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An Alabama Literacy Test Keeps Black Voters Off the Rolls

Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, many southern (and some western) states had devised "literacy tests" and other voting requirements whose primary purpose was to deny African Americans the vote. The tests consisted of written and oral questions about often-obscure aspects of state law and the United States Constitution. They were usually overseen by a registrar who had wide discretion over portions of the test and could choose easier or more difficult versions of the test or try to confuse potential voters by mumbling the oral portions. The entire registration process was aimed at intimidating and discouraging black voters. This document from 1965 was used by civil rights workers in Alabama to teach potential voters what to expect when they registered to vote. While not an actual copy of the literacy test as it appeared in Alabama in 1965, the document closely mirrors the "B" and "C" (written) portions of the test that potential voters were required to complete. In some areas where African Americans were the majority, black registration was close to zero, while the white rate was often over 100% due to the illicit inclusion of the "tombstone vote," white voters whose names were kept on the roles despite being deceased.


Source | Sample Voter Registration Worksheet, Citizenship School, 1965, from Civil Rights Movement Veterans, http://www.crmvet.org/info/litques.htm.
Creator | Citizenship School
Rights | Permission to use this document was obtained from Civil Rights Movement Veterans.  See Privacy Statement and Copyright Information to obtain permission to republish or use this document for anything other than non-commerical educational purposes.   
Item Type | Pamphlet/Petition
Cite This document | Citizenship School, “An Alabama Literacy Test Keeps Black Voters Off the Rolls,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 10, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1160.

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