Most of the civil rights icons whose names we’ve come to know and recognize over the years of Black History Months were fighting to make sure those who came afterward were able to enjoy privileges that have taken decades to turn into a reality. That includes voting, something that still stymies a good number of Black people through efforts to suppress those rights.
Well, the torch that was lit by the likes of Fannie Lou Hamer, Thurgood Marshall, John Lewis and, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been passed — is in very good and capable hands moving deeper into the 21st century. As such, here are five modern-day voting rights heroes everyone should know as Election Day 2020 rapidly approaches.
Arekia Bennett, executive director of Mississippi Votes
Bennett runs a nonprofit organization that is devoted to registering “as many Mississippians to vote” as possible ahead of the 2020 election. It has hundreds of volunteers and chapters on multiple college campuses in Mississippi.
“There is a power that transcends our ages,” Bennett once told the New York Times. “We want to dive deep into the veteran stories and learn the lessons of that summer so we can shift the narrative, make our own changes in Mississippi.”
Johnson has been leading the nation’s oldest civil rights organization since 2017. In recent months he testified before Congress about the evidence of voting discrimination he has witnessed.
“Voter suppression has played a huge role in silencing the political voices of the African American community and all people of color historically and during the 2018 midterm election season,” Johnson said at the time. “The NAACP is determined to shape a culture of voting and reach people who don’t vote regularly, especially those who believe their votes don’t matter.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
When Clarke isn’t busy fighting Confederate sympathizers or going after white supremacist groups, she’s out making sure there are fair voting rights for everybody. She’s an alumna of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and she “worked on cases defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and also testified before Congress and state legislatures,” her Lawyers Committee bio said.
LaTosha Brown, Black Voters Matter Fund co-founder
Brown, who was recently named as a Harvard Fellow, co-founded the Black Voters Matter Fund, a crucial political machine that focuses on getting Black people registered to vote as well as policy and organizing, because of such low turnout of Black voters in the 2016 presidential election.
Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight founder and chair
Abrams, who rose to national political fame after her candidacy for Georgia governor fell short in the 2018 midterm elections, has carved out a post-politics career in voting rights activism. Specifically, she founded and chairs her Fair Fight organization after being on the wrong end of aggressive and partisan voter suppression. As a result, Fair Fight was started to encourage people to vote as well as to make voters aware of their rights at the polls.