Assistant Professor of History at SUNY Cortland
Poll Power: The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South
forthcoming in 2019 from UNC Press
The Voter Education Project (VEP) was a discreet civil rights agency that funded African American voter registration campaigns throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Formed between 1961 and 1962 by civil rights leaders, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, and philanthropists, the VEP operated within the Southern Regional Council (SRC) to finance local movements and collect data on black disfranchisement. The VEP empowered activists by giving them resources for everyday expenses, such as office rent, flyers, food, utilities, mass meetings, car fuel, and canvassers to knock on doors. The VEP helped focus the civil rights struggle onto voting rights activism and unite a southwide movement that fought Jim Crow at the ballot box.
This map represents a mixed record. What you see is based on VEP records. The VEP meticulously documented many projects, but not all. Their efficiency always depended on many factors, such as staffing needs and financial ups and downs. The VEP did not operate during 1965, which is why no data exists on this map. In 1969, the VEP funded 98 projects, but did not keep comprehensive records. That year, the VEP’s efficiency took a hit as it fought for its survival against a conservative backlash during the congressional tax reform debate. After the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which purposefully undercut the VEP’s work, the VEP operated in a weakened positioned. The VEP ultimately survived until 1992.
The VEP made a major impact on black southerners’ lives during the 1960s. Use this map to explore… and for more information, read my book!