Nineteen sixty-four. Freedom Summer. Marylin Thurman Newkirk was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in a county where just about 250 Black adults out of more than 13,000 were registered to vote. She would grow up as part of the first generation of Americans who lived in a true democracy, according to her son Vann R. Newkirk II.
That has a lot to do with a law enacted a year after her birth, in 1965. That’s when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which ended Jim Crow laws preventing Black people from voting in many states.
But the protections enacted in 1965 didn’t last, and today they’re hanging by a thread. Now, in the aftermath of his mother’s death at 56, Newkirk argues that the best way to ensure that democracy lasts is a constitutional amendment.
Further reading: “When America Became a Democracy”
This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, Alvin Melathe, and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Tracie Hunte and Katherine Wells. Fact check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman.
Music by h hunt (“C U Soon,” “Journeys,” “Nice Arp”), Ob (“Wold”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “Ojima”), Laundry (“Films”), and water feature (“ancient morsel”); catalog by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from CBSN, New York Public Radio, C-SPAN, Denia Vega, Rare Facts, American Experience PBS, KXAN, Oyez (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License), Democracy Now!, News4JAX, DW News, Streamline Films, and Archive.org.