The Role of the Lawyer in the Struggle for Voting Rights

Privette, Melissa, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Barzun, Charles, School of Law, UVA

Some of the biggest changes in law and society were brought about through legislation or court decisions, and while much has been written about the legislators and the judges that were involved, there has been less of a focus on the work of lawyers—whether through litigation or other forms of advocacy. The following essay will track the collaboration between the NAACP’s lawyers and the Justice Department in the struggle for voting rights, and seek to answer the following questions:
1. Was the engagement of lawyers in government and the NAACP especially critical to the enfranchisement of African Americans?
2. Did the Justice Department have a concrete strategy to secure voting rights for African Americans, and did it work effectively with the NAACP to accomplish this? Or were the two organizations at cross purposes?
3. What are the lessons that lawyers who are combating voter suppression today can learn from the historical interaction of the Department of Justice and the NAACP?

MA (Master of Arts)
Legal History, Voting Rights, Department of Justice, NAACP, Voting Rights Act of 1965
Issued Date: