Beck Cultural Exchange Center: 2020 an important year for women & Black voters

Your Local Election HQ

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two voting populations both presidential candidates have their eyes on are women voters and Black voters.

One hundred years ago, women got the right to vote via the 19th Amendment, and the 15th Amendment protects all races and that was ratified in 1870.

Rev. Renee Kesler, the president at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center said she recalls a story that has been shared over the years from a local Knoxville newspaper in 1919.

It showcased a Black woman who couldn’t see well. She asked if her daughter could fill out the ballot for her, but was denied.

The article references the polling location being backed up, as election officials argued the technical point.

“Our ancestors and those who came before us understood how important that was and 100 years ago when we were talking about women’s suffrage for example, in Knoxville women would go to the polls to vote for the first time in 1919 which is actually a year before the suffrage in 1920 and those women will go to the polls and you mentioned their name and that’s great, but what’s interesting about that was a story about an old colored woman and how she was described and how she was almost disenfranchised by oppression without being able to cast her ballot.”

Reverend Renee Kesler

Reverend Renee Kesler also recalled two important women in Knoxville history.

The first Black woman to register to vote in Knoxville was Ethel Downer, and the first Black woman to vote here was Agnes Sadler.

Reverend Kesler says we all must vote to honor our history.

“There are people who really fought and who died for that right and so I believe it’s important. We do stand on their shoulders, no doubt, but I still think we honor them when we exercise that right, which is so very important, so we remember the past. What it was, what it was like and in so reflecting, we look now at today and into our future and how do we continue on to understand the importance of voting and particularly for people who have been disenfranchised.”

Reverend Renee Kesler

When President Barack Obama ran for office in 2012, Knoxville saw record Black voter turnout.

Kesler hopes that trend continues.


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