It is an undisputed fact that our country systematically denied Black people the right to vote for hundreds of years. The fight for African American people to secure the right to vote after twelve generations of enslavement in this country, followed by 100 years of violent suppression of the vote, is as much a part of American history as the founding fathers.
Unfortunately, it's a fact that the Lafayette Library Board does not want its community to hear.
The board recently canceled a planned discussion by a prominent voting rights historian because, in their words, the event would not have included an "opposing" viewpoint and that the books about Black history were too "far left." They even rejected a $2,700 grant supporting the program.
What books prompted this backlash? The two books that were on the agenda were: Bending Toward Justice a history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by historian and professor Gary May, and Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University.
The Lafayette Parish Library Board has shamefully decided to deny their entire community access to bedrock historical events and facts, alleging that truth-telling narrative should necessarily be accompanied by ‘an opposing viewpoint.’
We can no longer allow American history to be manipulated and co-opted in this harmful way.
Teaching the Lafayette community about the historical and ongoing struggle for voting rights in the Black community is not divisive, on the contrary, it’s affirming for the communities that have been harmed, and could be redemptive for those who’ve sought to inflict such harm should they choose to grapple with the impact of their behaviors. Teaching American history—in its entirety, uncensored and unbiased—is the only safeguard to ensure that history won’t repeat itself.