justin jacoby smith Profile picture
Aug 6, 2018 10 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Movement thoughts on the 53rd anniversary of the #VotingRightsAct:

The popular imagination "schoolbook" version of the Civil Rights Movement is that MLK appeared in Montgomery & led a bus boycott, which started a protest cycle that culminated in "I Have A Dream" & the VRA. /1
The Golden Age narrative obfuscates organizing work of everyday people through the brutal Jim Crow south & the falsely "colorblind" North of the 1920s-50s. There were countless efforts to organize black political power from the farmhands of the west coast to the NYC boroughs. /2
This classical framing of the "golden age of the civil rights movement" ignores a lot of what led to the passage of the VRA: 1st, decades of work done by communists that laid down the roots of the movement in the deep south of the 1930s. /3
The classical framing ignores that Ella Baker, a decades-seasoned organizer of black co-ops & solidarity committes, was the initial leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference before handing it over to MLK. (this messes up the clean Golden Age trajectory) /4
Why does all of this matter? Isn't it easier to have our Great Man history rather than complicated intersections of people & orgs that took decades to build a popular movement? It's a cleaner story, but one that leaves us ill prepared to understand comes after the golden age. /5
The different institutional changes & varieties of stalled progress that came after the VRA passed--desegregation, welfare, electoral participation, black officeholding--are reflections of historically situated movement infrastructure & strategy and white countermobilization. /6
Within MS alone, for ex, a county w/a strong grassroots CRM had substantial gains in black officeholders & implementation of social welfare policies. Counties w/powerful white backlash or structurally enforced black poverty had weaker movements & deeper troubles post-VRA. /7
There's more on the Mississippi's post-Voting Rights Act struggle for equality in this book: /8
All of this is to say that as we celebrate the passage of the #VotingRightsAct and battle voter suppression today, we shouldn't just hold up a golden image from 1965 and say "let's #RestoreTheVRA to fix democracy." /9
We should remember that the #VotingRightsAct was the product of a mass decentralized movement of everyday people who mobilized for decades before 1965 and are continuing to fight today, a generation later, for political equality. /end

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