One of the most fundamental goals of democracy is the right of people to live free of domination by others. From its founding citizens and government officials of the United States have grappled with defining who “we the people” are and if everyone has the same basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Many minorities also struggled for the right to vote. Legal barriers in many states made it impossible for African Americans to vote even though they were granted full rights as citizens of the United States. Many immigrants of Asian descent could not become citizens until 1952 and although many women began voting in Utah in 1870, Native Americans were not allowed to vote because they were not considered citizens. Native Americans gained citizenship in 1924, but those living on reservations could not vote in Utah until 1957.
Women and men of color have faced discrimination throughout Utah and Ogden. In Ogden, 25th Street created a dividing line. African Americans and other ethnic minorities were required to keep on the south side of the street and could only frequent the businesses there. Discrimination against minorities in Northern Utah also led to segregation in workplaces, housing, and where they went to school– usually on the west side of town. Individuals who broke out of the norm struggled and faced challenges.
Passing the Voting Rights Act
On March 7, 1965, peaceful marchers for the Voting Rights Act in Selma Alabama were attacked by state troopers with night sticks, tear gas, and whips. Some protesters were severely beaten and bloodied, and others ran for their lives. Their mistreatment shocked the country and spurred the Act’s passage. Passed in the U.S. Senate by 77-19 votes and the House of Representatives by 333-85 votes.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African American women and men from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment which states: The right of citizens of the united states to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act gave African American women and men the legal means to challenge voting restrictions and greatly improved voter turnout. The Act also banned poll taxes and literacy tests while protected voter registration (Passing the Voting Right Act section courtesy Better Days 2020 and Utah State University).