Transformation

Augustine Carter, 85, struggles to protect her voting rights in Virginia

“Anytime you take the right away from me to vote”, says 85-year old Augustine Carter in Richmond, Virginia, “that takes away my freedom. And if I don’t have no freedom, then that makes me a slave” (video, 6 minutes).

Michael Edwards
21 February 2014

In this moving 6-minute video, Augustine Carter, an 85-year-old resident of Richmond, Virginia, tells the story of her struggle to register to vote. Born in 1928, she never had a birth certificate, and she never got a driver's license because she decided years ago that driving was not for her. “I would shut my eyes on the interstate highway,” she says, “and that’s why I gave it up.”

As a consequence, she had to find her way through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy in order to obtain the formal identification papers required to qualify as a voter, including being told by the Motor Vehicle Administration that she couldn't prove that she was not a terrorist. “If you don’t help me, I might become a terrorist” was her response.

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Credit: Annabel Park and Eric Byler/www.storyofamerica.org. All rights reserved.

The video was shot in Richmond on January 29th 2013 at the Virginia State Capitol building, at a rally organized by the Virginia State Assembly's black caucus. Carter was invited to tell her story as part of the debate over new voting laws in the state, at a time when Republican lawmakers had proposed stringent new requirements that would have made it even more difficult to qualify as a voter. Disappointed by the outcome of the 2012 elections in the USA, Republican lawmakers in many states are considering similar proposals.

“This struggle is important,” says Carter in the video, “because anytime you take the right away from me to vote, that takes away my freedom. And if I don’t have no freedom, then that makes me a slave.”

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