Past Voices – The Speech That Defined the Fight for Voting Rights in Congress – Jim Rutenberg / NYT

Lyndon Johnson1Fifty years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which effectively ended centuries of black disenfranchisement by banning barriers to minority voting like the poll tax and the poll test, as I detailed in the magazine’s Aug. 2 cover story. At the signing ceremony, Johnson called the Voting Rights Act “a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on the battlefield.”

But a more telling moment came during Johnson’s speech introducing the act before a joint session of Congress the previous March. Congress had only recently passed the Civil Rights Act, which Johnson also championed, and which ended discrimination and segregation in employment and public spaces. Opponents of the law, however, had managed to weaken its voting provisions.

Read more. The video of President Johnson’s speech is worth watching.