This week marks the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, a time when African-Americans were often discouraged from participating in the electoral process. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Act secured voting rights for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. The Act is considered the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the United States.
The photograph of Fannie Lee Chaney that I illustrated was taken by Jim Marshall
the day she found out the Ku Klux Klan killed her son James Chaney and his two friends for registering African-Americans to vote. Her expression is an intense combination of sadness and resolve that was critical for me to capture artistically. Because her expression is direct but also mysterious, I included supplementary news clippings and FBI materials in the various layers of my work so the viewer could understand the full weight of the scenario. People lost their lives securing voting rights for all during the Civil Rights movement, and those same essential rights are threatened in today’s world.
Not only has President Donald Trump expressed blatant and overt racism throughout the course of his candidacy and presidency, he and his administration have repeatedly made false allegations of voter fraud. Trump recently formed a much-criticized voter fraud panel out of his fact-free belief that millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. His decisive threats to inspect national voter fraud and prevent Americans from voting may potentially postpone the next presidential race until he says, “the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote.” What a sore loser…
As we commemorate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we must collectively urge Congress and our lawmakers to maintain voting rights in our democracy. This important piece of legislature is under attack, and we must fight to protect it together.