A video that shows Harvard University students taking the literacy test some voters were forced to pass to cast a ballot in 1964 shows us just how difficult the test was.
Despite the students’ Ivy League status, they failed the test horribly.
The tests were supposedly administered to all voters who “couldn’t prove a certain level of education” but were an obvious attempt to disenfranchise black voters.* White registrars had the sole authority to determine whether someone passed or failed, with one incorrect answer enough to sink a would-be voter. In the process of tripping over the mind-bending questions, the students in the video demonstrate just how unjustly rigged the electoral process was before the Voting Rights Act passed the following year.
Watch the video here:
The students specifically took the 1964 Louisiana Literacy Test. Fifty years ago this year, states in the South issued the exact test. The only people who saw the test were black voters, and to a lesser extent, poor whites who were attempting to vote in the South.
Voters needed to answer all 30 questions in 10 minutes in order to pass and have the right to vote.
Just one wrong answer disqualified candidates. None of the Harvard students passed the test. Why? Because the test was designed to be failed so no one can pass it.
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