tv Commission on Civil Rights Meeting Part 2 CSPAN August 18, 2017 10:48pm-11:45pm EDT
a.m., so we will recess until 11:00 a.m. when we return to our speakers and hear about the history of voting rights in this country. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]. testimony onn all the voting rights act of 1965. the commission is examining enforcement efforts under the trunk administration. this is just under one hour and
>> get us back on track for the 11:00 a.m. presentation. we are turning to the historical presentation scheduled today on the 52 years of the voting rights act. president johnson signed the voting rights act of 1965 into law 52 years ago this month on august 6, 1965. it is widely considered to be one of the most significant and successful pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted and has been used to combat varied voter suppression tactics, particularly targeting communities of color and limited english-proficient voters. i am especially proud to highlight the commission's role in the creation of that land mark legislation. in the years leading to the passage of the voting rights act, the commission held a number of hearings and issued reports.
in march 1965, president johnson called for new voting legislation embodying the recommendations of the civil rights commission. in state of carolina versus kasenbek, the supreme court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the 1965 voting rights act in part relying on data published by the commission. since our first report on voting issues in 1959, we have issued 20 reports on voting rights, most recently last fall on issues with the voter registration act. voting rights has been and continues to be a central part of our commission charge and work. i also note that today, august 18, marks the 97th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the united states constitution which gave women the right to vote. as my mother and grandmother have often reminded me, people died for the right for people like me, black people and women, to vote. that right is precious. it is fundamental, and it is my deepest honor to safe guard it here. we are so grateful today to have
with us historians who bring a wealth of knowledge about the particular history of voting rights in the united states. and note that one of our historians have not arrived. i am delighted one is here. we'll begin with her, professor mary ellen curtain, an associate professor with the department of history at american university. she specializes in voting rights and has written extensively on modern african-american and women's social and political history. after receiving her ph.d. in history from duke university, professor curtain worked at universities across the country and abroad while lecturing on american history and focusing her research discipline. in 2000 and 2010, she was awarded multiple public policy fellowships with the woodrow wilson international center for scholars in washington d.c. professor curtain's first book, black prisoners and their world, alabama, 1865 to 1900, her forthcoming book, reaching for power, barbara jordan and the politics of race and sex in america" recounts the life of barbara jordan, a firm defender of voting rights and the first black woman elected to congress
from a southern state. the book will highlight congresswoman jordan's key role in the reauthorization bill and long history of campaigning for women and minority suffrage in texas. so i'll give the bio graphy of alexander kesar who will present when he arrives. he is a professor of history in social policy at the kennedy school of government, a harvard trained historian. he specializes in voting rights, and comparative working class history. before joining the harvard faculty, he taught at duke, brandice and mit. his acclaimed book "the right to vote, the contested history of democracy in the united states" details the history of franchise from the american revolution to the 21st century. the book examines voting rights against the back drop of various social dynamics, including changes in economic development,
immigration, and class relations, to identify major periods in suffrage movements. the professor's historical account received widespread praise from academics and awarded annual and biannual recognitions for best books on u.s. history from both the american historical association and the historical society. before hearing from our distinguished speakers, i turn to commissioner adegbile at his suggestion, we commemorate the voting rights act month today. and welcome, professor kesa r. >> good morning. welcome to both of our historians. thank you for joining us today. when i think back to 52 years ago in selma, alabama, and the bridge that brave nonviolent citizens put themselves on for this right that we're discussing today, i think about it as a bridge that took people across a river, but i also think about it as a bridge that took a society from one state of affairs of
exclusion to a need and a demand that the nation live up to its promises in the constitution. and when president johnson went before a dual session of congress to announce he would be moving a voting rights act bill i consider it to be one of the most important civil rights speeches ever to be given in our country's history and i commend that to all who are listening today to go back and listen to the video or to read those words, because they have resonance today just as they did and moved the congress and the nation on the strength of the demonstration made in selma and elsewhere, that the right to vote, as the supreme court has said, is preservative of all other rights and a right on which we place special significance. so it's important today that we hear from two people who know this history, who have chronicled it, studied it, shared it with students and others in the nation, and we're delighted to have both of you with us today to share with us a bit about how we've come to this point and a bit about the history of voting that we need to remember and hold at the foremost of our attention.
