18. AINT GONNA LET NOBODY TURN ME AROUND The Voter Rights Act of 1965 helped secure the right of black people to register to vote, and to vote. In the South, state governments had set up obstacles to prevent blacks from voting. For instance, even though these states had frequently denied blacks the right to a fair and equal education, blacks were often given literacy tests. If they failed, they couldn’t vote. Or, because so many blacks were poor, they were often required to pay a poll tax to vote. If they didn’t have the money to pay the tax, then they couldn’t vote. Some states had voting rules that said if your grandfather had been unable to vote, then you couldn’t vote, either. Not owning land (and most of the land was owned by white people), was yet another reason why black people were denied the right to vote. The Voter Rights Act reinforced the 15th Amendment, which had been ignored in the Deep South. A portion of that amendment specifically states that the right of U.S. citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
“People, Get Ready” came out the same year at the Voting Rights Act reflects a sense of optimism. Curtis Mayfield wrote the song after witnessing the March on Washington and the hundreds of thousands who flooded the nations capital to participate. He draws on gospel sounds and imagery to reassure African-Americans that better days are ahead, when they can “get on board” and be full participants in the political process.
Introduce: Julia Fink – guitar