Editor’s Note: With this online package and several pieces you may have noticed in recent issues of our magazine, ESSENCE is marking the 50th anniversary of 1963, a watershed year in the civil rights movement. As we reflect on that era and its lessons, ESSENCE.com is partnering with StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to record and preserve the personal histories of diverse Americans – including those Black Americans who were witness to the times and to our struggle for equality. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing snippets of these touching, inspiring, sometimes infuriating stories from StoryCorps’ archives.
November 4, 2012, when we overwhelmingly voted to re-elect the first Black president, was a day of celebration for most of us – we joyfully tweeted after casting our ballots, or posted photos of ourselves with big smiles and “I Voted!” stickers on Instagram.
But many older African-Americans remember when voting was a somber, sometimes scary responsibility, a hard-won right that constantly had to be defended. In some districts in the Deep South, officials sought to suppress the Black vote through arbitrary tests and intimidation tactics.
It’s a time that Theresa Burroughs remembered vividly during a recording session for StoryCorps in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In this audio clip, she tells her daughter Toni Love about the White men at the polling place who once tried – and ultimately failed – to embarrass her and keep her from voting.
Listen to her incredible story below, and find out more about StoryCorps and its mission