Witnesses to History: African American Voting Rights
African American Voting Rights explores the struggle of African Americans to gain access to the franchise in the century after the Civil War ended. The abolition of slavery was just the beginning of a long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous fight for civil rights, including voting rights, for African Americans. Although the 15th Amendment forbade discrimination based on race, state and local governments established laws that effectively prevented African Americans from voting. Violence and intimidation on the part of white citizens further obstructed black voting rights. This installation features materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection that document the fight for voting rights through the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Among the highlights are letters written by Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., two leaders in the fight for civil rights; reports on voter suppression in the South and one by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on the federal actions taken to combat such discrimination; images of the black U.S. senators and representatives elected during Reconstruction; an evocative photograph from the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965; and a broadside encouraging African Americans to register to vote in 1965.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.