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Media Advisory — Voting Rights Act resonates today: Vanderbilt black history expert

Jul. 29, 2005, 2:24 PM

(Broadcast media note: Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line)


Need for federal protection of voters remains relevant issue: Given the flurry of new voting requirements in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and other states, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still resonates today with its continued protection of those engaged in elections, says Devin Fergus, a Vanderbilt University expert on 20th century African-American political history. He believes that the act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965, was truly the linchpin legislation of Johnson‘s Great Society. While the Vietnam War soon diverted national attention from Johnson‘s domestic policies, the Voting Rights Act resulted in a dramatic increase in African-American voter participation and the rise of black elected officials in states such as Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Although blacks were at the center of the dialogue about citizens‘ rights 40 years ago, Fergus believes broader issues — such as health care, housing, consumer protection and how America treats its less fortunate citizens — transcend race today.

Fergus, an assistant professor of history at Vanderbilt, is writing a book on the relationship between liberalism and black nationalism in America during the 1960s and `70s. To interview Fergus, either contact him by email him at or call 615-322-2706, a 24/7 phone number.

Media contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS