Congress this week approved a renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Senate voting yesterday, 98-0. The Act was a watershed in civil rights legislation, a law whose effects are clearly visible in the diversity of people who populate government in municipal, state and federal government now.
This photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times is worth several thousand words. Its caption: Representative John Lewis, left, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy in the room where President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
The New York Times story (free subscription required) said:
As the Senate voted, Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, who was beaten in the 1965 voting rights march on Montgomery, Ala., came to the floor, and other lawmakers provided their memories of the era as they spoke in support of the legislation.
“I recall watching President Lyndon Baines Johnson sign the 1965 act just off the chamber of the Senate,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and one of three current senators serving when the law was originally passed. “We knew that day we had changed the country forever, and indeed we had.”
This event is a good lynch-pin for history lessons on the civil rights movement. Teachers may want to clip the story and photos from today’s papers to save for lesson plans through the year.
(West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd is one of the other three senators who were there in 1965. Who is the third?)