1965: Voting Rights Act Is Signed By Lyndon B. Johnson

By | August 4, 2020

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U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson hands a pen to Civil Rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. during the signing of the Voting Rights Act as officials look on behind them, Washington, D.C., August 6, 1965. (Washington Bureau/Getty Images)

The Civil Rights movement was alive and kicking long before Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in following John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and freely elected the following year, but it was Johnson who signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act, which was signed on August 6 of that year, is widely believed to be the most comprehensive Civil Rights law in United States history.

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Two hundred years ago, only white male landowners over the age of 21 could vote. (thoughtco.com)

A Review Of Voting In The U.S.

When the United States was founded in 1776, the only people allowed to vote were white, male, land-owning Protestants. The 1790 Naturalization Law modified that mandate to grant free white men the right to vote upon becoming citizens, and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1848 bestowed U.S. citizenship upon Mexicans living in the land conquered by the United States but required English language reading and writing as a condition of voting. The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, granted citizenship to former slaves but limited voting privileges only to men. The 15th Amendment declared that individual states couldn't deny voting rights based on race or former condition of servitude, and women were given the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.