Please Vote

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It’s not yet Election Day, but early voting has started in many places. One of the candidates for president wants to repeal the Nineteenth Amendment.

I always vote for myself and on behalf of family members who couldn’t. Until 1920 my grandmother and my great aunts had to watch from the sidelines. Reports are that Aunt Anna Louise James was one of the first women to register in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Once the law allowed, they were never denied the opportunity to participate. All I could see after that comment about the Nineteenth Amendment was my mother, my grandmother, and all those women rising up in horror.

And then I thought, if he wants to repeal the Nineteenth, what about  the Fifteenth? It passed after the Civil War, enfranchising black men. It’s been on the books for 150 years but was violated everywhere south of the Mason Dixon Line for years. And it is still is in a great many places, North and South.

The victims included my grandfather, Walter Elijah Petry. He was born a slave in Louisiana. As a young man, he was able to serve on juries and participate in government. By the time he moved to New Iberia in 1900, the state of Louisiana had disenfranchised black men.  I remember my dad saying with great bitterness that even though Grandfather Walter owned property and paid taxes, he wasn’t allowed to vote.

At that moment I decided I will vote at every opportunity. When I do,  I think of the ancestors: Bertha, Helen, Anna Louise, Walter, and all the others denied their rights.

Please vote, if not for yourself, then for your relatives who couldn’t.

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