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Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:23 AM

Take the Impossible “Literacy” Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960s

By Rebecca Onion

This week’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturned Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which mandated federal oversight of changes in voting procedure in jurisdictions that have a history of using a “test or device” to impede enfranchisement. Here is one example of such a test, used in Louisiana in 1964.

After the end of the Civil War, would-be black voters in the South faced an array of disproportionate barriers to enfranchisement. The literacy test—supposedly applicable to both white and black prospective voters who couldn’t prove a certain level of education but in actuality disproportionately administered to black voters—was a classic example of one of these barriers.

The website of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, which collects materials related to civil rights, hosts a few samples of actual literacy tests used in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.

In many cases, people working within the movement collected these in order to use them in voter education, which is how we ended up with this documentary evidence. Update: This test—a word-processed transcript of an original—was linked to by Jeff Schwartz, who worked with the Congress of Racial Equality in Iberville and Tangipahoa Parishes in the summer of 1964. Schwartz wrote about his encounters with the test in this blog post.
Most of the tests collected here are a battery of trivia questions related to civic procedure and citizenship. (Two from the Alabama test: “Name the attorney general of the United States” and “Can you be imprisoned, under Alabama law, for a debt?”)

But this Louisiana “literacy” test, singular among its fellows, has nothing to do with citizenship. Designed to put the applicant through mental contortions, the test's questions are often confusingly worded. If some of them seem unanswerable, that effect was intentional. The (white) registrar would be the ultimate judge of whether an answer was correct.


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http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/06/28/voting_rights_and_the_supreme_court_the_impossible_literacy_test_louisiana.html

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Reply Take the Impossible “Literacy” Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960s (Original post)
n2doc Jun 2013 OP
DirkGently Jun 2013 #1
Starry Messenger Jun 2013 #2
jdadd Jun 2013 #3
d_r Jun 2013 #5
JohnnyRingo Jun 2013 #4
ctaylors6 Jun 2013 #6
rurallib Jun 2013 #7
n2doc Jun 2013 #8

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:32 AM

1. Now it's ID requirements.

Same dishonest intent, different dishonest rationale.

Same smug, cowardly attitude.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:32 AM

2. k&r

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Response to jdadd (Reply #3)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:48 AM

5. 1,, 4, 9 and 12

could be counted wrong here easily a the discretion of the tester.

eta because 1-4-12 a line is a straight path between two points, these are curves and not a line. #9 it says "A line" not "lines" and this is two lines

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:48 AM

4. Glad you posted his...

I saw it a couple nights ago but was too lazy to post it.

I advise everyone to continue on to the link and read the entire test. This is only one page of the impossible or confusing questions. To wit:

“Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write."

The 2014 test will be worse.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:50 AM

6. I'm trying to remain optimistic

about the SCt decision this week. In 2006, the VRA was reauthorized 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House. Already this week several Rs have said they will advocate for legislation that updates the section 4 formula. In theory, having the formula cover areas/counties outside of the South that need protection could even be an improvement on the old law.

While I generally assume the worst of Congress, I'm choosing to believe that because of the past, lopsided support in favor of the VRA that this might be one area that they actually get something done.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:51 AM

7. wow - doubt I could pass it cold.

did they have to score 100%

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Response to rurallib (Reply #7)

Sun Jun 30, 2013, 10:58 AM

8. Yep

1 wrong answer (decided by the poll worker) and you are denied.

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