The History of Voting in America

Following the Supreme Court’s decision on the 2013 Shelby v. Holder case–which withdrew the requirement that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters get approval from the feds before changing voting laws–and the subsequent addition of voter identification laws in many states, it appears that even as we make new leaps toward equality we’re going backward when it comes to voting rights. But that’s nothing new. In the Oxford Companion to American Law, Grant M. Hayden explains: “The history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of potential voters.”

Voting History Election Day

A reenactment of an election day from the pre-Revolutionary period at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Source: History

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Miss Perfect Posture, 1956

Miss Perfect Posture 1956

Good posture has long been associated with confidence, power and physical beauty. In the mid 20th century, most interest in posture remained on the latter. The entrants in “Miss Perfect Posture” were to stand on a pair of scales, with one foot on each, which would register her weight. If both scales showed the same weight, that meant that the woman had correct standing posture. This, along with the entrants’ beauty and X-rays (we’re wondering how radiation exposure might affect posture), was considered in choosing the Miss Perfect Posture winners.

Dion Diamond, 1960 Civil Rights Warrior In The Suburbs

Civil Rights Sit In Arlington Virginia

Featured above is Dion Diamond, a civil rights activist who took his charge against Jim Crow right into the heart of the nation’s capitol. Diamond was one of thirteen individuals–seven African Americans and six white–who were refused service at a People’s Drug Store in Arlington, Virginia, 1960. They then moved to another drug store, soon to be surrounded by a crowd of white teenagers who harassed them. And yet, the group persisted. Two weeks later and a number of sit-ins later, five major businesses announced the end of their segregation practices–soon to be followed by Alexandria and Fairfax County.

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A Native American Woman Operates A Switchboard In 1925

Native American Switchboard

Following decades of forced removal and ethnic cleansing on behalf of the US government, by the time the 20th century rolled around most indigenous North Americans were living west of the Mississippi River, and in much smaller numbers. As a further means of social control, though, in 1898 the federal government made it its goal to assimilate indigenous peoples into Euro-American society, which essentially meant that tribal governments, religions and customs were outlawed. The photo seen here was likely staged, meant to represent the convergence of two worlds: the exotic Indian meets modern “civilization”. As for the odd marks on the woman’s hand, it’s likely smallpox scars.

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