“Voting Rights Act: Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1965 to ensure the voting rights of African-Americans. While the Constitution’s 15th Amendment had guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race since 1870, blacks in the south faced efforts disenfranchise them (including poll taxes and literacy tests) as late as the 1960s, when the civil rights movement focused national attention on the need to protect Blacks’ voting rights; Congress responded with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited many Southern states from using literacy tests to determine eligibility to vote. Later laws prohibited literacy tests in all states and made poll taxes illegal in state and local elections.”
Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.