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1960s Voting Literacy Test

The Supreme Court this week overturned a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The federal government will no longer provide oversight in those states that previously required a voter to pass a "literacy test" in order to vote.

After the end of the Civil War, would-be black voters in the South faced an array of disproportionate barriers to enfranchisement. The literacy test—supposedly applicable to both white and black prospective voters who couldn’t prove a certain level of education but in actuality disproportionately administered to black voters—was a classic example of one of these barriers.

The website of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, which collects materials related to civil rights, hosts a few samples of actual literacy tests used in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s. In many cases, people working within the movement collected these in order to use them in voter education, which is how we ended up with this documentary evidence.  

In case you've ever wondered how hard it would be to pass these tests, you can try one from Louisiana at Slate (only the first page is shown here). There are also links to tests from other states. Link -via Metafilter


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