Wilkins - 8
the steelworker, the farmer." No mention here of the Negro Ameri
This, of course, was not the case in 1965. Black Americans
were in the Congressional audience. There were in the gallery which
listened to the speech.
And the white majority in the nation had demonstrated to it
the importance attached to the proceedings by the Chief Executive.
The address was on prime television time in the evening. It was to
a joint session of both the House and the Senate. It included the
members of the U. S. Supreme Court and members of the Cabinet.
The leaders of the nation had been assembled. The American people,
final arbiters in any proposal, were there to hear about the denial
of the right to vote and the bill proposed as a remedy.
Wherever they are, Negro citizens of American owe their in
creased participation in American life to the Voting Rights Act of
1965. There are now about 2,000 elected black officeholders. They
are in all sorts of positions, with all kinds of responsibilities.
They make mistakes, just as do other elected officials. But they
also perform services, some as well as others. A few render ex
Every Southern state has at least one black member of the
State legislature. Georgia has about fifteen. A gain of 21 seats
among all the states was registered in the last election. Three
new members of Congress, Yvonne Burke from Los Angeles, Barbara
Jordan of Texas and the Rev. Andrew Young of Atlanta were elected
in November, swelling the black total to fifteen in the House.
Senator Edward Brooke is a Republican from Massachusetts. There