thank you. chair lhamon: professor, we'll start with you first. welcome. >> thank you very much for the invitation. chair lhamon: your microphone isn't on. >> can you hear me now? you could probably hear me anyway. let me thank you. it's an honor to be invited to speak to this group and i will do my best here. i apologize for getting here a little belatedly. i was actually lost in this building [laughter] >> in several different parts of this building. chair lhamon: i don't want to tell you what good company you're in. >> i'm glad to hear it because, frankly, i felt like an idiot. anyway, here i am. what i thought i could most usefully do given the work that i've done would be make comments about the long sweep of voting rights history in the united states and then try to locate that voting rights act in that
long sweep and then bring it in talking about dimensions and discussing the presence of the dimensions in light of the pass. let me begin by talking about some broad patterns of history of voting rights which may or may not be evident to anyone here. we'll begin with the founding, the original sin of the constitution, is that the founding fathers separated suffrage from citizenship, okay. there is no right to vote in the constitution, and they did not tie it to citizenship something which, by the way, in any modern constitution in the world, any constitution that's been written in the last 80 years is done and is automatic. but they separated it, not for reasons of principle or political theory. it had to do with the pragmatic politics of constitutional ratification in the 1780s. they were afraid any standard they picked would annoy somebody so they might not vote for ratification.
so we start there and then, obviously, decentralize the suffrage rights, leaves things to the states, with immense consequences. the states are then free within limits that are imposed to disenfranchise the people that any given state would like to disenfranchise. so that's proposition 1. 2, the history of voting rights since the founding despite the most heroic images of our country has not been one of continuous expansion and enlargement. although, on balance, there has been progress. what the chronology reveals is that there have been periods in states and nationally when the franchise has contracted as well. this is varied by state, but it is a broad, broad set of patterns. there's aye an expansive period
from 1790 to, roughly, 1870, the 15th amendment. but even there, there are many exceptions. african-americans get disenfranchised in most northern states between 1790 and between 186and 1850. women could vote in new jersey for a while until they couldn't. paupers in a number of states during this period lose the right to vote. anyone who's dependent on the state loses the right to vote. but still, this is an expansive period. then there's a broad period of contraction from 1870 or the 1870s into the progressive era, north and south, is a period when voting rights contract. the southern story is well known. we do know this, but there's no harm being reminded about it again. but there's also a northern story in which immigrant workers lose the right to vote due to
what we now call voter suppression, putting obstacles in the path of voters. by the way, there are two periods in the history --if you do word searches, the 1880s is one peak of the phrase "vote suppression" and the recent years are the second peak. so you have a contraction period. you have a broad expansion from world war ii into the early 1990s, another big period of expansion. and then i would argue that we are now living in a period of the contraction of voting rights. and there are a number of different signs of that, even though it's in an era of formerly idea logically full enfranchisement, i think this is a period when voting rights are more under threat than the opposite. what this chronology reveals, if you take seriously the notion that it's not an upward path, but that it's up and down, one thing reveals, is that the
history of democratic rights is a history of conflict. it's always a history of conflict. there are almost always some people who oppose the enfranchisement of others. they don't want --not everybody they don't want -- not everybody wants everybody to participate. second, people have periodically lost the right to vote, either through outright disenfranchisement or through what we now call voter suppression. there is a difference between the two, but in some sense, politically, voter suppression is what you do when you want to disenfranchise people who can't. the third point, the conflicts and patterns of exclusion have always been along the lines of race, class, and, for a long time, gender.
