In March 1965, Mrs. Bertram Jeffrey of Brooklyn, New York, sent this letter about voting rights legislation to Representative Emanuel Celler, chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Although the letter was addressed to Representative Celler, and Mrs. Jeffrey was likely his constituent, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee because it was considering the voting rights legislation mentioned in the letter. Mrs. Jeffrey wrote in favor of the bill and made the plea that “Our Democratic heritage cannot advance until all have the right to vote and participate.”
Celler introduced H.R. 6400 on March 17, 1965, 10 days after police and state troopers in Selma, Alabama, brutally attacked marchers protesting the infringement of voting rights of African Americans in the South. The bill banned methods used for decades to block African-American voters from registering, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, and legally protected the right to vote regardless of race. The Voting Rights Act became law on August 6, 1965.