The Public Interest

The odd evolution of the Voting Rights Act

Abigail Thernstrom

Spring 1979

THE Voting Rights Act of 1965 ushered in a revolution. In 1964 James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered while participating in a voter-registration drive in Neshoba County, Mississippi. In that year less than 7 percent of Mississippi’s adult blacks were registered to vote. Within three years black registration approached 60 percent.  Ten years after the murders, there were 191 black elected officials in Mississippi alone; prior to the passage of the act, there had been fewer than 100 in the entire South.

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