- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (August 2, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250094720
- ISBN-13: 978-1250094728
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
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- #95 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Elections
- #98 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Specific Topics > Civil Rights & Liberties
- #343 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Political Science > History & Theory
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Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America Paperback – August 2, 2016
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“An engrossing narrative history . . . Berman vividly shows that the power to define the scope of voting rights in America has shifted from Congress to the courts.” ―Jeffrey Rosen, The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
“[Give Us The Ballot] should become a primer for every American, but especially for congressional lawmakers and staffers, because it so capably describes the intricate interplay between grass-roots activism and the halls of Congress . . . Congress must fix the Voting Rights Act, and Berman’s book explains why, without passion or favoritism. It is the first history of the contemporary voting rights movement in the United States. It is long overdue, but Berman’s extensive reporting makes it well worth the wait.” ―John Lewis, The Washington Post
“Ari Berman’s important recent book, Give Us the Ballot, explores the struggle over voting rights unleashed by the civil-rights revolution, and how it continues to this day . . . Berman has performed a valuable public service by illuminating this history.” ―Eric Foner, The Nation
“Fifty years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, Give Us the Ballot makes a powerful case that voting rights are under assault in 21st century America. Current events underscore the book's timeliness.” ―Wendy Smith, The Los Angeles Times
“Ari Berman’s Give Us the Ballot, a history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, makes for an excellent extended example of the mechanisms by which race in the South becomes race in the nation.” ―Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker
“An urgent, moving, deeply important history of the modern right to vote in the United States” ―Michael O'Donnell, The Christian Science Monitor
“Comprehensive . . . The value of Give Us the Ballot lies in illustrating that the [Voting Rights Act] has never been universally accepted . . . Ari Berman convincingly shows that the fight for voting rights is far from over.” ―Jordan Michael Smith, The Boston Globe
“An extremely valuable and terribly timely history of the Voting Rights Act . . . Berman deftly weaves together the politics, the intellectual and legal arguments, the legislative battles, the counterrevolutionary schemes, and the tragic and ironic turns in the story.” ―Harvey J. Kaye, The Daily Beast
“Illuminating . . . Give Us the Ballot is a smart compendium of election "reforms." Berman removes the facade of intellectual honesty--where voting-rights opponents even bothered to make an argument--and lays bare the many, many ways to game the outcome of an election.” ―Scott Porch, The Chicago Tribune
“The voting rights struggle of the 1960s produced several moments that remain seared in the nation’s memory . . . Ari Berman tells the story of these stirring moments, and tells it well. But unlike many civil rights chronicles, his account begins rather than ends in the 1960s. Via a series of vivid anecdotes, he describes the tumultuous history of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) from its enactment all the way to the present day. It’s an important and absorbing tale.”