nobody has ever attempted to disenfranchise upper or even middle class white males. it simply hasn't happened. a lesson from there, to take this pattern, again, seriously, is that if you want to preserve voting rights, you have to protect them. it's not automatic. and here, one can think of justice ginsberg's reference in the shelby case in her dissent to, you know, it's like getting rid of the umbrella because you're not getting wet. you need the protections. now, let me shift the spotlight to the voting rights act and try to locate this also in maybe somewhat of an unusual and broad perspective. first, the subtitle of the voting rights act i think is something we always have to sort of keep in mind. the subtitle is an act to enforce the 15th amendment. the 15th amendment had been on the books for a century when the
act was passed to enforce it. so the voting rights act is not legislation that's dealing with a new problem. it's dealing with a problem that was at least a century old. and the idea of passing a federal law that would throw the weight of the government behind enforcing the 15th amendment was not new. and here, let me mention arcane history, again, maybe known to some, not to others. the voting rights act had a precursor. it was called the federal elections bill of 1890. it looked a lot like the voting rights act, okay. it was also known by its opponent as the large force bill. it was passed by the house, and it was killed in the senate, narrowly, in part by filibuster. it would have sent marshalls
into the south. it would done a lot of what the voting rights act did, so the need for something like that was apparent in 1890. and it came very close to being passed and just imagine how our history would have been different, effectively, if the voting rights act had been passed in 1890. although we -- keeping how close that decision was, when we celebrate the immense importance of the voting rights act, and rightly so, we tend to regard it in retrospect as a national commitment. but we also have to remember that there was a filibuster of the voting rights act. and that the filibuster was overcome. it succeeded by only three votes, so that history could have turned out rather differently also. i think we also need to keep in mind another little dimension i
want to put on the table. is that strong opposition to renewal of the voting rights act occurred in 1970, just five years after it was passed. there was a major battle in congress over this. and at the heart of that battle was the desire of many southern members of congress, as well as the nixon administration, and some conservatives from elsewhere, what they wanted to do was to get rid of the preclearance provision. this is the renewal in 1970. the house actually passed such a measure and it took a lot of depth negotiating on the part of members of the senate to prevent it from happening. so, again, putting these things, you know, in context, that means that the decision in shelby achieved a goal, which is getting rid of the preclearance provision that had been on some agendas for more than 40 years already, okay. this wasn't an idea that suddenly popped up. this had been around for quite a while and was on some people's minds.
and when you look from the federal elections bill to shelby, you have more than 100 years of struggling with the same issues, which the same basic question, which is what ought and can the federal government do to prevent states from denying political rights to some of their own inhabitants? finally, let me dash into a few final comments about the present, and i mean these comments to be suggestive and, hopefully, to provoke some discussion, which is about why we seem to have entered a new period of contestation in recent years. and there are multiple reasons. i want to suggest a certain kind of historical framing to it. there are, of course, partisan reasons about why this happens. this is true about our history, political parties, shockingly sometimes act in their party's interest and not in the nation's
interest. it's true of both parties historically. it's an era of close elections. that's a given. i think history also offers us a guide, some suggestions that can help us understand it, and there are two striking parallels between the last 20 years of our history and the period of the late 19th and early 20th century which is a period of contraction of the right to vote. the first was that that period of contraction took place in the wake of expansion of the franchise to african-americans. okay. it takes place in the wake of reconstruction, okay, after reconstruction, and after the passage of the 15th amendment. and it was after high rates of immigration and high rates of immigration of people who were regarded as not as assimibleable, eastern europeans, as opposed to migrants from the northern and western europe come in the pre-civil war period. it is against that background of
immigration, and african-american empowerment in some places that the nation witnessed the passage of innumerable state laws designed to limit the political power of african-americans and immigrants, and immigrant workers. literacy tests understanding causes detailed registration requirements, proof of citizenship laws have shown up again in recent years. all of these things appear in the late 19th and early 20th century and they weren't a lot of places, not just in the south. we know the story, less well known, is that new york state, for example, passed an english language literacy requirement to vote in 1921 and remains on the books through the 1960s, among other things, making it impossible for puerto ricans and spanish-speaking residents of new york, of whom there were hundreds of thousands to vote. the parallels, i think, to our recent history are quite evident. we are also living in a period that follows a period of african-american -- of a growing african-american participation and enfranchisement after the voting rights act and other
developments of the 1960s, and we have been seeing extremely large waves of immigration this time, also from a, quote, new place, a different new place and now, it's from mexico and central america. and this has been followed by another wave of legislation designed to put obstacles in the path of people trying to vote. i don't think that that's a coincidence. i don't think that these historical parallels are coincidence, but that's something which we would likely want to talk about. thank you very much. chair lhamon: professor keyssar, thank you very much. professor curtain. all right. >> thank you very much for having me here today. i'm here to talk about barbara jordan and the expansion of the voting rights act of 1975 and her role in that. so on july 25, 1974, congresswoman barbara jordan
said the following about the u.s. constitution. i can't say it as she did, but i'll do it my best. when that document was completed on the 17th of september in 1787, i was not included in that "we the people" i felt somehow for many years that george washington and alexander hamilton just left me out by mistake. but through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, i have finally been included in "we the people." america's history of slavery and white supremacy and its change to racial inclusion and legal equality gave jordan special state in making sure the constitution was upheld. my faith in the constitution is whole, complete and total and i'm not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminulation, subversion and the destruction of the constitution. when jordan spoke those words, the nation was in the midst of an impeachment crisis.
