The ability to vote for our lawmakers is the cornerstone of our democracy. Access to the ballot box has evolved over time and has, until recently, demonstrated progress toward racial equity.
African slaves were freed in 1865 but were not awarded the right to vote until the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870. At that time only men could vote but even when the 19th Amendment gave “women” the right to vote in 1920, Black women were not able to vote in many states.
Despite the legal right to vote, insurmountable barriers were created, especially in the South, to keep Black people from voting. A landmark for minority voting rights was the 1965 passage of the Federal Voting Rights Act. This allows voters to file a lawsuit against a state or local government that has denied or limited their voting rights based on race, color or membership in a language minority group.