Voting: one of America’s most cherished practices, considered one of the core rights of any U.S. citizen. This is why it comes as such a surprise to many that this basic right was only made available to all citizens around 45 years ago.
At first, the right to vote was only extended to white, male property owners, until this was extended to include all white men in 1856. The initial voting system acknowledged neither the rights of women nor people of color.
Then, after years of fighting and campaigning, on Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed. The U.S. proclaimed that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied…on account of sex,” signifying a victory for women’s suffrage. The U.S. made no such promises about denying the right to vote on account of race, however.
Even after such a monumental step in the direction of equality for the U.S., the Amendment still excluded millions of citizens of color, men and women alike, and kept a significant percentage of the population voiceless in its own government. “We as citizens of the United States are awarded the great opportunity to have a say in who leads our government and how it functions. We owe it to all those who can’t vote, both in America and abroad, to exercise this privilege we have been given,” sophomore Elizabeth Foreman said.
Even while this percentage still could not vote, there were further steps taken to prevent people of color from voting. Many states, primarily those in the South, put in place voter suppression laws, set voting taxes and began requiring literacy tests to keep Black Americans from voting.
But slowly, progress was made towards a more equal America. In the 1950’s, Asian-Americans gained citizenship and the right to vote after thousands had been forced into internment camps during WWII.
Then, in 1962, Native Americans gained citizenship and their right to vote, soon followed by Black women in 1965. Finally, in 1975, Latina women joined the voting populace of the U.S.