A group of Harvard students were recently asked by their tutor to take the 1964 Louisiana Literacy Test – a test known to be notoriously confusing that was really only put in place used to stop thousands of poor black citizens from voting. Much to their surprise, they failed.
Not a single one of his student passed the exam, because the test was designed in such a way that each question could be interpreted as wrong by the official “grading” the answers.
It’s been a mere 50 years since states in the South asked voters to pass the test in order to be eligible to cast a ballot.
“Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a legitimate sounding, but devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class,” said resident tutor Carl Miller about the test. He asked the students to take the test as part of a larger conversation on the importance of voting.
The test was intended to disenfranchise African-Americans, who in order to pass had to correctly answer all 30 questions in 10 minutes.
Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting. One of the provisions outlawed such tests, as well as poll taxes and other barriers that disenfranchised voters.
It’s time for us to admit — the new laws are often confusing on purpose.
Voter IDs requirements can easily be selectively enforced or abused.
Don’t turn a blind eye to voter suppression that’s happening right before our eyes.