Black Ballots Mixtape

By NYPL Staff
November 7, 2016
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Black Ballots Mixtape presents audio selections from items housed in the Schomburg Center's Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division. The playlist collects several excerpts from speeches related to Black people and voting. 

Conversations about Black people and elections did not begin in 1870, with the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They did not end in 1965, with Congress’s passage of the Voting Rights Act. These two pieces of American legislation do not serve as the boundaries for examining the disenfranchising of people of color. Voter suppression continued in the form of mandatory literacy tests, voter ID laws, and gerrymandering. While more than half a century separates us from these recordings, their messages could not be more relevant. For more information about these and other audiovisual items related to black ballots, please contact us at

The Fifteenth Amendment

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. "The Fifteenth Amendment" New York Public Library Digital Collections. 

Track 1: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

“For close to four years now, efforts have been made to get a delegation of Negro leaders to discuss the problems of segregation with the president. We have had a deaf ear.” —Benjamin F. McLaurin, 1955

During a 1955 meeting for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union, labor organizer Benjamin F. McLaurin speaks on the importance of the Black vote in the battle for civil rights, President Dwight Eisenhower's refusal to meet with Black civil rights leaders, and gives logistical details for a civil rights demonstration taking place at the Lincoln Memorial later that day.

Track 2: Louis D'ejoie Interview. Part One

“The government of the republic has a special task assigned to it by the constitution. That is to have the people elect their president as soon as possible… This election must be essentially democratic.” —Louis Déjoie, 1957

This 1957 episode of actress and singer Etta Moten Barnett's radio show, "I Remember When," features an interview with Louis Déjoie, candidate for the Haitian presidency. Following the election of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Déjoie went into exile. Here, he discusses the upcoming election and its implications for the future of Haiti. The voice heard in this clip is that of Déjoie's interpreter.

Track 3: Harlem Emergency Rally in Support of Seating Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

“I was beat until he was ordered by the state highway patrolman to stop. When the second Negro began to beat me, it seemed like it was more than I could bear… I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change in this society.” —Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

During a political rally held in Harlem, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer recounts her experiences with voter suppression in Mississippi and her near-fatal 1963 beating at the hands of police. Malcolm X also delivered remarks following Hamer's address to the crowd.

Track 4: Yvonne Brathwaite and the Decision To Run

“We all realized there was a vacuum in terms of a need for people in political positions to translate the needs of our community.” —Yvonne Brathwaite, 1968

As the first black woman elected to the California State Legislature, Yvonne Brathwaite discusses her 1966 decision to run for the assembly.

Track 5: Shirley Chisholm On What Politics Should Be

“One of the things I’m trying to do in my congressional campaign is tell young people… they must not give up. This government belongs to them. They must begin to participate in the local clubhouses.” —Shirley Chisholm, 1968

Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, discusses her 1968 campaign for New York's 12th congressional district and considers her ideals on what politics and politicians should be.

Track 6: John Lewis On Voter Suppression and Selma's Bloody Sunday

“There were many examples of blacks with Ph. D.s who were denied the right to vote because they hadn’t passed the literacy test… and we wanted to do something about that.” —John Lewis, 1970

John Lewis describes his time as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and what inspired his involvement with voter registration drives throughout Alabama and Mississippi, particularly those that led to 1965's "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama.