CBC Chairman on Blacks Who Don’t Vote: ‘They Ought to Give Us Their Color Back’

By Melanie Arter | September 20, 2012 | 4:40pm EDT

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.)

(CNSNews.com) – Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver on Thursday said that African-Americans who don’t vote “ought to give us their color back.”

“That’s why I become so angry at any African-American who refuses to vote. They are not worth the color if they don’t vote. They ought to give us their color back. Their African-American credentials need to be snatched if they don’t vote,” Cleaver said at a CBC forum on voting rights.

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“That’s an insult to the ancestors and the people who brought us to where we are right now. There’d be no Black Caucus but for the black men and women who fought and died that we might have an opportunity to gather here in Washington that there would be 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” the Missouri Democratic congressman said.

Cleaver explained the challenges that blacks once faced to exercise their right to vote, including poll taxes.

In one example, he said, black voters in southern states were once required to take a literacy test in order to vote. He said he was most irritated that black voters in Alabama once had to take a literacy test which consisted of them reciting the Constitution. The only way they could avoid having to take the literacy test was if their grandfather had voted.

“The law was unless your grandfather voted, you had to take a literacy test, and of course, no grandfather of a black person had ever voted, so all black people in Texas and many other southern states had to take the test,” he said.

“It says: Before you can vote, you must recite the Constitution. And of course nobody’s going to be able to recite the Constitution, so they can’t- they’re then rendered to be too illiterate to vote,” Cleaver said.

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