All In: The Fight for Democracy is a must-watch documentary–headlined by Stacey Abrams–that explores the history of voter suppression in the United States.
“Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote,” President Lyndon Baines Johnson once declared in a Special Message to Congress.
The fact that All In is focused on Stacey Abrams is especially telling. All eyes were on the governor’s race in Georgia back in 2018. Sure, the election was close but think how much the results would differ had then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp not purged people from the voter rolls. What he did in office is disgraceful and this continues to date with his response to Covid-19.
Abrams’s story is just one part of the film’s story. When she was a high school valedictorian, she was invited to the Governor’s Mansion only to be told by a guard that she doesn’t belong there. Think how hurtful those comments can be. Abrams would hold voter registration drives during her time at Spelman College where she would graduate Magna Cum Laude. The conversation with Abrams and others inform us about the history of voter suppression. You think you know the history but it’s much worse.
“Reconstruction offered a fresh start for America,” Abrams said.
The combination of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments with Reconstruction was supposed to lead to a brighter future for Black Americans after slavery. For a while, it looked hopeful but then Jim Crow took over across the South (D.W. Griffith would only glorify this era in The Birth of a Nation). Black Americans looking to vote would deal with racism at the polls. If it weren’t the threat of being lynched and murdered, then it was paying a poll tax or taking a literacy tax. In 1940, only 3% of eligible Black voters were registered to vote in the South.
Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper shares an anecdote about giving the test to his students and most of them failed.
What has become of the Voting Rights Act since its passing in 1965? States have still found ways time and time again to continue suppressing the vote. All we have to do is look at the 35 states that have strict Voter ID laws in effect. Some people, for one reason or another, don’t have the proper forms to be able to obtain a photo ID. This makes it impossible for 10% of the United States electorate to vote. It shouldn’t be this way and it doesn’t need to. All In further drives the point home that we should not make it so hard for American citizens to vote. This doesn’t even begin to take into account purging active voters from the rolls.
The results proved disastrous after the United States Supreme Court ruled on Shelby v. Holder in 2013. By throwing out preclearance, the Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. What followed were voter suppression laws popping up all over the place–even in states where we wouldn’t think it possible.
The film was set to premiere during the 2020 Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend. Alas, this was not meant to be. However, All In will hold a free community Drive-In screening during this year’s New York Film Festival on September 18.
It is essential that every American watches All In: The Fight for Democracy when it launches on Amazon Prime Video.
DIRECTORS: Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés
FEATURING: Stacey Abrams, Rev. Carolyn Abrams, Rev. Robert L. Abrams, Ari Berman, David Pepper, Carol Anderson, Sean J. Young, Lauren Groh-Wargo, OJ Semans, Barbara Semans, Kristen Clarke, Michael Waldman, Desmond Meade, Eric Holder, Marcia L. Fudge, Alejandra Gomez, Eric Foner, Debo Adegbile, Jayla Allen, Michael Parsons, Luci Baines Johnson, Frances Fox Piven, Andrew Young, Bert Rein, Hans von Spakovsky