In an election year already marred by police killings of innocent Black citizens, voter suppression of people of colour could determine if Donald Trump gets a second term in the White House. And if we’ve learned anything from 2016, nothing should be taken for granted until the very last vote has been cast.
In All In: The Fight For Democracy, a new Prime Video film on the subject of voter suppression, documentarians Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés take a look at the history of Black suffrage from its early days until the civil rights movement and beyond.
Working alongside Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic party nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, Garbus and Cortés lay out the most important talking points surrounding this thorniest of subjects. Despite her huge popularity, Abrams eventually lost to Governor Brian Kemp in an election marked by accusations that Kemp, as incumbent Secretary of State to Georgia, engaged in voter suppression tactics which made it harder for Black citizens to cast their votes.
We learn from the film’s numerous talking heads of the history of deliberate voter blocking and suppression. When America was first formed, we are told, the only people who were eligible to vote were not only white men, but only those white men who owned property. This meant that only 6% of the whole population was allowed to vote in the first election that resulted in George Washington’s becoming the first ever president of the USA in 1789.
After the abolition of slavery, Black men were also given the right to vote and were allowed to enter public office. This soon changed with the introduction of Jim Crow laws which demanded that people of colour were forcibly segregated from white citizens. Jim Crow also deliberately made it harder for Black people to vote by introducing literacy tests. As a result, fewer than 3% of the Black population was able to vote.
The film also covers how, more recently, voter suppression appears in a new guise as concerns about fraud, leading to Black and Latinx voters requiring extra identification. As cited by both Abrams and other interviewees, another way to suppress the Black vote has been to stop former inmates from ever regaining their voting rights, making it impossible for any rehabilitated criminal to ever have a say in the way the country is being governed.
Although a little repetitive in parts, All In: The Fight For Democracy is essential viewing for anyone wanting to understand how things are likely to unravel in the weeks to come. And with the Black Lives Matter movement making headlines again after the senseless killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it will be interesting to see if the events of the last few months are hinder or help millions of Black voters struggling to be heard.
- Directors: Lisa Cortés, Liz Garbus
- Starring: Stacey Abrams, Debo Adegbile, Jayla Allen
- Release date: September 18 (Amazon Prime Video)