Rauch: U.S. Constitution does not guarantee all citizens the right to vote. Surprised?

Event report from long time Raleigh and NC NOW member Kathe Rauch for “When Women Gather: Uniting for Positive Change” which was held via zoom on 7/25/20. This was a virtual event sponsored by a coalition of groups advancing the rights of all women. 

Our U.S. Constitution does not guarantee all citizens the right to vote.

Surprised?  That’s one of the unexpected facts I learned at this commemoration of women’s suffrage in the U.S.  To be honest, I didn’t expect to hear anything new at this event, co-sponsored by many great women’s rights groups. But there’s a lot I don’t know… and I bet I’m not the only one. It’s like that quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Here are just a few highlights of the jam-packed morning.

Mandy Carter, African American lesbian social justice activist and organizer since 1967, pointed out that, when restricted by the 15th Amendment, states devised other ways to suppress voting: poll taxes and literacy tests.  A current example of voter suppression: thousands and thousands of voters have been purged from the NC voter rolls.

Dr.Lisa Tetrault, a historian of the nineteenth century who studies the politics of memory, explained that states were given the authority to decide who could vote.  That’s how they could  limit the vote to white men. The landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down poll taxes and literacy taxes.  By the way, that Act promoted the U.S. to a “fully functional democracy”. Since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case struck down the Voting Rights Act, we are considered a “flawed democracy” by the Democracy Index (eiu.com)

Six main When Women Gather event speakers
When Women Gather Event Speakers. Photo Credit: Dianna Wynn

Donna Chavis,  member of the Lumbee tribe of NC and with over 40 years of service in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, interprets that U.S. history is not whole cloth – it’s a patchwork of what we know and what we don’t. She emphasized that access to voting is not passive, it’s an active process.

Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson, Dean of the School of Arts, Sciences, & Humanities at Shaw University, sees that we need to weave the threads of history and activism together into a tapestry. For instance, civil rights activist and organizer Ella Baker, a graduate of Shaw, mentored the late civil rights leader John Lewis:  “Your relationship to human beings is more important than your relationship to how much money you make.”

Cas Shearin, one of the founders of ROAR (Raleigh Organizing Against Racism),  hosts community meetings to foster relationships and promote racial equity truth-telling, healing, and organizing. She credits Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, with leading the way in promoting reconciliation, and understanding our interdependence.

Mary Williams-Stover, Executive Director of the NC Council for Women and Youth Involvement, pointed out the good news that women in the NC legislature have reached 25%. The bad news is that at this rate, it will be 2084 before parity is reached. BTW, women are 51% of the NC population – we are the majority!

Final thoughts:

History is ongoing. It is unfinished.

We’ve been handed a beginning. Maintaining and building democracy depends on us.

Listen, and use what you hear and contemplate, and use that to move to a place you weren’t before.

We don’t have to ignore our differences. Let’s build a new table, a new way to gather and move forward.

More information about the event including the agenda and many sponsors on The League of Women Voters of Wake County (LWV-WC) website. Speaker biographies are available also at LWV-WC. Here is the final list of sponsors.

PARTIAL LIST OF RESOURCES

Books

  • One Person, No Vote, by Carol Anderson (available at Wake County Public Library) recommended by Dr. Tetrault
  • Give Us the Vote, by Ari Berman (available at Wake County Public Library) recommended by Dr. Tetrault
  • Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 by Dr. Glenda E. Gilmore; UNC Press, ISBN 978-1469651880 paperback recommended by Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson
  • The Crisis Magazine, August 1915 – https://modjourn.org/issue/bdr508154/ 
  • We Who Believe in Freedom: The Life and Times of Ella Baker (True Tales for Young Readers) by Dr. Lea E. Williams, UNC Press, ISBN 978-0865264885 paperback
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (available at Wake County Public Library) recommended by Yolanda Holmes 

More on the history of the vote (recommended by Dr. Tetrault)

You can also find more articles and films using this search string in your browser: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/search/?q=vote

Videos 

  • NC Women’s Marches 2017 -by Yevonne Brannon, set to music by Dylan Louise Linehan of  Mad Gallica: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdH2w7DBc4Q
  • Video compiled by Audrey Muck, set to music by Little Mix  “Salute”– contact audrey@bravelens.com.

Shortlink: https://wp.me/p22b2e-2Ng

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