Before his death, Rep. John Lewis wrote a final essay urging people to exercise their right to vote and keep fighting.
“Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it,” the civil rights icon wrote in an piece for The New York Times, published posthumously last week.
His words, published just a week before the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ring true for a country that still faces gaps in voter registration for voters of color — an issue that has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 14th and 15th Amendments established voting rights after the Civil War, but a series of laws put in place afterward, from literacy tests and poll taxes, suppressed the vote.
The Voting Rights Act, enforcing the 14th and 15th Amendments and combating voter suppression tactics, was signed into law on August 6, 1965. Since then, registration for Black voters has increas