The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. Part of the law was overturned by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.
Civil Rights Activist and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) will speak about the Voting Rights Act – its tumultuous beginning and the events leading to its passage, and the impacts it has had after 50 years. Rep. Lewis has recently introduced legislation that will update the Voting Rights Act making the law more applicable to the issues faced by contemporary society and overcoming the decision of the Supreme Court. John Lewis will speak on Friday, October 16 at 6 p.m. in the University Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Information on how to obtain tickets will be forthcoming.
Prior to Rep. Lewis’ talk, a roundtable discussion will be held, also in the University Auditorium from 5 – 6:30 p.m. titled, “Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.” The roundtable will feature UF Political Science Professor Michael McDonald, author Ari Berman (whose new book, Give Us the Ballot, was recently reviewed by Rep. Lewis), journalist Brentin Mock, and Miami-based attorney Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who is on the Board of Directors of Latino Justice. The roundtable will be moderated by UF Political Science Professor Dan Smith.
The event and rountable is sponsored by the Bob Graham Center, the Department of Political Science, the Samuel L. Proctor Oral History Program, the African American Studies Program, the College of Journalism and Communications, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UF Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, Chomp the Vote, Democracy Fund, UFF State & Local Politics Fund.