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Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  24 reviews
When the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted African Americans the right to vote, it seemed as if a new era of political equality was at hand. Before long, however, white segregationists across the South counterattacked, driving their black countrymen from the polls through a combination of sheer terror and insidious devices such as complex literacy tests and expensive pol ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don’t think this political page turner is only about African Americans protesting at great risk to gain their lawful right to vote. Yes, this is a fascinating and well-researched historical account of the fight to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yes, it’s told at the grassroots level featuring not just the big names like MLK but the countless brave individuals who literally risked their lives to secure their right to vote. But the post-1965 tale is also told in great detail. As brutal as the ...more
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-stuff
I read this almost immediately after finishing Bill of the Century, Clay Risen's meticulous story of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, despite their ostensibly similar subject matter, they're two wildly different books. Whereas Risen's is a detail examination of each political step in the long process to create and pass the Civil Rights Act, Bending Toward Justice is a narrative of the nation's gradual move toward the Voting Rights Act. Nearly three quarters of the book is spent in the deep sout ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed. The blast killed four young girls and injured twenty-two others. Due to reluctant witnesses, a lack of physical evidence, and pervasive racial prejudice the case was closed without any indictments.

Bending Toward Justice is a dramatic and compulsively readable account of a key moment in our long national struggle for equality, related by Sen. Doug Jones, who played a major role in these events. A distinguishe
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A top-rate non-fiction read.

It didn't stray into trying to make the narrative too much like a novel while still keeping it from being dry. The endnotes were unobtrusive but the whole book was well sourced.

It follows the Voting Rights Act from before the events in Selma to present day and is in-depth enough to help unfold the arguments people make for and against it's continuing necessity.

Despite it being a topic that still remains controversial the book remains strictly factual and fair. When th
Gordon Kwok
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good book on one of the most transformative laws of the 20th century if not all of American history. It provides a good background of what happened BEFORE the law was passed, HOW it got passed and the EFFECTS after the law was passed along with commentary on the battles that ensued afterwards either to repeal the law or weaken it.

My only gripe with the book was the author's characterization of LBJ's role in the introduction of the VRA. In the author's portrayal of the passage and Bloody S
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty succinct version of the history of the Voting Rights Act. Tomes have been written.
But this packs quite a punch. Even though I lived through this era, It is still to this day shocking to re-read the events that led to the passage.

This book is short enough to use in a classroom. Every once in a while I read a book and think to myself that teachers in high schools should make this required reading. Students should know what transpired to get to the place where we are at today. It
Steve McFarland
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Restore the Voting Rights Act! And until we do shame on every politician that dares to pander for the vote of black and brown people and does not seek to protect the foundational right that is the right to the ballot box.

Ballot or the Bullet
MisterLiberry Head
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
A professor of history at the Univ. of Delaware recounts how federal law agonizingly came about that enabled African Americans to overcome the policy obstacles and criminal intimidation that had effectively stripped them of their right to vote in many parts of the South. The book puts a timely focus on the grassroots efforts of volunteers going back as far as the 1930s--“unsung heroes,” many of them all but forgotten today.

The importance and value of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 seems to be nea
Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it
More of a survey than an analysis and with a tendency to spend too long focusing on non-VRA events of the Civil Rights Movement (familiar to anyone with even a basic knowledge of that era), this book does not do credit to Dr. May’s knowledge. I heard him interviewed on Moyers and Company, and Dr. May knows his stuff.

The Supreme Court decision earlier this year – and the almost immediate alterations to voting laws in some states – highlights why the Voting Rights Act continues to matter. From th
Thomas Stevenson
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
You might wonder, as I did, about the recent uproar over the Supreme Court's ruling on the voting rights act. While the media tended towards a short view of this issue, the matter of what rules to enforce and how has a long history. May makes this clear. He also makes apparent why the changes will have long term consequences. Democracy may be based on popular participation, including voting, but this is not in the interest of those in or seeking power. They prefer something else.
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history of the Voting Rights Act and all those men and women who fought so hard to obtain the right to vote. With the recent ruling in the Supreme Court it has become even more important to raise awareness of the many ways that various individuals have made all kinds of efforts to disenfranchise so many people from one of the most basic rights in our government. Namely, the right to vote.
Margaret Sankey
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
May carefully reconstructs the devious mechanical and bureaucratic process instituted to keep African-Americans from voting and documents the heroic protest and opposition leading to the Voting Right Act of 1965, including the political deal brokering in Washington D.C. The mechanisms are fully explained, so the epilogue, which details Voter ID laws and suppression tactics in the last few years needs nothing more than a nudge.
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
An outstanding look at the long arduous history of the creation of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 from both the front lines of the civil rights movement and the behind the scenes political battles and wheelings and dealings of the Congress and President Johnson. also a look at how the right to vote is under assault yet again.
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of how the Voting Rights Act came into being, and the politics behind that. I didn't realize until I read this book of just how horrible the violence against black people who simply wanted to register and vote was, a mere 50 or so so years ago. It also goes over the efforts since 1965 to weaken or dismantle the VRA.
Be Mock
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent stories. If you want to know what happened between King's Dream speech and Selma, all the unsung heroes, the demonstrations that failed to launch, the backstory to the successful demos, the congressional debates, wheeling and dealing to get the Voting Rights Act passed, this is mandatory reading. None of that shit was pretty. This is unsanitized civil rights history. Necessary tension.
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I knew much about the civil rights movement, so the book helped fill in my knowledge about the battles in Congress to get the first Voting Rights Act in 1965. It also covered other extensions of the act and a nice discussion of the limitation of the law that is fertile ground for voter suppression of the 21st century. A good read if you are not familiar with these issues.
Blake Maddux
The second half of this piece is my review of Bending Toward Justice as it appears on
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great history that is continuing. It's so disheartening that many in our country still target and are achieving the disenfranchisement of specific voters to achieve political ends. Do I live in a democracy?
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent history of the Voting Rights Act and the ordinary people who toiled to make it possible. A well written, informative read that couldn't be more timely. This should be required reading that would serve to motivate us to protect everyone's right to vote. I highly recommend it!
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Considering the recent news accounts of the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, this book provides significant background of that event as well as explanations of other critical things that led to the passage of the Voters Rights Act. Very educational, very emotional, and very well-written.
Emma S
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Should be mandatory reading everywhere, especially with all of the new cases surrounding the Voting Rights Act.
Frank Ogden
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book regarding the current issue of voting rights in the USA.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended.
Jenny Li
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Feb 15, 2015
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Jun 04, 2018
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Aug 18, 2013
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Apr 06, 2020
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May 31, 2015
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Gary May is Professor of History at the University of Delaware. He is the author of The Informant: The FBI, the Ku Klux Klan and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo.

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