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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:39 am

50 years of voting rights to be hailed

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Several local organizations will observe the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act with a public ceremony that will start at Parkview Field and conclude at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building.

The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6, the date in 1965 on which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law prohibiting voter literacy tests, poll taxes and other practices that prevented certain people – particularly blacks living in Southern states – from voting in elections.

Scheduled speakers at Parkview Field include Mayor Tom Henry; Cliff Buttram of the Martin Luther King Jr. Club; John Arden, executive director of the African/African American Historical Society; and civil rights activists Larry Lee and the Rev. Bill McGill. The gospel group Restored will perform.

"We’re trying to make it more than just a celebration to say, ‘Hey, this is the anniversary.’ We’re trying to put some substance into it," said Jack Morris, deputy chairman of the Allen County Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is one of the organizers of the program.

The event is free, and free parking will be available in the Silver Lot south of the ballpark. After the speeches, those gathered will walk to the nearby Adair Federal Building for a candlelight ceremony.

Morris said he hopes at least 200 people will attend the program.

"It’s been picking up some steam," Morris said about interest among the participating groups.

Organizers include the Martin Luther King Jr. Club, the Allen County chapter of the Indiana African-American Democratic Caucus, the League of Women Voters of Fort Wayne, United Auto Workers Local 2209’s Civil Rights Committee, the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO and the Allen County Democratic and Republican parties.

Morris said the League of Women Voters will conduct voter registration at the event.

bfrancisco@jg.net