one year later in the summer of 1975, president ford had seamlessly taken the place of the disgraced richard nixon, but jordan and others in congress believed the nation faced another potential crisis, one that threatened to undo the most important piece of legislation to come out of the civil rights movement, the voting rights act. the 1965 act, which indeed was a key part of the process of the amendment, interpretation and court decision that jordan had referred to allowed federal deputies to register voters and section 5 of that act placed changes in voting procedures in six southern states and portions of others under the oversight of the justice department. before the voting rights act, there were only 72 black elected officials in the entire south. by 1975, there were 900. by opening up registration and scrutinizing state practices, the voting rights act was beginning to transform american democracy, but it was due to
expire on august 6, 1975. jordan was determined not only to renew the act, but also expand it to permanently ban literacy tests, incorporate language minorities, include the state of texas under the oversight provided by section 5 and extend it for 10 more years. many seasoned politicians and lobbyists believed expansion was a risky strategy that might cause the bill to fail altogether. but over the objections of many texas politicians and congressmen, jordan joined forces with representative herben padillo of new york and the representative of california to push through the bill that renewed the voting rights act and set it on a new course. you've asked me to speak about the historical context of why
jordan supported the 1975 voting rights act and sought to include the state of texas and language minorities. but in order to do that, we have to step back a few decades in america, and we have to step back to the 1940s. barbara jordan was born in houston, texas in 1936 in a very stable, working class, baptist family, and she learned about politics at the good hope missionary baptist church located in houston's fourth ward, otherwise known as freedman's town. until she'd left houston to attend law school in boston, jordan grew up listening to the preaching of one individual, the reverend albert a. lucas. 6 feet tall, stout with a commanding voice, lucas was an ordained minister educated at nearby conroe college. lucas was asked to leave the small flock of good hope and within a short amount of time built up a 2,000-member-strong congregation with a new strong church that dominated a city block. reverend lucas, along with his wife turned good hope from an a
to an oak. lucas fought for racial equal and joined the naacp and invited the organization to join good hope. hundreds of black houstonians attended each day. the theme for that year, "voting rights." naacp secretary walter white made one of the most moving speeches referring to a young black man who had been lynched just two days before in neighboring conroe county. he thundered, not only was bob white killed, but the law was slain. we are believers in practical democracy, he said. we want to help stop hitler, because we hate hitlerism, but we hate hitlerism more than some other americans because we hate hitlerism not only in nazi germany, but we hate it also in conroe, texas. politicians, he said, whipped up white fears out of self-interest. this callous use of racism to win elections enraged white, and he said, that is why it is so important this present fight against the white primary should be won. now, the white primary was an
extremely effective disenfranchisement tactic. if they paid their poll tax, blacks in texas could vote in the general election but they could not vote in the democratic party primary because the party was allowed to exclude black voters from membership. for many black voters with limited education, this was a very confusing situation. the librarian from the good hope church recalled that, because a lot of the people would say, well, we're paying our poll tax and we're voting, they did not realize that there was anything wrong until reverend lucas brought it to the forefront. they've already chosen the candidate, he told his congregation, your vote does not count. it does not mean anything. that's what he kept hammering on, she said. so he would say the primary's controlled by these states writers, white people controlled by these men, and they are not allowing you to vote. legal arguments that the white primary violated the 14th and 15th amendment had gone nowhere but white and the naacp convention revived the fighting
spirit of reverend lucas and his congregation. a new plaintiff, a black dentist from good hope by the name of lonnii smith sued county officials for the right to vote in the primary. over the next few years, lucas and smith pushed good hope's working class congregation to raise their voices for democracy by emptying their purses. the maids, cooks, chauffeurs and workers raised the equivalent of $150,000 in today's currency and they gave it to thurgood marshall and the naacp to argue against the white primary and the supreme court. i'm sure you know that in 1944, the supreme court decided in smith v. alright to end the white primary, a decision of comparable importance to brown, but you might not know that the plaintiff and the money to support the case came directly out of barbara jordan's church in houston, texas. after the victory in smith, thurgood marshall described the crowded excitement at good hope. the meeting was the largest meeting i've seen in texas,
marshall wrote. the church was packed at 7:00 for an 8:00 meeting. the crowd outside was as large as the crowd inside. the only way the plaintiff could get in the church was by climbing through the window at the back of the church. marshall had a feeling about what the smith decision might mean for the south. don't know about other states but i'll bet even money that negroes in texas are going to vote, and they did vote. two years later, a record number of african-americans voted in the state democratic primary. ending the white primary was a necessary start to making the black vote meaningful in texas and in the south. but every movement forward for black voting rights was also pushed back. political scientists chandler davidson called antidemocratic contrivances hugely impacted the black voting in texas. these devices included the poll tax, annual registration, at-large elections, gerrymandering, exorbitant filing fees, violence, and
