Clean Elections: Senator John J. Williams of Delaware and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Voting Rights Act – the landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination against minority voters. This exhibition features items from the Papers of Senator John J. Williams and includes constituent letters, printed ephemera, and documents on the Voting Rights Act. The University of Delaware Library joins the Association of Center for the Study of Congress (ACSC) in a national celebration of the sixth annual Congress Week, April 1-7, 2015.

The Voting Rights Act was introduced in Congress on March 17, 1965. Senator John J. Williams (R-DE) introduced the “Clean Elections” amendment to the bill on March 18, 1965. Williams stated that he supported the principles that every American citizen should have the right to vote; however, he believed that the process of participating in the election process was often nullified by fraudulent voting behaviors, such as vote buying and falsifying voter registration information. The “Clean Elections” amendment sought to penalize such behavior and ensure an honest and clean election process. Williams’s amendment passed 86-0 in the U.S. Senate on April 29, 1965. The Voting Rights Act passed to a 77-19 vote on May 26, 1965 and was signed into law on August 6, 1965.

The University of Delaware Library is an institutional member of ACSC, which was founded in 2003 to support a wide range of programs designed to inform and educate students, scholars, policy-makers, and members of the general public on the history of Congress, legislative process, and current issues facing Congress.  The ACSC encourages preservation of material that documents the work of Congress, including the papers of representatives and senators, and supports programs that make those materials available for educational and research use.  Modern congressional holdings at the University of Delaware Library include the personal papers of John J. Williams (U.S. Senate, 1947-1971); J. Allen Frear, Jr. (U.S. Senate, 1949-1961); Thomas C. Carper (U.S. House of Representatives, 1983-1993); Michael N. Castle (U.S. House of Representatives); and Edward E. “Ted” Kaufman (U.S. Senate, 2009-2010). The most recent addition to these important resources is the collection of senatorial papers from Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (U.S. Senate, 1973-2009), which arrived in June 2012.

Curated by Tammi Kim, April 1, 2015 -April 30, 2015