Give us the Ballot by Ari Berman {REVIEW}


I have always been someone who finds an interest in politics, history and learning about different examples of conflict within our society and those of others. While some people might gladly reserve that type of reading for school only, I find that when I get a break from textbooks, those are exactly the types of books I gravitate toward (don't get me wrong though, I love me a good YA book all the same!). When I heard about Ari Berman's book, Give us the Ballot, it was right after the traumatic presidential election we just experienced, and I knew I needed to read it. I ordered the book from Amazon straight away and dug in just as soon as I could.

I have to admit that as I read through this book, I was disappointed in just how little I really knew about the history of voting rights in our country, and the struggle for those rights. I can honestly say that this was not material I learned in my middle school/high school education. This was not even information that was really touched on much by any of the courses I took as an undergrad. Something that has become increasingly clear to me over the years, is that as a country, we frequently seem to cover up, or gloss over the moments in our history which do not represent us in a good light. The conflicts that have been carried out on our soil, are generally told in a way that gives us as little information as possible. I would say that Give us the Ballot is a book all American's should read. Really, everyone should read this book. What stood out to me most from reading this book, is that while we have achieved certain accomplishments over the years in terms of voting rights and the accessibility of voting,  in 2016, we have not evolved nearly as much as we should have.

As the cover notes, the book documents the modern struggle for voting rights in America. While reading the book, we travel from the historical marches in places like Selma when citizens were fighting simply to be allowed to register to vote, to the more recent marches in North Carolina over restrictive voter ID laws. Reading the book opened my eyes to the lengths at which people have gone to suppress the vote of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and really, democrats in general. It also explores how dedicated freedom fighters have demanded change and gotten it.

While the book explores the many ways in which progress has been achieved over the years leading up to and following the Voting Rights Act in 1965, it also provides a grim look at the dedication of those who are determined to suppress the vote, while standing on the wrong side of history.

Through reading Give us the Ballot, I felt many different emotions. Grateful for my right to vote. Angry that others still are disenfranchised and unable to vote. Saddened to read some of the stories of different people who were turned away from the voting booth, like the elderly and men and women who fought (and continue to fight) for our country. Many of the stories which enraged me the most, happened in the last decade. If there are people who think that the fight for civil rights has been won, or completed, I strongly urge them to take off their glasses and read this book. We all need to read this book. You might easily know much of what Berman discusses...you might know none of it. Regardless of what you know, this is a book worth reading. In our current political climate, I think we could all stand to educate ourselves just a bit more...

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