economic intimidation. the impact of these practices had meant to squash the, quote, effective political participation on the part of lower income people in general and negroes in particular. the democratic party was still run by those opposed to black equality. discouraged citizens withdrew from voting and were sometimes accused of complacency. under such circumstances, certain of defeat, who would be brave enough, bold enough, to run for office? well, in 1959, barbara jordan returned to houston after finishing law school at the age of 23. she passed the texas and the massachusetts bar exams and then she joined a coalition of liberals, labor organizers and black and latino activists who sought to change the democratic party away from its racist past. she went to work for the kennedy campaign. her job, get black volunteers to register more voters. one remembered she was really great at recruitment.
she would go to church and make one of those speeches and we'd have volunteers running out of there, people volunteering to be registration clerks, and the results were phenomenal. from 15,000 black registered voters, he said, we wound up with over 60,000 registered to vote. jordan had two goals, get kennedy elected and make black voters a powerful block in the liberal coalition. she joined the state-wide effort to overturn the poll tax in texas and ran the houston operation and got many volunteers from her church to go door to door. many of these same poll workers later became her supporters. when she ran for state representative in 1962 and 1964, however, she lost. in texas, at-large voting had replaced the white primary as one of the obstacles to electing black representatives. blacks could now vote in the primary, but under the at-large system, jordan had to run in a district comprised of over a million people. black voters came out for her,
but given the size of the district, they were too small of a minority to elect their candidate. here she is testifying before congress: my first attempts to become a member of the texas house of representatives were thwarted by the same type of discriminatory practices forbidden by the voting rights act. in 1962 when i first ran for the texas house, harris county was not divided into single-member districts. i had to run at-large against all other candidates. i lost and i lost again in 1964. i could not get elected in at-large elections. jordan was discouraged. she could not get elected to the texas house, and there was only one seat for the texas senate, because urban areas like houston with large populations were given the same number of representatives as rural areas with very small populations. but in 1966, the texas legislature was forced to reapportion itself, and reynolds v. sims, the united states supreme court applied the one man, one vote rule to state
legislative districts. population, rather than areas, determined the number of representatives and houston was reapportioned, creating a new single-member state senatorial district where jordan lived. she ran and she won. absent the supreme court ruling, i would have lost again, she testified. jordan never forgot the difference that single-member districts had made to her life and to her constituents. we needed a victory, she stated. this is the only way. we've been talking a long time, but they always come back and say, we don't see anything. we don't win. a victory in a body like the statehouse will do more to help the negro recognize his voting strength than anything i can think of. when she made it to congress then, she was determined that minority candidates should no longer be thwarted by at-large districts and other discriminatory practices. when the 94th congress reconvened in
1777 to start its new session, the inclusion of language minorities, however, was not part of the draft plan for the renewal of the act sent to don edwards, the chair of the civil rights subcommittee. with only seven months left until the expiration of the act, clarence mitchell, the lobbyist for the naacp, supported renewal without change. he wanted to avoid a drawn-out battle that might endanger the law altogether. but jordan thought differently. after talking it through with her legislative aide, she decided she was going to push for texas to be included and for language minorities to be protected under the act. and on february 19, 1975, she introduced legislation extending the provisions of the voting rights act of 1965 to include texas, new mexico, arizona, and parts of colorado and california. her bill would guarantee the mexican-americans residing in the southwest and to blacks and mexican-americans in texas the same protection of their voting rights afforded to blacks in the south. jordan asserted that all forms
of voting discrimination suffered by blacks in the south were also being suffered by mexican americans in the southwest. the most egregious violations happened in texas, and it was more than just a lack of bilingual balance. when mexican americans tried to register in one town, they were told the register ran out of printed forms. polling places were located in only white-only spaces. there were instances where mexican american ballots were challenged for no cause. there was evidence in later testimony of mexican american voters and activists suffering economic punishment, losing jobs, bank loans and suffering violence as a result of running for office. jordan proposed the following triggers: a jurisdiction would be covered by the voting rights act if, first, less than 50% of the eligible voters were registered to vote and, second, if more than 5% of the eligible voters are of a single tongue other than english. and other than that condition, all of texas would be placed under the preclearance provisions of section 5. jordan got the congressional black caucus to support the bill but there was a real opposition
