginia deserved to be under the Act because of our history.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Honorable Henry L. Marsh III
President Lyndon B. Johson gives remarks at the signing of the Voter Rights Act of 1965