We Can Truly Honor The 19th Amendment By Respecting And Electing Black Women

·4 min read

The civic duty and moral responsibility of exercising the fundamental right to vote — making one’s voice heard — is at the very core of our nation’s founding principles. And without it, we lose the very thing that identifies us as Americans: democracy.

The suffrage movement, and subsequent ratification of the 19th Amendment, signified a watershed moment in history — women could now vote and become active participants in the “greatest democracy in the world.” But not all women, not Black women. Our voices continued to be suppressed.

Despite playing a powerful role in the fight for universal suffrage, by organizing political societies and mobilizing local communities, Black women were ultimately left out of the culmination of decades of effort. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that we finally got the right to vote — 45 years later.

It would be a grave injustice to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment without acknowledging its deficiencies and crediting Black women for strengthening American democracy, while simultaneously being denied its very freedoms. Black women are the building blocks to the foundation of our democracy and deserve to be represented as such at all levels of government.

We find ourselves in a moment where our democracy seems to be hanging by a thread. The Supreme Court has eliminated federal protections for reproductive healthcare with more civil rights seemingly on the chopping block and state legislatures across the country are passing laws making it harder for people to vote. These attacks on our civil rights will only further disproportionately impact the many intersectionalities Black women find themselves under. We are so often the last to reap the benefits of progressive movements and the first to feel the ramifications of failed policies rooted in racism and oppression — as we’re witnessing today.

It is abundantly clear that too many current elected officials are unwilling or unqualified to adequately represent the American people outside of a white, male perspective. The lived experiences of Black women encompass a vast majority of the most pressing issues that are impacting Americans today, from access to quality healthcare, economic security, voting rights and reproductive justice. That’s why our representation in government and politics is imperative. Black women’s continued fight for equity makes us distinctly qualified to not only lead but to lead in the best interest of all Americans.

Black women are a pivotal voting bloc and we continue to call on lawmakers to take action to ensure that civic participation in America continues to move forward (not backward), and that the United States has the most inclusive and equitable democracy in the world.

Earlier this year, in conjunction with Change Research, Higher Heights conducted a poll of 500 Black women voters. When asked about what concerns them most, seven in 10 Black women voters are extremely worried about voter suppression that will prevent their voices from being heard in the 2022 elections.

Voting is meant to ensure our government is composed of people that look like all of us and represent each of us. For too long, that power was intentionally withheld from Black Americans, through slavery, Jim Crow, the suffrage movement and a growing number of voting restrictions.

In spite of many efforts to keep the right to vote away from us, we fought hard and we won.

Since then, we’ve consistently shown up to the ballot box in record numbers to make our voices heard — bringing our churches, our neighborhoods, our sororities and our families along with us. Time and again, our votes and our organizing trips to the polls have carried elections on our backs and saved this country from its worst self.

Come November, it will be no different. We have a groundbreaking number of Black women running for office at the federal, state and local levels. We have a chance to fill the void Vice President Harris left in the Senate, elect the first Black woman governor, and increase representation in Congress and state legislatures. We can honor the legacy of the 19th Amendment, by recognizing that Black women were and continue to be architects of our democracy. There is still a lot of work to do in this country and electing Black women in November will put us on the path to doing that work.

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Glynda Carr is the President and CEO of Higher Heights. Headquartered in New York, NY, Higher Heights Leadership Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, and its sister organization Higher Heights for America, a national 501(c)(4) organization, is investing in a long-term strategy to analyze, expand and support a Black women’s leadership pipeline at all levels and strengthen their civic participation beyond election day. For additional information please visit HigherHeightsLeadershipFund.org.