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Black History Is Everyone’s History

Black History Month, observed during the month of February, is a month typically dedicated to celebrating the achievements of black Americans and the central role they’ve played in U.S. history. But here, at The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Black History Month plays an especially important role because we recognize that black history is everyone’s history.

Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old white New Yorker, travelled down to Mississippi in 1964 to register black Americans to vote. On his first day, the Ku Klux Klan brutally murdered Andrew and two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

This Black History Month is important because we are facing a time of unprecedented intolerance with even the reemergence and prominence of the Ku Klux Klan. It was the KKK who killed Andrew, James, and Michael during Freedom Summer 1964. The KKK killed them because they were helping defend the civil rights of black Americans and their right to vote! Their deaths spurred our country into action against the discriminatory and racist practices in Mississippi and across America.

53 years later, those same rights are under attack again. The cause that Andrew gave his life for is still a battlefield today. We are on the front lines of voting rights, resisting the serious attack on young people’s right to vote.

Across the country legislatures are proposing laws to:

  • End same-day registration, which could reduce voter turnout by 10% or more
  • Restrict voting rights to only residents who plan to live in the state “for the indefinite future,” which could prevent college students and military personnel from voting
  • Limit the use of student IDs as acceptable voter IDs
  • Require that residents live in the state permanently or for a significant time before voting and get an in-state driver’s license and car registration (a modern-day, post-election poll tax)
  • Threaten individuals or groups who help others register or vote
  • Add burdensome requirements on community-based voter registration, along with increased penalties for alleged misconduct

The right to vote is at the foundation of our democracy. If young people lose their voice at the ballot box and we allow the marginalization of a new generation of voters, we lose our chance at democracy–and building the future we want.

This Black History Month, we know the urgency to maintain our progress forward. Now, more than ever, we need to stand united and resist these efforts that would take us backwards, not forwards. We hope you join us in ensuring that everyone, including young people, get to vote.


About the Author

Maxim Thorne is the Managing Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Formerly, Maxim was the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of the NAACP, the Chief Operating Officer of the Human Rights Campaign, and the Executive Director of NJ Head Start Association.