African American women played a significant and sometimes overlooked role in the struggle to gain the vote.

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In partnership with American Experience

How Black Women Fought Racism and Sexism for the Right to Vote

Producer: Sarah Weiser
Editor: Anne Checler

The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, barred states from denying American women the right to vote on the basis of their sex. It was a monumental achievement, won by one of the most powerful political movements in American history. But the amendment was not the end of the fight for suffrage for all Americans. For decades, many African-American women remained disenfranchised, despite having played a significant role in the struggle to gain the vote. Just a few of the obstacles they faced: State laws. Poll taxes. Grandfather clauses. Literacy tests. Whites-only primaries.

Finally in 1965, the Voting Rights Act outlawed many of the barriers to voting, and counties with a history of discrimination were placed under federal oversight.

Today, some states have made it easier than ever to vote. But in some places, little has changed. Registration restrictions, voter ID laws and cutbacks to early voting continue to hinder access to the polls, disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic voters. Now, coronavirus is making voting even more complicated.

Black women have long been at the forefront of the right to vote. Today, 100 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act, their fight continues. This Retro Report video was created in collaboration with American Experience PBS for its film The Vote.

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