Black Church Tradition Survives Georgia’s Voting Challenges

Leaders of black churches across Georgia rallied on Sunday, continuing the longstanding tradition called “souls to the polls”, that encourages their parishioners to vote. Organizers emphasized that it is essential to speak up for voting rights after the enactment of new restrictions by the state legislature. State lawmakers almost put an end to Sunday voting entirely; though the new law did not end up instituting a Sunday voting ban, it has created additional challenges to voting including limiting ballot drop boxes, reducing early voting, and preventing groups from handing out water and food to voters waiting in line. In response to the new voting restrictions, Helen Butler, the executive director of a voting advocacy group, said, “No matter what barriers they try to put in place, we’re going to find a way for our people to get around those barriers so they can actually exercise their right to vote.”  The idea for “souls to the polls” stretches all the way back to the civil rights movement, when Reverend George Lee, a black entrepreneur from Mississippi, was slain by white supremacists in 1955 after helping approximately 100 black residents register to vote. 

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Image Credit: Ted Eytan      (CC BY-SA 4.0)