I met Representative John Lewis in 1993 while I was interning in Washington, D.C. As a sharecropper’s son, Lewis would preach to his father’s chickens as a young boy. He gave them names and even baptized them because he wanted to be a minister. Instead, he went on to become one of our nation’s greatest civil rights leaders.
In Representative Lewis’s final words, he reminded us that “the vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”
That’s why I’m calling our attention to the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the amendment that gave predominantly white women the right to vote. In too many cases, when we think about the 19th Amendment, we forget about this racial nuance. We forget that most of our sisters of color had to wait until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to have free and fair access to the ballot box. And unfortunately, the road to universal enfranchisement didn’t end there.