This artwork is a conceptual mixed-media art piece examining the racial segregation and disenfranchisement of
African Americans' rights to vote in the South. The Southern states' oppression of African American would-be-voters was conducted by the methods of Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, economic retaliation, police
repression and physical violence.
The literacy test was supposedly applied to both white and African-American prospective voters who could not provide a certain level of education but was disproportionately administered to African-American
voters. The white registrar would ultimately judge whether an answer was correct. Example of a question asked of African Americans in Alabama: “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?”
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not eliminate the literacy test but provided that literacy tests be administered in writing and only to persons who had completed six years of formal education and be applied equally to all races. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 suspended the use of literacy tests in all states.
This artwork addresses the inequality of the literacy tests and racial segregation of the right to vote in Southern
states. A sign marked “white” and “colored” separates would-be voters from participation in the literacy test. The white applicant panel (left) has a round peg that fits into a round hole, while a green light indicates PASS.
The colored applicant panel (right) has a square peg that will not fit into the round hole; a red light indicates FAIL.
This artwork was commissioned for the 2014 exhibition, A Commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement
1964–1968
, at Delaware State University, Dover, Delaware.
Available for purchase: $3,250
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