An African American Legacy of
African American voter ballots went missing, elections procedures were unfair,
and yet she still voted. She considered voting a sacred duty, high on the list of
her definition of adult responsibility. The election of Harold Ford Sr. in
Memphis, when I was a teenager still unable to vote, was especially memorable
in my home. Ford, in 1974, ran for election in the Memphis-based 8th U.S.
Congressional district. When the votes were first counted, incumbent Dan
Kuykendall, the Republican nominee, was declared the winner, until there were
indications of election shenanigans. Ford contested the original count and he
ultimately won by 744 votes to become the first African American to represent
Tennessee in the United States Congress. My mom campaigned for Harold
Ford Sr., rallied family members to vote and instilled in me an absolute
determination to vote in every election. Ford served for 22 years and his son
Harold Ford Jr. followed him to serve in the same office for 10 years.
I have a legacy of voting to maintain because of two committed, intelligent
parents, who not only voted, but also voted wisely. They discussed the issues
that were important to them, they evaluated politicians running for office and
they never failed to vote, no matter where they were living in the world.
It is my honor to think about the issues that are important to me and bettering
my community, to closely scrutinize the campaign records of those seeking
election and to cast my vote. Far too often I am voting against someone rather
than for someone since many elections don’t have outstanding candidates. The
November 6th election has many outstanding candidates with proven service
records. I always want to vote well, like my parents, and to pass on to my son
that voting is an important part of adult responsibility that must not be shirked.
You can still vote early in public libraries, just vote and vote wisely.
My father voted even when he was stationed in France. As a Black Army Sergeant from the
state of New York, he made sure his vote was counted for John F. Kennedy in the 1960
presidential election. Kennedy ran against incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon, the
Republican Party nominee, and it was a highly contested election. My father voted wisely, as
history later revealed, based on the good that President Kennedy did for African Americans
and this nation as a whole, in his short lifetime before he was assassinated. After Nixon
became president in 1969, he was later forced to resign due to his role in the Watergate
scandal. Nixon became infamous as the only United States president who had to leave office
because three articles of impeachment passed to force him out of office. The Watergate
scandal began in 1972 when burglars associated with the re-election campaign of Nixon
broke into the Democratic National Committee offices, located in the Watergate complex, to
place wiretaps and steal documents. Nixon denied any connection or responsibility, but was found to be directly responsible as a president
who abused his power. It was a Black security guard, Frank Willis, that discovered and reported the burglary.
My mother voted in Memphis, Tennessee. As a Black woman from the state of Mississippi, she made sure her vote was cast every election.
She remembered that her mother and father were not legally allowed to vote and knew people who were beaten and threatened when they
tried to vote. I remember my mother talking about voting in the South, how Black people marched, fought, and died to have the right to vote
and when they were able to vote after the Civil Rights Movement, voter fraud was rampant.