This past week was the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. As we celebrate this milestone in the women’s suffrage movement, it’s especially important to recognize the reality and restrictions of the amendment as it pertains to women and people of color. We often overlook the harsh actualities of history, while only focuses on the surface meaning. I don’t want to diminish the significance of the 19th amendment or its place in women’s rights’ history. Rather, I want to ensure that we give attention to the Americans who had to wait 32 – 45 years to vote. In this post, I am going to give a brief history of voting rights as it pertains to people and women of color. Even further, I want to make sure that we all remain aware that the fight for voting rights still exists and requires our action.
19th amendment overview. The 19th amendment states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Ratified on August 18th, 1920, it was the first piece of legislation to ensure the right to vote for some women.
a full view of what “women of color means”. This is always something I specifically touch upon in my posts. I’m going to cover the history of multiple groups, not just in the name of inclusivity and diversity, but because I think it’s important to show a pattern. Additionally, I hope that I can purvey a sense of unity and collective interest, that voting rights are something that we are all affected by and need to take part in protecting. This is a really interesting timeline of Asian, Black, Native American, and general voting rights history that I found extremely helpful, visually.
women that history forgot about. Women like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mabel Ping-Hua Lee are often forgotten and overlooked when people examine the women’s suffrage movement. White women, with often problematic pasts, such as Susan B. Anthony, are given the spotlight and glorified instead. I don’t want to undermine those women’s impact on equal rights, however, they shouldn’t be credited with the entire progress made. It was Jovita Idár who rose up in the face of violence to advocate for Mexican-American rights. This website has several biographies and portraits of suffrage activists over the year.
African Americans. Until 1868, African Americans couldn’t become or be considered citizens. This is an important thing to note because citizens are included in voting legislation’s language. A few years later in 1870, the 15th amendment passed, extending the right to vote to citizens of color. However, as we all know, that amendment didn’t stop Jim Crow laws and southern governments from preventing black men from voting. So even in 1920 when women could vote, black women and men were still restricted and had to continue fighting for their right to vote. Alongside the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights act of 1965 helped to ensure black Americans’ right to vote, women and men.
Native Americans. Despite being born on this land, Native Americans weren’t considered citizens until 1924! I want to take a moment to acknowledge that number and how extremely upsetting that is considering the origins of the land. There had been versions of the 1924 law before, but with specifications and restrictions as to tribal allegiance and military requirements. Furthermore, it’s not surprising that they still faced obstacles after that, similar to Jim Crow laws, consisting of competency tests and discriminatory policies.
Asian Americans. In 1952, it was the Asian Americans that were given the right to become citizens and vote. It’s not surprising that this took so long, only because of how Asian immigration was seen back then. There had been legislation like The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted their voting and citizenship rights. In 1965, Asian Americans’ voting rights were further protected as the Voting Rights Act ensured different languages on ballots and other accommodations at the polls.
Latinx Americans. The Latino voting rights history is a little different than the other groups, in the sense that most of the legislation is more recent. The first legislation that addressed Latino voters was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 10 years later, in 1975, that act would be amendment was amended to include “language minorities” and extended rights to other demographics, including Latinos.
current voting suppression issues. There are so many efforts being taken to suppress voting rights, but the important thing to recognize is that they disproportionately and intentionally impact minority communities and people of color. Legislation like voter ID laws heavily impacts black and native American communities. According to the ACLU, while 1 in 10 Americans don’t have acceptable ID, 1 in 4 African Americans don’t. In some states, your id has to have your current address, but for native Americans that don’t have “standard” housing and use the post office for their, that’s not an option. There are so many other ways that politicians have suppressed the minority voter, so to keep this post short, you can click here to read more about them. You can click here to see my other posts about voting and here to read my post about how voter suppression endangers our democracy.
Resources + Opinion Pieces:
image: officers of the Women’s League
Don’t forget to follow me on:
DM me so I can follow you back!