Voting rights and Black American vote to be discussed with USA TODAY

November 17, 2021
Voting rights and Black American vote to be discussed with USA TODAY
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In the 1960s, Black Americans risked their lives to register to vote. 

Decades later, at least 19 states have enacted laws that make it harder for Americans to vote. Roughly 25 states have expanded voting access.

USA TODAY’s event on voting rights, “Power to the people: How voting laws have shaped the United States and Black America,” will address the nation’s long history of denying Black people and other people of color the right to vote, and how such policies continue to shape our society. The event will include a panel discussion, poetry and a musical performance.

TOP: Heather King waits in line at State Farm Arena, Georgia’s largest early voting location, to cast her ballot during the first day of early voting in the general election Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. ABOVE: A small group of people gather for a vigil on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Lafayette Square near the White House on May 25, 2021.
TOP: Heather King waits in line at State Farm Arena, Georgia’s largest early voting location, to cast her ballot during the first day of early voting in the general election Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. ABOVE: A small group of people gather for a vigil on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Lafayette Square near the White House on May 25, 2021.
LEFT: Heather King waits in line at State Farm Arena, Georgia’s largest early voting location, to cast her ballot during the first day of early voting in the general election Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. RIGHT: A small group of people gather for a vigil on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Lafayette Square near the White House on May 25, 2021.
JESSICA MCGOWAN, GETTY IMAGES; CHIP SOMODEVILLA, GETTY IMAGES

USA TODAY is hosting the event, in collaboration with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. Eastern. It will be available to registered viewers and simulcast for free on the USA TODAY Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as on USATODAY.com. Register here. 

The event is part of USA TODAY’s “Seven Days of 1961” project, which spotlights seven pivotal protests in 1961 that fueled the civil rights movement and helped transform how Americans understand racism. 

This multimedia series includes podcasts, videos, graphic novels and text stories. It explores how far our nation has come at a time when many Americans are still processing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans.

Once again, the United States is at a crossroads: Who will have unfettered access to the voting booth, how will we teach American history, and what role will institutions such as the police, media and government serve in making our society equitable for all?

‘Seven days of 1961,’ a series on Americans that stood up to racism and changed history

USA TODAY’s “Seven Days of 1961” retraces crucial moments that set in motion a new era of civil rights that informs social justice movements today

Jasper Colt, USA TODAY

The event is inspired by mass meetings held in Black communities during the civil rights movement. These gatherings aimed to motivate activists through song, prayer and testimony. 

Panelists include Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP; community activist Nupol Kiazolu; civil rights veteran Ruby Nell Sales; Valerie Jarrett, president of the Barack Obama Foundation and chair of Civic Nation, a civic engagement nonprofit; and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams of Georgia. 

Lance Wheeler, director of exhibitions at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, will co-moderate the event with USA TODAY national correspondent Deborah Barfield Berry.

Deborah Barfield Berry
Jarrad Henderson

The event will feature a musical performance from the Florida A&M University Concert Choir. The student group, led by director Mark Butler, has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York. In September, the choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” live as part of the 2021 NFL kickoff game featuring the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sonia Sanchez will recite a poem about the civil rights movement. She is the author of more than 20 books, including “Homecoming,” “We a BaddDDD People,” “Love Poems,” and “Collected Poems.” 

This is the second of three virtual events USA TODAY is hosting as part of the “Seven Days of 1961” project. In September, USA TODAY hosted an event in collaboration with Tougaloo College and civil rights activists titled “Freedom Now: How Institutions of Power Fuel and Stall Change.” Watch that event here. 

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