You cannot value too highly your right to vote.
It is the American Way.
In the midst of the cold war, Metropolitan Life Insurance ran an ad encouraging Americans to embrace their God-given American right to vote, a privilege not given to those behind the iron curtain of Communism.
It was thought essential to emphasize The American Way of Life by contrasting it with those Godless Communists.
What was more fundamentally American than the right to vote?
A simple curtain of cloth- not iron or bamboo- is a symbol of our liberties.
It helps to protect the right to vote privately and freely.
By voting we reaffirm our faith in the American form of government and make our voices heard in matters affecting the preservation of our heritage and way of life.
To vote is a right and a privilege…and a responsibility
To vote intelligently is a duty.
It still is.
Of course in 1952 when this ad ran, the privilege to vote did not really extend to all Americans. That curtained voting booth wasn’t open to all. This most basic right of a citizen in a democracy was often denied to African-American citizens.
Voter suppression of a minority was also part of our American heritage.
It still is.
Despite the 14th and 15th amendments guaranteeing the civil rights of Black Americans, their right to vote was systemically taken away by white supremacist state government well into the 1950’s and beyond.
That was their way of preserving “their heritage.”
States found ways to circumvent the Constitution and prevent Blacks from voting. Poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and intimidation all turned down African-Americans from voting.
Sadly this too is part of the “American Way.”
“As citizens of the US you cannot value too highly your right to vote.” So begins a vintage booklet directed specifically “to colored men of voting age in our southern states.”
This pamphlet “What a Colored Man Should Do to Vote” from the early 1900’s outlines the voting regulations in 13 states in the South. It also offers general advice on the voting process including an appeal for African-American Voters to be on “friendly terms” with their white neighbors so they could discuss common needs.
It sums up the requirements of each southern state:
You must pay your poll tax, you must register and hold your certificate of registry. In some states if you cannot read or write you can register if you own $300 worth of property.
In other states in order to register you must be able to read and write any article of the Constitution of the U.S. and must be regularly engaged in some employment the greater part of the year before election.
Any person convicted of felony, adultery, larceny, wife-beating, miscegenation, vagrancy, selling his vote is forever barred from voting.
Voting is part of the American heritage
So is voter disenfranchisement.
It is our duty to vote
It is also our duty to prevent voter suppression.
Let’s right the right to vote.