on the civil rights subcommittee. one amendment would have excluded texas on the grounds that, gosh, suddenly the state legislature would have hurried up and passed bilingual ballot law. jordan was not impressed. we need more than bilingual ballot. that won't solve the forms of -- problem of discrimination, knowing that they could appeal to the justice department was a lifeline to hispanic voters in texas. the minority voters need the psychological, spiritual, and emotional boost that comes from knowing that you have a form for correction of abuses, she said. another amendment by california republican charles wiggins would have allowed states to escape coverage under the act, if more than 50% of blacks voted in the previous election. jordan looked directly at wiggins and said, that in over 50% black turnout did nothing to effect discriminatory problems, such as school boards which have been abolished or prevent
minority membership on them, multimember districts, polling places removed without notice and annexation in an effort to dilute minority votes. the issue at hand, in other words, was not solely about voting. the voting rights act was also about whether the votes cast by minorities were meaningful, fair, and led to real representation. jordan took the time to sit down personally with every member of the texas delegation and explain to them what this meant in factual terms and to help them understand from a policy point of view why she was doing this and according to her aide, all she was saying was, don't have a gut reaction, know what you're talking about and if you try to debate me on this, i'm going to run all over you. in effect, she was also telling them, this is important to me. after 13 days of hearings and 48 witnesses, the house passed jordan's version of the bill and the new york times noted that in a congressional season most
noted for failed promises, at least one measure passed by the house, the extension enlargement and the expansion of the voting rights act stands out as a memorable achievement. in july, the senate democratic leaders faced a bitter dispute with southern legislators in the senate. the opposition, including strom thurmond accused the voters of using steam roller tactics to get it approved. ultimately, the bill passed overwhelmingly in the house and the senate with bipartisan support, including that from president ford. now, today, we might look back and think, if only we could achieve racial equity by abolishing the white primary or at-large elections or printing bilingual ballots, how simple that would be, but circumstances change and history shows that with every step forward, new and more sophisticated methods of voter suppression can and will emerge. all of her political life, barbara jordan worked not just for the right of minorities to vote, but for those votes to be meaningful.
and for minorities to be fully protected by the constitution. for barbara jordan, the voting rights act in section 5 and language provisions were essential to her vision of what the constitution demanded, if everyone, indeed, was going to be included in "we the people." thank you. chair lhamon: thank you very much, professor curtin. i'll open for questions from my fellow commissioners on the presentations. vice chair. >> i thank both of you for joining us. i have been absolutely mesmerized by all that you have said. turning to you, dr. curtin, we are, indeed, living in, as some would say, interesting times. i'm just curious if you have any thoughts about what barbara
jordan might say, given the issues that we're now facing in terms of voter suppression. you alluded to the fact that the techniques in what we're seeing are more sophisticated. i wonder if you might offer any thoughts on what she might say. >> you know, it's really intimidating to think about how barbara would respond. but, again, i think she would draw on her own history and on the broader history of voter suppression, going back to the white primary. i think it's very important, because people thought, oh, job done, right? now, we can help elect the candidates. but that wasn't the case at all, because, you know, other measures then emerged to keep people from electing the representatives of their choice. and for her, i think it was always -- the constitution demanded protection for people so they would be able, not just to vote, because we know voting
can happen in very oppressive regimes, right, but the idea was that the vote needed to be meaningful and it really did need to show -- allow people to elect representatives of their choosing. so i think however that occurs, she would support. >> thank you. chair lhamon: commissioner narasaki. >> thank you, madam chair. i appreciated your effort of trying to cram the history of voting into only a few minutes. it's quite a challenge. i just wanted to note that there was another way that people were prevented from voting, and that was simply by not being allowed to be a citizen, as you know, with both native americans who were citizens, not citizens, and also my grandmother, who for over 50 years after she
immigrated was not allowed to become a citizen because she came from japan. so i think that's important to know that there are other inventive ways this country has sought to keep all of its people from being able to vote. i also wanted to ask ms. curtin a question. i was always curious. one of the things when i came to washington was work on the 1992 amendment to the voting rights act, specifically the expansion of section 203, the language provision. it's not surprising that latinos were covered. but at the time of the 1970s, the asian-american population was fairly small. i wonder if you have any insight into how asian americans became covered. i was always curious. >> i think they were included in the 5% trigger, depending on where they lived.
>> yes, they were covered but they were expressly named, because the trigger only affects the named groups. that's why i was interested in how did asian-americans become one of those named groups? >> right. i think it had to do with, again, when they first did the trigger and they ran the numbers, a lot of language groups turned up that weren't supposed to, right, or people that had not previously experienced discrimination, like french-speaking folks in, you know, maine, places like that. so i think they had -- they felt they had to limit it somehow. so certain language groups. it wasn't just spanish-speaking and this was often difficult, because, you know, for the first time, you were designating specific groups, which the voting rights act hadn't done before, right. it was just these triggers, and it didn't have a specific race or -- so i think it was through i think it was through negotiation, they didn't want
to make it too broad but wanted to include -- i think california was a concern. so that is an excellent question. i'll try and dig more deeply into exactly who came up with that list. but i think, you know, it's like making sausage. who knows what negotiations took place that could exclude and include others. inthis was certainly an shall unite for certain groups with native americans. certain states did not want to include those ballots and others were more open to it. >> thank you. >> professor, thank you very much for your presentation. i have a couple questions for you. the voting e extent story in america has been one of ebbs and flows as opposed to a march forward, viewed through a historical lens can you speak to what the responses have been
that have helped turn the direction from a retreat to greater inclusion? and then, separately, i think some of your writings have focused on an often overlooked point that expansions in voting have sometimes followed military conflict and war and to the extent we have been in a sustained period of military conflict, i'm wondering if the present circumstance that you describe against that historical pattern is a discontinuity. that is that right now we're not increasing or expanding but retreating and then separately for professor curtin i'm fascinated by the fact that we have marched through the white primary president l.b.j.'s role, barbara jordan, the northwest austin case, federal decision just this week in texas. why is texas so specially situated in american story of voting?
so i put those questions to our distinguished panelists for their views. >> let me first start with the war issue. for those of you who have not yet mastered the hundreds of pages i have written about this one of the arguments of the book that i wrote about this is that every major expansion of the franchise that has occurred in the united states has occurred during or just after a war. every single one of them. and i explain the pattern and i think it may shed some light on what's happening there because the reasons for expanding the franchise were, for one thing, you wanted to recruit an army. and there are a number of incidents in the course of u.s. history where starting with the war of 1812, the militias and war of 1812, hey, they want to fight but they're not letting us vote because we have
property requirements. they turn in a pesh of 1200 people basically threatening not to fight. so war requires, you know, conducting a war requires military mobilization and it requires mobilizing a certain amount of civilian support for the war. and that's the case for example with world war i and the enfranchisement of women. woodrow wilson goes to the senate and says, you have to pass an amendment as a war measure because he doesn't want, this was trouble in the streets not far from here going on over women's suffrage. i think that what we're seeing, you know, are ways that are disturbing in a in many of ways. in recent years, the united states has been engaging in prolonged wars without popular mobilization. we have a volunteer army and not a draft. and without much in the way of
mobilizing citizen support either. so it's -- it is different from the historic matter. and worrisome. and your first question, and then i'll turn it over to mary ellen, on your first question about what kinds of things have made it possible to reverse periods of reversals, you know, what are shocking questions to be asking in this day and age. i think that, you know, there's no unusual magic bullet. people start organizing. they also try to use the courts .