―Nicholas Stephanopoulos, The New Rambler
“Berman's reporting is expertly balanced.” ―Walton Muyumba, The Dallas Morning News
“Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act comes this deep dive into the legacy of the civil rights movement and why we're still fighting for the right for everyone to have a slice of the political power pie.” ―Lara Zarum, The Village Voice
“The Voting Rights Act was signed into law 50 years ago, but according to journalist Berman, the fight for equality in voting is still taking place” ―The Los Angeles Times
“Ari Berman's Give Us the Ballot explains that the VRA's 50 years have seen great gains but also consistent opposition. The specifics may have changed. The campaign to suppress turnout among minorities has not . . . Read Give Us the Ballot.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Ari Berman's Give Us the Ballot is a fascinating, if also infuriating, chronicle of the modern era in voting rights - a time when those hard-won rights are suddenly in great jeopardy. Comprehensive, fair-minded and wise, the book tells a haunting story of rights won and rights lost.” ―Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and The Nine
“Ari Berman's Give us the Ballot is a must read for anyone who cares about the health of American democracy. Written with a deep respect for history, a keen journalistic sensibility, and a visceral passion for fairness, Berman's book takes us on a swift and critical journey through the last fifty years of voting in America. He begins on the Edmund Pettus bridge with the foot soldiers of Selma and concludes in the rotunda of the North Carolina statehouse with the protestors of Moral Mondays. All the critical figures of American voting rights appear in this book, but Berman allows no one story to dominate the narrative. His book is about the people, the ballot box, and our as yet unrealized ideal of fully free and fair elections. We have not yet arrived at the healthy democracy the 1965 Voting Rights Act promises is possible, but we have not given up hope. The struggle continues.” ―Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC's Melissa-Harris Perry Show and Presidential Professor of Politics and International Studies at Wake Forest University
“Expertly taking us from the bloody streets of Selma to the current counterrevolution against the voting rights of black and poor Americans, Ari Berman reminds us that democracy can never be taken for granted, especially at a time when the courts are more than willing to abet efforts to limit the right to vote.” ―Eric Foner, author of Gateway to Freedom
“Ari Berman has written a powerful history of the massive struggle that has taken place since 1965 over the survival of the Voting Rights Act. Berman reveals that from the moment Congress passed the landmark bill, opponents mobilized to dismantle it. The ongoing and sustained assaults on this historic legislation finally started to find success during the 1980s when opponents directed their efforts to the courts. This is a terrific, though troubling, read about the future of American democracy.” ―Julian E. Zelizer, author of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society
“Berman does a superb job of making the history of the right to vote in America not only easily understandable, but riveting...This is the best kind of popular history-literate, passionate, and persuasive, balancing detail with accessibility.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[I]ncisive... This emotional book runs the gamut... Not just a compelling history, but a cry for help in the recurring struggle to gain what is supposed to be an inalienable right.” ―Kirkus, starred review
About the Author
Ari Berman is a political correspondent for The Nation and an investigative journalism Fellow at the Nation Institute. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, and he is a frequent commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010. He lives in New York City.
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You'll recognize many of the stars of the conservative effort to limit voting rights -- from William Rehnquist to John Roberts to Ted Cruz. But it's the life of John Lewis who provides the through line of Berman's spirited narrative. From Selma to Shelby, Lewis is a participant and a witness to the massive changes he helped force and the backlash those changes sparked. No testimony is more stirring or crucial to understanding the stakes -- both moral and political -- involved in providing America's most vulnerable citizens access to the ballot.
“How many of you are going to leave here and remember the blood of the martyrs?” William J. Barber, the architect of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement that rose up in part to oppose the right’s attack on voting rights, asked a crowd in 2014.
Berman’s book is asking us that same question.
"Give Us the Ballot" is a monumentally critical book for all Americans, not only in light of the 2016 election, but really to understand that the bedrock of democracy, the right to vote, has been under assault. This certainly isn't a new story since it goes back to our founding when essentially only white landowning men could vote. The march of history has certainly led to progress where ostensibly all adults are entitled to vote in theory, yet in practice that is hardly the case. Berman focuses this book on the time period from the modern civil rights movement and one of the most important pieces of legislation, the 1965 Voting Rights Act which was instrumental in eliminating post-Reconstruction barriers like poll taxes and literacy tests that prevented black Americans from exercising the franchise. Berman provides brilliant detail around the progress made because of the VRA, the people and forces that worked to undermine it (John Roberts within the Reagan administration and later as Chief Justice of SCOTUS) and the chicanery undertaken by politicians to promote non-existent voter fraud as a means to "justify" the need for strict voting laws. With the evisceration of section 5 of the VRA, large numbers of Americans across many states now face far more obstacles to vote than ever before. Yes, the election is rigged but not for the reason you PEOTUS wants you to believe. "Give us the Ballot" will make you understand that DJT wouldn't be President if voter suppression wasn't rampant.
This is truly an enlightening and critical book to read about the politicization of what is the most fundamental American right. Berman shines a illuminating and harsh light on voter disenfranchisement.