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Martha Jones' "Vanguard": Black women's historic fight for the vote

Dr. Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. (photo courtesy JHU)

(This conversation first aired on January 12, 2022)

Back in January of this year, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta to speak about the importance of voting rights, and the need for federal legislation to overcome the dozens of state laws that have been enacted and the hundreds of laws that are being considered to restrict voting.

Before the President spoke, Vice President Kamala Harris advocated for an end to the filibuster that might clear the path for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. And then, President Biden also called for changes to the filibuster that would make passage of the voting rights legislation possible. That was the first time he had taken that position publicly. It’s a position that is not shared by at least two members of the Democratic caucus: Senator Joe Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Published by Basic Books/Hachette Book Group

The war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and other issues have for the moment overwhelmed the policy agenda of the Admininistration. Voting rights appear to have taken a back seat.

Today on Midday, we revisit a conversation about an important and often overlooked dimension in the history of voting rights: the long fight for Black women’s suffrage.

Tom's guest is the acclaimed legal and cultural historian, Martha S. Jones. She has written a broad, insightful survey of the unsung heroes of the movement for equality, a movement that started two centuries ago, and which included scores of remarkable women whose importance and impact are made clear by Dr. Jones’ compelling narrative.

The book is called Vanguard:  How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All.  

Dr. Martha S. Jones joined us for the hour on Zoom, from her home in Baltimore.

(Because this conversation is recorded, we are not taking any calls or comments today.)

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.