Northerners who went south at the start of the civil rights movement were stunned to find localities where African-Americans represented an overwhelming majority of the population – but not a single black person could be found on the county voting rolls or in the jury pool. The new movie “Selma,” which focuses on the civil rights campaign in Selma, Alabama that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, vividly illustrates the system of intimidation and misdirection that made this possible.
An especially revelatory scene depicts a middle-aged black woman named Annie Lee Cooper (played by Oprah Winfrey) confronting the registrar in Dallas County, Alabama in her latest attempt to register. Ms. Cooper passes her application to the scowling clerk, assuring him that everything is right this time. He barks back that nothing is right until he says it is and lets drop that her white employer will not be happy to know that she has been stirring up trouble by seeking the vote. In the fashion of the times, he demands that she recite the preamble to the Constitution. Unable to stump Ms. Cooper there, the registrar asks how many county judges there are in the state of Alabama. When she replies that there are 67, he sneers and demands that she name them, which, of course, she cannot do.
Full Article: ‘Selma’ and Real-World Voter Intimidation – NYTimes.com.