Harvard Students Fail To Pass 1964 Voter Eligibility Test Given To Black Voters

1950-2014: Things haven’t changed much, really. A group of Harvard students took the 1964 Louisiana Literacy Test.

harvard students take literacy test

A document once used to test the eligibility of certain people to vote, as part of a project to raise awareness about barriers to voting. 

Carl Miller, the teacher who initiated this test, probably thought it was a good idea to see if some of the "brightest young minds in the world" belonging to a prestigious, highly selective university, could pass a literacy exam meant to prove that someone had at least a fifth-grade education.

The results were scary, to say the least.


Disturbed by their lack of knowledge?

Reserve your judgment and try giving the test a try yourself first. Remember you have 10 minutes only!

So here it is:

Not an easy test, is it?  Of course it’s not.

It was designed to be that way. The very reason voters in the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi (Hint: African Americans) were made to go through the test was to fail and hence be ineligible for voting.

What’s more, the questions were “purposely ambiguous” and meant to induce errors, such as writing the word “vote” upside down, or write right from left to right as it was seen on the page. In order to pass, voters needed to answer all 30 questions correctly and within 10 minutes. Getting even one question wrong was grounds for disenfranchisement.

“Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a legitimate sounding, but devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class,” said Miller. 

Amazingly things haven’t really changed all that much during the last few decades. The voter IDs have valid racism claims that need yet be answered.

You May Find This Interesting: Texas Judge Nearly Blocked From Voting, Thanks To New Voter ID Law

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