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Eyes on the Prize
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The Voting Rights Act of 1965

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. listens as Dallas County, Alabama Deputy Sheriff L.C. Crooker tells him how to line up his followers after they marched on the courthouse seeking to register to vote, 1965.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had one major flaw. It did not address all the legal and illegal methods whites had used to systematically deny blacks the right to vote in state and local elections. As legislation to amend this omission wound its way through Congress, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. At its conclusion, activists presented Governor George Wallace with a petition asking him to remove obstacles to voter registration. Americans saw the heroes of the civil rights movement on the national news, and then heard about the Ku Klux Klan's murder of a white homemaker from Michigan named Viola Liuzzo who had volunteered for the cause. Support for the Voting Rights Act increased.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law with Alabama NAACP activist Rosa Parks by his side. Laying out the importance of the bill, Johnson said, "The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men."

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