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1965 Voting Rights March |
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1965 Voting Rights March
Between 1964 and 1965 the state of Alabama prepared a complicated system of voter registration in order to prevent registration of African-American voters. The system changed four times between January 1964 and August 1965, when all tests were invalidated by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Between 1964 and 1965 there was not one test. In order to make it difficult for people to "study" for the test there were variations used in a random fashion. Between August 1964 and July 1965 the state had 100 different tests and the applicant was to choose one at random from a binder. Generally each test had 3 parts - 1) copy or write from dictation an excerpt from the US Constitution; 2) Answer 4 questions based on the excerpt just copied; and, 3) answer 4 "general knowledge" questions about state and national citizenship (usually fill in the blank or T/F). Examples of the last section are: "The Supreme Court is the chief lawmaking body of the state" (T/F), or "Name 2 levels of government which can levy taxes."
The item enclosed is a copy of a sample test used by Rufus A. Lewis, a voting rights pioneer who led voter education classes for African-Americans in Montgomery in the 1960s. The sample is from the Honorable Rufus A. Lewis Collection at Trenholm State Technical College Archives in Montgomery, Alabama. The collection contains papers and small artifacts documenting the Citizenship School and Lewis' role in helping black voters overcome the literacy test barrier.
Click here for a transcription of the document.
Click here for a printable version of the test.