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A Return to Literacy Tests? Take This.

How Many White Folks Does It Take to Pass a Jim Crow ‘Brain-Teaser’?

With the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturning [1] Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and with Republican Jim Crow re-enactors “free at last” to get their electoral racism on, will the United States see a return of the literacy tests once used to block African Americans from voting? We fear they may. Within two days of the decision, two thirds of the states covered by Section 4—including the old Confederate states of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Virginia—had already rolled out legislation to limit voter participation. ThinkProgress reports [2]:

Less than 48 hours [after the Court’s ruling], six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting. . . . many of which [would] have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote

The page below is a word-processed version from a literacy test used in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, in 1964, published by Slate [3], from the archives of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans [4]. See “Louisiana Literacy Test and How It Worked to Deny Black Voting Rights [5]” by a volunteer in the Freedom Summer of 1964, sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Try it. See how well you would fare on this test, and on the pages [6] that follow. Remember, “One wrong answer denotes failure on the test.” Good luck!