Voting Rights Act Faces Supreme Court Challenge
When he signed the federal Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson did not rely on understatement to express the significance of the legislation.
“Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that ever been won a on any battlefield,” Johnson told members of Congress and dignitaries assembled in the Capitol’s rotunda.
Standing beneath a large painting of the British surrender to George Washington at the Revolutionary War battle of Yorktown, and flanked by a statue of Abraham Lincoln, Johnson harkened back 350 years to the arrival of the first African-Americans at colonial Jamestown, Virginia, “in darkness and chains” as slaves.
“Today, we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds,” Johnson said. “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote.”
The Voting Rights Act, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, proved to be the legislative pillars of the civil rights movement. They were pushed through Congress by Johnson after years of civil rights protests punctuated by the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott led by Rev. Martin Luther King to King’s March on Washington in 1963. There were smaller legislative achievements along the way, such as the a limited voting rights bill Johnson shepherded through Congress as Senate Majority Leader in 1957.