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Voting and American History

The course of American history can be read as an attempt - not without set-backs - to enfranchise an ever-increasing number of our citizens with the full rights fought for by the founders of our nation. The country was, as we have all been told, founded on the principles that we are each born with certain rights that are inalienable, that cannot be taken from us. But this has, of course, not always been true. Black Americans were often denied freedom. Women have made significant gains in improving their status in the last two generations. Gays are still fighting for the right to be seen as "normal". Each of these struggles - from the Civil War to the fight for voting rights for women to the current spate of marriages of gays and lesbians at San Francisco City Hall is part of a larger struggle to define who is entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", a part of the struggle of what constitutes American identity.

If we look at the different groups that have struggled to have the same rights as those in the majority we see important similarities as well as differences among them. One of the most important similarities is the desire of members of oppressed groups to have access to the formal mechanisms of power. For non-whites and women, this struggle for generations took on the form of getting the vote or of being able to vote in safety. Black men were of course granted the legal right to vote during the Civil War, they often could not do so in safety in the South until a century later when the Civil Rights movement began to make radical changes in the status of blacks in the former Confederacy. Black women, and their sisters of all other races, had to wait until after the end of World War I to get the franchise. Gays and lesbians have been able to vote as long as the larger group to which they belonged (women, African-Americans, etc.) could vote, but it has only been with the last generation that gays and lesbians form...

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Voting and American History. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:09, March 26, 2019, from