and the other dynamic that occurs, though, and i think this is a dynamic that we're going to see. ok? and maybe we're starting to see in a couple places. which is that you have to organ you have to use the courts, how difficult it is in some respects to use the courts now but you have to do real mobilization in helping people and dealing with voter i.d. laws. but there is a partisan dynamic, which at first kind of can work in favor of suppression but then can be turned. what happens there is that if you are a political party and you've been engaging in a strategy but make it tough for certain kinds of people to vote, you might continue that, you know, for a while, but at some point with population changes and demographic changes, you might think that those people, whoever they are, we can plug in devin categories, are going to get
the vote anyway and they might punish us if we continue putting obstacles in their path. and i think that is the dynamic which, you know, that will happen in texas. i think that will happen in north carolina. because they're not going to be able -- for a while. i mean, they're hanging on to it. i think that some -- that partisan switch dynamic. but i wish i could say there was a -- some magical insight at people have in the past that gave us an straight step forward. i don't see it. yes. a major mobilization for war would do it but that has some doubts on it. >> the other case you could add to your list about important texas courses, why do you
register which, you know, the supreme court said you can look voting e and at large can be racially des crim nah tri so that came out of houston as well. it was also involved jordan and her senate district. why did cases come out of texas? a very interesting question. a lot of it has to do with class that even though jarod associated press came from a working class community -- jordan came from a working class commune there were a lot of wealthier african-americans particularly in houston who at the turn of the century took the booker t. washington idea of a bargain very serious lane stayed out of politics and focused on community wealth and then they used that money to homes and ensive other built up institutions in
houston. but i also think it helps you build up to the stability and the independence of the black community in state. you high school have unions in exas which is also extremely important. have you african-americans in unions and working in the ship channel and so i think the combination of employment and economic independence among elites and working classes eally helped fuel a sense of not just we're citizens but we are going to fight this thing. the fight had gone back to the 1920's. people had been trying for two decades before smith case to overturn this thing. they had the money and the sense of citizenship and entitlement to pursue it.
in terms of why it continued to come out of texas, on the other side, the state legislature was very reluctant to do more than it needed to do so people went to the courts to force it. liberals shortage of who really did create a very special alliance with blacks and latinos in this period. it is a very vibrant period of coalition politics and jordan as out of that tradition well. so it has to do with economic opportunity and prosperity that gives people the ability to pursue these cases in the courts and to high school ustain them over time. >> could i just do one more element of an answer to one of your questions to me? can i shut this off?
>> another, actually, you know, approach that has been important historically has been amending the constitution. i say this, i know it's not an easy thing to do but there have been more amendments about voting rights than anything else. the core issue becomes that it's very, very hard to get states to changeth voting laws, electoral practices by themselves unless leaned on by the federal government. and so constitutional amendments to buttress the authority of the federal government has historic l i really proved to be very, very substantial. you may know as for a number of years i've been supporting the idea of a constitutional amendment to put right to vote -- i don't
think it's an idea that should be just thought of as either ie in the sky or too fluffy. constitutional amendments work. >> thank you. i want to make sure the two colleagues on the phone have a chance to ask questions if they ave any. any other questions? thank you very much. >> thank you, madame chair. >> thank you. thank you for your scholarly work every day and for your presentations to us today. these were phenomenal. thank you. >> thank you. >> i've been asked if we could have a five-minute break before we return to the rest of our agenda. we will pause until noon and then return to the rest of our agenda at noon. > thank you.
>> coming up this weekend on american history tv on c-span 3. xxx saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern on real america the 1944 u.s. office of war anymore, "why we fight, the battle of china." >> three facts must never be forgotten. china is history. china is land. china is people. >> on sunday at 11:30 a.m. eastern political economy professor and author robert wright on alexander hamilton's views of the national debt. >> hamilton advised the creation of an energetic, efficient government, one that
did one thing well for as little money as possible. that one thing was to protect ericans' lives, liberty, and property from tyrants foreign and domestic. >> at 7:30 p.m. new jersey residents and activists discuss the 1967 newark rebellion. >> there were 268 reports of sniper fire. zero snipers were found. no evidence of any snipers. no gun shells other than the police gun shells. no foot prints. no fingerprints. nothing was found. and yet 26 people were killed. one policeman, one fireman. the rest citizens. all by the three police forces that were operating. >> american history tv all weekend every weekend only on -span 3. now secretary of state rex tillerson