At the Ballot Box, Poster Advocating Voter Registration, 1970s
This poster was printed sometime in the 1970s as part of a campaign by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to register voters. The image represents people voting behind a curtain, indicating that everyone is equal in the anonymity of the voting booth. The spectrum of men and women to whom the poster appeals is represented in the various footwear (or lack thereof) shown on the poster.
The NAACP was founded in 1909 by a group of white and African American activists including W. E. B. Dubois and Mary Church Terrell partly in response to the widespread practice of lynching in the nation and the race riots in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908. One of the early goals of the NAACP was the passage of a federal antilynching bill. Unsuccessful in getting legislation passed, the organization greatly influenced public opinion to oppose the extralegal practice and developed many of the tactics it later used in other civil rights struggles.
In 1940 the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF), was chartered with Thurgood Marshall as its first director-counsel. In the 1950s and 1960s the LDF fought many of the legal battles of the civil rights movement, including representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, groups dedicated to African American voter registration in the South. The LDF also argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the landmark Supreme Court case that overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision of "separate but equal." The Brown case is a good example of the LDF's legal approach of arguing that racial discrimination violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution.
On August 6, 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. That spring violent attacks on peaceful civil rights protestors in the South horrified the public and persuaded President Lyndon Johnson and Congress of the need for more legal protections for African American rights. They also realized that case-by-case litigation was not sufficient to remove the pervasive discrimination against African Americans in voting. The act relied on the Fifteenth Amendment's grant of authority to Congress to enforce its terms and provides enforcement provisions for the amendment's guarantee for the right to vote regardless of race or color. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was extended in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2007.
1. What is the NAACP?
2. What is a ballot box?
3. Why are feet the only parts of people shown in this poster?
1. Compare this poster to the "First Vote, Broadside Showing African Americans Voting, November, 16, 1867." What do these images have in common?
Zangrando, Robert L. The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909–1950. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.