Signing of the Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson speaking before signing the Voting Rights Act [LBJ Library photo #A1032-15 by Yoichi Okamoto]

Voting Rights Act Media Kit

Jun 25, 2013

On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. For historical perspective, the LBJ Library has collected related photographs, videos, and a telephone conversation. All are in the public domain.

Photos in our archives may be downloaded and are public domain. Type Voting Rights Act in the search field. There are 18 related photographs. The Presidential Timeline has a narrative of the passage of Voting Rights Act and related archival documents and telephone conversations.

The video and full text of the speech that President Johnson made to Congress on March 15, 1965, urging passage of the Voting Rights Act are available here. Media who wish to obtain a copy of this video may call or email Anne Wheeler.

Two video clips from the speech are also available:

LBJ calls on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. TRT: 5 minutes 29 seconds.

LBJ explains why he is passionate about extending voting rights. He talks about teaching poor students in Cotulla, Texas. TRT: 2 minutes 4 seconds.

Telephone Conversation
On January 15, 1965, President Johnson called Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to discuss strategy for passing the Voting Rights Act through Congress. Dr. King's voice is a little difficult to hear. TRT: 2 minutes 50 seconds. Download audio file. Size 3.4 MB.

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - the map that determines which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws.

The ruling, which was a 5-4 decision, leaves the future of the law deeply uncertain because it will be up to a sharply divided Congress to redraw the map, if it can agree on one at all.

The Voting Rights Act requires nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws.

In 2006, the law was renewed, but the map still uses election data from 1972, to determine who is covered. Some jurisdictions, including the Alabama county that brought the case, complained that racial bias in voting no longer exists.

Press coverage
Bill Moyers remembers being in the room during passage of the Voting Rights Act [The Colbert Report]

Julian Bond on Hardball with Chris Matthews

An Assault on the Voting Rights Act []

A History of Voting Rights [video |]

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down preclearance formula []

Here's how Congress could fix the Voting Rights Act []

Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Talking Over the Voting Rights Act []

Supreme Court strikes down part of Voting Rights Act []

"My father's proudest moment was signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law. Section 4 of that landmark legislation was a safeguard to ensure equal access to the right to vote for all our people. Today's decision by the Supreme Court invalidating Section 4 breaks my heart. Alas, much as I wish it were not true, there is still a need for Section 4 in order to guarantee that all our people get to vote and have it counted. It is my prayer that today's Congress will demonstrate the same courage shown in 1965 to ensure that equal access for every American to the vote is not just a lofty goal, but a fact." -Luci Baines Johnson

"I was in the gallery when Daddy challenged us all to live up to our best nature and pass the Voting Rights Act. Then, as now, I remember that great spiritual 'Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. I hope the members of this Congress will be as brave and strive to fulfill that promise of the right to vote and have it counted." -Lynda Johnson Robb