Mississippi: Voting while Black: The hurdles have changed, but never gone away | Tim Sullivan/Associated Press
The old civil rights worker was sure the struggle would be over by now.He’d fought so hard back in the ’60s. He’d seen the wreckage of burned churches, and the injuries of people who had been beaten. He’d seen men in white hoods. At its worst, he’d mourned three young men who were fighting for Black Mississippians to gain the right to vote, and who were kidnapped and executed on a country road just north of here. But Charles Johnson, sitting inside the neat brick church in Meridian where he’s been pastor for over 60 years, worries that Mississippi is drifting into its past. “I would never have thought we’d be where we’re at now, with Blacks still fighting for the vote,” said Johnson, 83, who was close to two of the murdered men. “I would have never believed it.” The opposition to Black votes in Mississippi has changed since the 1960s, but it hasn’t ended. There are no poll taxes anymore, no tests on the state constitution. But on the eve of the most divisive presidential election in decades, voters face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws that mostly affect poor and minority communities and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former prisoners. And despite Mississippi having the largest percentage of Black people of any state in the nation, a Black person hasn’t been elected to statewide office in 130 years.