“Standing with Vincent”: Louisiana man retells story of historic fight for voting rights
WEST FELICIANA, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana is known for its rich history and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Before 1965, African Americans were severely discriminated against and did not have the right to vote.
Vincent Smith was one of the many people who marched on the steps of a West Feliciana courthouse during the early 1960s to make that happen.
“Anything good they say I see it is a risk involved, and especially something like this,” said Vincent Smith, West Feliciana resident.
Smith was one of the youngest activists at that time, his father was one of the leaders in the group.
Mimi Real-Feingold, an activist with the Congress for Racial Equality, traveled from New York to Louisiana, in hopes of helping make a change in the voting laws.
“I was raised to know that what was going on in the south was horrible,” said Mimi Real-Feingold. “This was real grassroots on-the-ground social justice in action,” she added.
The plan was to register black voters in the Parish. To register, they had to pass a test that was much harder than their white neighbors.
Mimi, along with other members of the group would teach the black residents of West Feliciana how to pass the test.
The group met up weekly at the Masonic Lodge to go over the material.
Other people eventually found out about the group’s plans and set out to prevent their success. Vincent said that there were ‘threats for them to stop their efforts.
“I use to hate when night come cause you were on edge all night long, you could almost feel the fear. I would the day to last forever,” said Smith.
There is a reason why this movement has been labeled as the ‘civil rights movement of our time’.
“Their contributions up to now have gone pretty much unrecognized, they are such heroes, in part because they were not making headlines individually. This was not Martin Luther King Jr or Rosa Parks, but you were doing something as equally important and as valuable as you changed the country,” said Real-Feingold.
Mimi and Vincent want to urge the younger generation to remember the trials they faced when voting before the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
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