Earlier this week we posted a video of a group of Harvard students taking — and failing — a 50-year-old literacy test.
The 1964 Louisiana Voter Literacy Test was originally distributed to disenfranchise African-American voters who would “fail” the rigged reading comprehension exam. It was posted online by the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, and we’re reposting it with their permission.
The test is 30 questions and had to be completed in 10 minutes — a nearly impossible task. Test takers not only need to know how to read to complete it successfully, but also how to interpret the bizarrely worded roundabout questions.
Potential voters would be faced with questions such as “Circle the first, first letter of the alphabet in this line” and “Spell backwards, forwards.”
As Rebecca Onion writes in Slate, “Designed to put the applicant through mental contortions, the test’s questions are often confusingly worded. If some of them seem unanswerable, that effect was intentional. The (white) registrar would be the ultimate judge of whether an answer was correct.”
However, CRMVets member Bruce Hartford tells Business Insider that the 1964 Louisiana Voter Literacy Test may not be representative of the methods used to deny southern African-Americans their right to vote.
“That particular test was not typical of the literacy tests used in the Deep South to deny voting rights to African-Americans. It’s an extreme and unusual example, and we don’t believe it was widely used. It’s possible it was used in only one Louisiana parish (county) where a CORE civil rights worker encountered it,” Hartford writes in an email to Business Insider.
Check out the 1964 Louisiana Voter Literacy Test below, via CRMVets:
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