Just a few months into the internship and I already feel like an expert about the Voter Education Project (VEP). It’s exciting to find earlier letters and Field Reports discussing the VEP’s hopes, ambitions and goals before setting out, and then seeing the letters discussing their success in canvassing and voter registration efforts.
What’s even more exciting than seeing the success of their efforts however is finding a challenge that their members have had to overcome to accomplish their goals. For example, in Virginia during a voter registration drive there were so many people in line to register to vote that the clerk decided to help some of the applicants write their forms. However, those who were opposing the movement searched for any possible point to exploit the drive and found out that what she did was against the Virginia constitution. They took her to court but the VEP sought lawyers to defend her case and won it. However, even though they won there were still court fee’s to pay, draining the already limited resources of the VEP. To me this was a powerful story because it’s shows that the conflicts that the VEP faced weren’t always front and center for all to see, and yet they picked up right back from where they left off and began to register more people. This shows that the people fighting for their civil rights had grit and spirit when they confronted any challenges.
Although it’s much easier now than it was in the beginning to read through the documents and analyze the main points, there are still a few that I have to reread a few times and try to decipher certain charts. There are numerous ay charts and funding that was recorded throughout the VEP’s voter registration drives in Virginia that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the summaries. At one point it did mention someone’s pay and I used google to figure out what the price would be today including inflation, but it was only around $5,000 and it never specified if it was their part time salary or for the VEP supplies/ event funding for them to figure out.
Speaking of pay, something that I hadn’t even considered is the work life of the men and women who have volunteered their time for the VEP. Many of the individuals involved had full time jobs outside of the VEP and were only volunteers. There were few however who became full time members and were paid a salary, such as Mr. John Robinson who received a check of $750 (which is worth $6,182 today) that was owed to him for his work. This was eye opening to me because it showed that by 1964 the VEP had grown as an organization so much so that it was starting to add more full time members to its payroll.
By: Thaddeus Sitnik, spring 2019