Sure, their SAT scores may have been exemplary, but that doesn’t seem to help these Harvard students, who are perplexed by many of the questions on this literacy test that was originally administered at voting polls in Louisiana in 1964.
There is more than a bit of history behind this unreasonable task though. This video was posted by Carl L Miller, who is a race relations tutor at Harvard, just a day before the polls opened. The tests were one of many obstacles put in place in the south, mostly to discourage blacks from voting after the Fifteenth Amendment was adopted in 1870. Everything from grandfather clauses, to poll taxes, to nearly impossible literacy tests such as this one posted by Slate, or the 1964 test given out in Louisiana that these Harvard students struggle to make sense of were road blocks for certain potential voters until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted.
It should be noted that the version of the test that the students in the video take is atypically difficult, but it definitely gets the point across. One student calls it “demoralizing,” while another points out the “pretention” involved in putting voters in such an unfair position of powerlessness with no way to fight it. A student at the end, however, gives a harsh admonition of the voting injustices that still exist, bringing up the voter I.D. laws that still plague some parts of the country.
Voting day may have come and passed this year, but take this as a reminder that voting isn’t just a privilege, it’s a right.