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Voting Rights Act of 1965


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act resulted in the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.

 

Download the complete Minnesota History of the Voting Rights Act.

 

The path to the voting rights act of 1965:

  • March 7 – March 25, 1965: Voting rights marches in Selma, Alabama
  • March 15, 1965: President Johnson addresses Congress and calls for voting rights legislation
  • March 17, 1965: Introduced in the Senate as S. 1564
  • May 26, 1965: Passed the United States Senate (77-19)
  • July 9, 1965: Passed the United States House of Representatives with amendment (333-85)
  • July 29, 1965: Reported by the joint conference committee
  • August 3, 1965: Agreed to by the United States House of Representatives (328-74)
  • August 4, 1965: Agreed to by the United States Senate (79-18)
  • August 6, 1965: Signed into law by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson

 

On March 9, 1965, two days after Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Congressman Joseph E. Karth, who represented Minnesota’s 4th District, wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General urging him “to launch immediately a full investigation.”

 

Text of the letter from Joseph E. Karth (above right):

The Honorable Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
The Attorney General
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.


Dear Sir:
In view of the instances of shameful police brutality and violations of civil liberties in Indianola, Mississippi and Selma, Alabama, I strongly urge you to launch immediately a full investigation and to draft a plan of action to protect innocent people from heinous storm-trooper tactics.

Certainly the Federal Government has a solemn obligation to protect citizens in their peaceful struggles to win civil rights for the Negroes of Mississippi and Alabama.

I look forward to your taking forceful leadership in the effort to bring to justice those responsible for the gross violation of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States and of other guarantees.

Sincerely yours,
Joseph E. Karth