In signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson acknowledged an uncomfortable truth: “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.”
But more than 50 years later, voting rights remain a pressing concern. In recent years, many states have enacted increasingly restrictive voting laws—ranging from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions—which critics say disproportionately affect minority voters. While the courts have recently struck down such measures in several states, come Election Day, 14 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
With this as a backdrop, The Harvard Black Alumni Society (HBAS) of South Florida recently cosponsored a Voting Rights Teach-In at Florida Memorial University (FMU) in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Marilyn Holifield J.D. ’72, a partner in Holland & Knight’s Miami office and a member of HBAS of South Florida, who helped organize the event, reflected on the teach-in, the importance of civic involvement, and the role of the Harvard alumni community in addressing voting rights.