[an error occurred while processing this directive] Kate Dudding: Voices From the Past: September, 2008

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This is the eighth issue of Voices From the Past. My goal for each issue is to publish some highlights of one of my historical stories as well as an update on my activities. Please feel free to forward this e-newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.

Theresa Burroughs Registering to Vote

Do you remember what you had to do to register to vote?

I think all I had to do was to go to the town hall with documents proving who I was and where I lived. I know my son just filled out the form in high school.

But for some people, registering to vote wasn’t that easy. Theresa Burroughs of Tuscaloosa, AL told about registering to vote as part of the Story Corps project.

Theresa said, “I went there for two years with a minister named Rev. J.J. Simons. The white men would not let us register to vote. They would sit there at tables playing dominoes. I didn’t even know how to play dominoes. But do you know, I learned to play just standing there watching them.”

“They would ask me silly questions. Mr. Cox, he was the chair of the board of registrars, I’ll never forget him, one day he asked me, ‘How many black jelly beans are in the jar? How many red ones in there?’ I told him, ‘You don’t know how many there are.’ He told me, “Shut your black mouth! Shut up!’ “

“Well, the next Sunday, I told Rev. Simons that I was not going back because I’m not going to be embarrassed like that anymore. He told me, ‘Do you want to vote?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We’re going to go until the building falls down. We’ll be there every time they open that door. Now in the morning I’ll be back to pick you up. You’re going.’ ”

“And that was the day Mr. Cox asked me to recite part of the preamble to the Constitution. I don’t think he really knew it. But when I was done, he said, ‘You’re going to pass today ‘cause we are tired of looking at your black faces.’ And then he gave me my slip of paper proving I was a registered voter.”

“We did vote in the next election. It was a joy. But the thing about it is, I didn’t feel it should have been this hard. I knew it shouldn’t have been this hard.”

Even though Theresa Burroughs had a hard time registering to vote, others had it even harder.

During the 1960s, African American tenant farmers were thrown off their farms for trying to register to vote. Can you imagine -- whole families suddenly with no where to live and no jobs? Where did they go? How did they survive?

For some people, like my son and me, registering to vote was a forgettable experience.

But there are other people will remember how they registered to vote for the rest of their lives.

 

Here is some more information about voter registration and the civil rights movement in the US.

News about me

I am very pleased to have received the 2008 Northeast Region ORACLE Award from the National Storytelling Network. The ORACLE honors regional leadership and service among storytellers.

In September and October, I'm very pleased to be telling several different programs:

Thanks for reading this issue. I’ll be sending you some more story highlights in a few months.

 

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Copyright 2008 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.

 

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