The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has declared “African Americans and The Vote” as the theme for this year’s Black History Month.
It isn’t just because there’s a high-stakes national election going on.
The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. This year also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) and the right of black men to the ballot after the Civil War. Still, those events didn’t immediately ensure people of color could exercise their rights at the ballot box.
In fact, the hard-fought struggle continues.
Voting rights campaigns and legal suits marked much of the twentieth century. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed more black Americans to cast their ballots, the fight for voting rights is still the subject of legal battles in 2020.
Local History Highlights Public Service
Here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, many of our community’s black history milestones are related to elections and public service – from Fred Alexander’s election to City Council in 1963 to Harvey Gantt’s election as Charlotte’s first African American mayor in 1983 to Vi Lyles’ installation as the same city’s first black female mayor in 2017.
Did you know that the Mecklenburg County seal was designed by Harvey Boyd, a black graphic designer who worked at The Charlotte Observer at the time? After a successful career, he now lives in his childhood home in the Crestdale community in Matthews. You can read his reflections in this week’s profile in the Matthews Mint Hill Weekly.
Honor History By Planning To Vote
As February ushers in this year’s national Primary season, it’s important to remember the sacrifices and historic milestones that brought each of us (at different times, through differing means) the right to vote.
So many of the challenges facing individuals served here at Crisis Assistance Ministry can only be solved through systemic change. Changing those systems starts with the ballot box – where the voices of those most affected must be heard – in 2020 and in every election.
One way to celebrate history is to educate yourself on the issues and the candidates – from the most local offices to the White House – and make a plan for when and how you will vote.
In Mecklenburg County, you can check your voter registration, polling places, sample ballot, and early voting options online here. Any North Carolina voter can do the same via the state’s Board of Elections website.
These resources are available to everyone for every election – in 2020 and beyond.