The 1965 Voting Rights Act has been deservedly well-documented and researched. But the ’75 VRA, when Mexican American civil rights advocates sought to expand the protections of the VRA, is relatively unknown. The expansion was the brainchild of Al Perez, the son of working class Mexican American parents in Brownsville who found it difficult to vote because they were Spanish-monolingual and could not read the ballots. His closest partner was Tom Reston, a Yankee blue blood whose father was a legendary New York Times columnist. The expansion found supporters among Congressman Edward Roybal (D-CA) and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX). But the legislation required the support of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which had earlier negotiated the extension with the administration of then-President Richard Nixon.
The 1975 Voting Rights Act: A Brief History is a four-part podcast on the 1975 Voting Rights Act Extension and Expansion, which extended protections to Latinos and others. For the past two years, the ’75 VRA has been the subject of a class Dr. Rivas-Rodriguez developed and taught called “Oral History as Journalism,” which is connected to the Voces Oral History Project, Benson Latin American Collection. Students in the class have interviewed men and women who played key roles in extending the VRA, as well as people whose lives were affected by voting rights in general.
Part 1 discusses the necessity for the expansion to include U.S. Latinos in the VRA.
Part 2 examines the steps needed to expand the VRA to include Latinos and others.
Part 3 looks at the effects of the VAR in Texas.
The Humanities Media Project was proud to grant funds that allowed for the conduction of broader archival research as well as the creation of this four-part podcast.