poll tax

poll tax

Mrs. Guilford, 94, reflects on poll taxes, literacy tests and new efforts to limit voting

1mo ago
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Dorothy Guilford has a simple message for politicians who enact laws making it harder for minorities, the poor and the elderly to vote: “I don’t think that’s right.” She should know. She’s seen it all before. Born in 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama, Guilford lived through most of the Jim Crow years, when laws discouraged African Americans like her, as well as poor white people, from voting. When she first became eligible to vote, she had to take a literacy test and pay a poll tax of $1.50, a sum worth about $25 today. Anyone who couldn’t read or couldn’t pay the tax, which accumulated, couldn’t vote. Most white voters, however – those whose ancestors were on the voting rolls prior to the Civil War – were exempt from the test.