Today marks the 50th anniversary of a major victory in history’s greatest freedom struggle. President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, signaled the demise of the American Jim Crow system of racial segregation and discrimination.
The effort to achieve this landmark legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 coincided with the success of anticolonial movements that brought independence to more than fifty nations during the two decades following World War II. Systems of racial domination would remain in South Africa and Rhodesia, and colonialism would continue in some nations, but by mid-1960s a majority of humanity had achieved at least basic citizenship rights. Although we realize now that these victories were limited, they were nonetheless historic — comparable in importance to the nineteenth-century international campaign that ended chattel slavery. The transformation during the past two centuries of the world’s slaves and impoverished laborers…
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