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Rutgers Exhibit Examines Complex History of Voting Rights in America

"The Elusiveness of Progress" on Display in Piscataway Now Through August
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

PISCATAWAY, NJ—Exploring the tortuous history of voting rights in America is at the forefront of a new exhibit at Rutgers University's Kilmer Library: “The Elusiveness of Progress: Voting Rights in America.”

With the 2016 presidential election in full swing, the exhibit seeks to hark back to August 6, 1965 - when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Act was signed following public pressure stemming out of the famous protest marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SLCC) spearheaded the marches as a focused effort to register black voters in the south. 

“It is important to know the evolution of the Voting Rights Act, not only to understand our nation's checkered past but also to grasp the covert manner in which one of our most progressive bills is being subverted,” said Paul Kibala, Kilmer Library reference assistant and curator of the display.

Attendees have a chance to peruse through documents at the exhibit, on display through the end of August at the Kilmer Library, located on Avenue E within the Livingston campus of the university.

Those documents include a literacy test from 1964, photos of the Selma marches, a photo of President Johnson officially signing the Act, charts and graphs from the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the impact of voting right setbacks on minority voters, and a photo of President Barack Obama delivering a speech at the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015.

According to exhibit organizers, the display is meant to inform viewers of the ever-changing nature of the Voting Rights Act and how it relates to voting in modern day.

Voting discrimination, while dramatically declining following the signing of the act, continues to be a contentious topic today.