50 Years Since Freedom Summer and Racism Still Trumps the Vote

Almost a hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the fighting of the Civil War, de facto segregation was still the law south of “Mason Dixon” and the right to vote still a mere illusion for millions of American citizens. Courageous men and women that included many white northerners joining with African American southerners traveled the southern countryside, investigating effects of the racism that continued to drive society.

Three such individuals were Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner, and James Chaney, who were murdered in the community of Philadelphia, Mississippi, sometime during the evening of June 21 and the early morning of June 22, 1964. As local law enforcement

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and prosecutors refused to investigate the murders, a subsequent investigation conducted by federal authorities led to the prosecution of a dozen and a half local residents, including the local sheriff and one deputy. Seven of the men were subsequently convicted of crimes relating to the murder, but none of the seven served more than
six years in prison.

In part due to national outrage, Congress enacted the sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a year later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Things were better down south, and the law was now on the side of the right to vote, for all citizens.

But now, 50 years later, that right to vote is more in jeopardy than it has been since those deadly, violent days of freedom fighters and lynch mobs. Across the county, the new south has risen, from Florida to Wisconsin, from Arizona to Ohio, from Pennsylvania to Texas, and republican majorities in state government after state government have enacted new laws, with the single, solitary aim of depriving certain classes of people of their right to vote. The motivation is ever so slightly different, but that de facto effect is the same: It’s

not specifically the minorities, both black and brown, that the laws are aimed at, but the broad class of voters who tend to vote Democratic, and that group just happens to be composed in large part of those same minorities, and that large part are just the people less able to comply with the new laws.

Buoyed by the most conservative, bigoted Supreme Court in US history, a Court that had the audacity last year in

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the case of Shelby County v Holder to void essential portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and in doing so to say that, for all essential purposes, racism in America had ended, laws that enact artificial barriers to voting have been passed, laws designed to win elections for republicans by preventing Democratic voters, minority Democratic voters, from exercising their right to vote.

With far less ammunition now that the Voting Rights Act has been eviscerated, many courts around the country have still struck down some of these new laws, but many remain as what they were intended to be – new Jim Crow laws for the 21st century.

About theHoundDawg

For many years as a lawyer, I saw much of the good and bad of society, and did what I could to right many wrongs. The lack of understanding of what is good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, as evidenced by such events as the election of King W as president, (who as such far surpassed the evil of richard nixon but not quite that of ronald reagan) lead me in a new direction, to spend my time trying to understand what is happening to our society, to try as best I can to spread my insights to others, and along the way to maybe even eke out a living through the internet.
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