On August 6th, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, claiming, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice.” Vicious attacks on voting rights activists throughout the South pushed Congress to pass the act, which aimed to finally fulfill the promise of the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870.
Read more about Americans’ ongoing quest for liberty and justice for all in the December issue of American History.
President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes hands with Dr. Martin Luther King after signing the Voting Rights Act. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library) Pickets outside the White House protest police brutality against civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Ala., on March 12th, 1965. (Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress)
Supporters of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party hold signs at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, August 25th, 1964. The MFDP was attempting to unseat segregationist delegates to the convention. (Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress)
"This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies." President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses Congress before signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Cecil Stoughton/LBJ Library)
President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with civil rights activists before signing the Voting Rights Act. Left to right: two unidentified men, John Lewis and James Farmer. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Robert Knudsen/LBJ Library)
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights leaders look on. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)
Senator Jacob Javits, Senator Mike Mansfield, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Senator Everett Dirksen, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Speaker of the House John McCormack, and Congressman Emanuel Celler pose with the signed Voting Rights Act. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)
Senator Robert F. Kennedy accepts one of the signing pens. (Robert Knudsen/LBJ Library)
The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy Sr. shakes hands with President Lyndon B. Johnson after the signing of the Voting Rights Act. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Clarence Mitchell and Patricia Roberts Harris look on. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)