Historians have long been engaged in telling the story of the struggle for the vote. In the wake of recent contested elections, the suppression of the vote has returned to the headlines, as awareness of the deep structural barriers to the ballot, particularly for poor, black, and Latino voters, has called attention to the historical roots of issues related to voting access.
Perhaps most notably, former state legislator Stacey Abrams’s campaign for Georgia's gubernatorial race drew national attention after she narrowly lost to then-secretary of state Brian Kemp, who had removed hundreds of thousands of voters from the official rolls. After her loss, Abrams created Fair Fight, a multimillion-dollar initiative to combat voter suppression in twenty states.
At an annual conference of the Organization of American Historians, leading scholars Carol Anderson, Kevin M. Kruse, Heather Cox Richardson, and Heather Anne Thompson had a conversation with Abrams about the long history of voter suppression at the Library Company of Philadelphia. This book is a transcript of that extraordinary conversation, edited by Jim Downs.
Voter Suppression in U.S. Elections offers an enlightening, history-informed conversation about voter disenfranchisement in the United States. By gathering scholars and activists whose work has provided sharp analyses of this issue, we see how historians in general explore contentious topics and provide historical context for students and the broader public.
The book also includes a “top ten” selection of essays and articles by such writers as journalist Ari Berman, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Blight, and civil rights icon John Lewis.
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About the Author
STACEY ABRAMS is a New York Times best-selling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO, and political leader. After serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as minority leader, in 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, when she won more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States. After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the secretary of state’s office, Abrams launched Fair Fight to ensure every Georgian has a voice in our election system. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels including Fair Count—to ensure that the 2020 Census is fair, accurate, and complete. Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School. She and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Georgia.
Carol Anderson (Author)
CAROL ANDERSON is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University and a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies. She is the author of several books, including Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944–1955, which was published by Cambridge University Press and awarded both the Gustavus Myers and Myrna Bernath Book Awards; White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, which won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and was also a New York Times best seller and a New York Times Editor’s Pick. Her most recent book, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, was long-listed for the National Book Award in Nonfiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Galbraith Book Award in Nonfiction.
Kevin M. Kruse (Author)
KEVIN M. KRUSE specializes in twentieth-century American political history, with special attention to conflicts over race, religion, and rights. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his MA and PhD degrees from Cornell University. He is a professor of history at Princeton University, where he has served on the faculty since 2000. Kruse is the author of White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, and, with Julian Zelizer, Fault Lines: A History of the United States since 1974, as well as the coeditor of three essay collections. He is currently working on his next project, titled “The Division: John Doar, the Justice Department, and the Civil Rights Movement.”
Heather Cox Richardson (Author)
HEATHER COX RICHARDSON is professor of history at Boston College and the author of a number of books about American politics, including To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party and most recently How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She writes widely for popular publications and is a national commentator on American political history and the Republican Party. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Quartz, among other publications, and she is the author of “Letters from an American,” an online chronicle of the U.S. government.
Heather Ann Thompson (Author)
HEATHER ANN THOMPSON is a native Detroiter and historian on faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the departments of history and Afro-American and African studies and at the Residential College. Her recent book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, profiled on television and radio programs across the country, won the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy, the Ridenhour Book Prize, the J. Willard Hurst Prize, and a New York City Bar Association book prize. The book was also named a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Book Prize in History, and the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and it was named on fourteen best books of 2016 lists including those compiled by the New York Times, Newsweek, Kirkus Reviews, the Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Bloomberg, the Marshall Project, the Baltimore City Paper, Book Scroll, and the Christian Science Monitor. Additionally, Blood in the Water appeared on the Best Human Rights Books of 2016 list and received starred reviews from Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. Blood in the Water has also been optioned by TriStar Pictures and will be adapted for film by acclaimed screenwriters Anna Waterhouse and Joe Schrapnel.
Jim Downs (Editor)
JIM DOWNS is a professor of history and American studies at Connecticut College. He is the author of Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction and the coeditor of Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation (Georgia) and Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America.