On 6 August 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. The bill was introduced in March of 1965, and provided greater enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to overcome discriminatory voting practices in the South.
Despite the gains in human rights achieved through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson recognized the Act's shortcomings in protecting voting rights, and quickly began advocating for a new bill to address the issue. In January 1965, King and SCLC joined with several other civil rights organizations to implement a direct action campaign in Selma, Alabama aimed at securing voting rights.
The demonstrations were met with increasingly violent police resistance that prompted organizers to lead a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on 7 March 1965. The marchers were stopped by police outside of Selma where they were assaulted with tear gas and beaten with clubs. National coverage of the incident focused national attention on the issue of voting rights in the South, and spurred a larger march to Montgomery two days later.
Following the 7 March attack, Johnson renewed his campaign for a voting rights act, and the initial bill was introduced on 17 March 1965. The bill passed the Senate with a 77-19 vote and cleared the House of Representatives by a 333-85 vote. After a committee reconciled changes to the bill from the Senate and House, Johnson signed the bill into law. The signing was attended by King and other civil rights leaders.
For more on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, please visit the King Encyclopedia here
To read more about the Selma to Montgomery March, click here