Rock the Vote
Eddie Scott, Christian Social Relations Chair
In 1789, the first President of the United States of America, General George Washington was elected. Only 6% of the population was permitted to vote in that election. Even with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, there were still no federal laws regarding who could vote. The decision fell to states, with many maintaining the standard that favored white men of property, wealth, and education. By the start of the Civil War in 1861, most white men could vote regardless of property ownership. Some state laws required literacy testing, poll taxes, and religious tests. These obstacles were used in various parts of the United States to intentionally deny legal immigrants, newly naturalized non-white citizens, and Native Americans the right to vote. Voter registration was instituted by State governments, dominated by wealthy white men, who were concerned with the growing participation of foreign-born people voting in local elections. This was to ensure that non-citizens did not vote.
After The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1865 by Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, sporadic voter registration and intelligence testing were among the methods used to prevent freed slaves from voting in local elections. President Lincoln spoke out in support of extending the vote to black soldiers. However, opposition to black suffrage was potent even in the North, where from 1863 to 1870, numerous Northern states and territories denied any proposal to grant voting rights to African-Americans. Even with the passage of the 15th amendment in 1870, Blacks would not truly be able to exercise the right to vote until the 1960s.
In 2008 America witnessed the first African American President elected, Barack H. Obama. What made his campaign and message so successful was the idea that it saw so many people turn out to vote. One of the successes of his campaign and message was due to young voters and first time voters. Due to these two groups, President Obama’s voter turnout saw an increase of 65% from the last few elections.
As we traveled through history and time, they were many people who have encouraged voter registration. The overall impact is not only for African-Americans, but for all people. People like WEB DuBois, Shirley Chisolm, Medgar Evers, and so many others were instrumental in the fight for equal voter rights for all people, especially African-Americans.
The Young People’s Division (YPD) of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is determined to “Rock the Vote”. We are dedicated to registering all YPDers, youth, laity, clergy, and all persons who are not registered in each of our respective districts. We continue to walk in that same spirit as our revered founder, Bishop Richard Allen, who refused to take “no” for an answer. With a little effort, we all can be change agents in our communities.