A More Perfect Union 1968-2013
The first time I voted was during the time period covered in the last episode of Many Rivers to Cross. I was 19 years old in 1974 voting in a local election.
My immediate family were not activists, not political, and I don't think any members participated in the Civil Rights Movement. My mother never registered to vote; she didn't believe voting would improve her life. An uncle and aunt didn't see the benefits of voting, they depended on God. Another uncle never believed white folks would change. Aunt Alice did register to vote and I think she first voted in the 1968 presidential election. My father first voted in the 1976 presidential election.
Reverend Sutton, neighbor and assistant principal of the neighborhood elementary school, strongly encouraged his former students to register to vote as soon as they turned 18.
Pressure was put on Congress and state houses to pass a constitutional amendment because it was unfair to send 18, 19, 20 years old to fight in the Vietnam War when they couldn't vote for or against their elected leaders. Within four months after the Congress submitted it to the states, the amendment was ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
"The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age." The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Reverend Sutton encouraged me to register. He worked with the Registrar's Office to allow us to register at the school for a couple Saturday mornings. Reverend Sutton knew most of us didn't have transportation and many didn't have the support or encouragement from our households.
Many Rivers to Cross didn't cover the local activist, people whose names would never make a history book. The local activist knew their communities and how to work within their communities to help others cross one more river.