Thursday, July 20, 2006

Voting Rights Act, NAACP, and Eliding History

by Ken Houghton

W today:
For many African Americans this new found began with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A generation of Americans that has grown up in the last few decades may not appreciate what this act has meant. Condi Rice understands what this act has meant. (Applause.) See, she tells me of her father's long struggle to register to vote, and the pride that came when he finally claimed his full rights as an American citizen to cast his first ballot. She shared that story with me. Yet that right was not fully guaranteed until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

Condi's claim:
Speaking at the 2000 Republican convention, Rice praised her father as “the first Republican I knew.” She declared, “Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did. My father has never forgotten that day, and neither have I.”

Ms. Rice was born in 1954.

The circumstances:
By the time she was born there were three generations of college-educated family members, including teachers, preachers and lawyers. Her father John Rice was a Presbyterian minister and teacher and the brother of a leading black educationist. Her mother Angelena was also a teacher; her subjects were music and science. She crafted the name Condoleezza from the Italian musical notation “con dolcezza” (with sweetness). It rapidly became simply “Condi”.

And the truth about her father's "acceptance" by the Republicans:
What Rice forgot was the truth: political parties don’t register voters in Alabama....After a White registrar asked Rice’s father a trick question to keep him from registering, according to [Dale] Russakoff['s Washington Post article]: “Rice says her father later learned of a Republican functionary in the registrar’s office who would register blacks secretly, as long as they registered Republicans – not the expansive grant of suffrage suggested in her speech.” [emphasis mine]

In short, if the Voting Rights Act had been in effect, Condoleezza's father might well have been a Democrat.
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