“Neither sleet, snow, rain or darkness of night Will keep me from exercising my right”
By Allison Hughes, Archival Assistant, Voter Education Project Collection
The 1980s were a time of expansion for the Voter Education Project (VEP). In 1984 VEP began a campaign to increase the number of women registered to vote as well as increase the number of women in elected and appointed offices, and began to conduct research that would help to meet those goals. This project was titled the Women’s Vote Project (WVP) and was under the direction of Eleatha O’Neal. While VEP primarily had provided grants to other groups or institutions and continued to do so, the WVP was strictly a campaign run by the VEP.
The first WVP worked specifically in three states: Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. The first priority for the original WVP was exit surveys. These surveys were conducted in each of the three targeted states as women left the polling place. The surveys inquired into women’s participation in political events, campaigns and the reasons and benefits to registering and voting. The results of these surveys were used in the planning of the WVP conferences and campaigns.
The project sponsored single day conferences in each of the states that gave women the chance to learn about the election process. The conferences would feature female speakers and workshop leaders, many of whom held political office. The workshops, which were part of the individual conferences, had panels that focused on topics such as voter education, getting out the vote, the election process and the census.
In 1987 VEP partnered with the National Urban League to expand the WVP to include Arkansas and Mississippi. The new project was called Southern Women’s Civic Education Project (SWCE). This project focused mostly on increasing the number of black female elected and appointed officials. The project was to be a yearlong effort and produce 25 new black female candidates in each of the five states. This program was conference/workshop based. The participants were given materials prior to the workshop; the workshops were then conducted via video in an effort to keep costs down. Workshop topics included how to qualify for office; how to build a campaign organization; and how to prepare campaign literature and gain exposure.
Another addition to the SWCE workshops was a 1-800 number which could be used by the new candidates as needed during their campaigns. The SWCE did not abandon the WVP goal of increasing the number of women registered to vote. The SWCE also provided small grants for Urban League Guilds and other women’s groups to organize voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns for their communities.
Mock up of a flyer used in the Women's Vote Project
The Voter Education Project Organizational Records (1962-1989) are held by the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. and are currently closed to researchers for processing.
"Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations" is a collaborative project between Emory University, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University and the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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