The late 1950s was a turbulent time in Fayette County, Tennessee. Black and White children went to different schools. Jim Crow signs hung high. And while Black hands in Fayette were free to work in the nearby fields as sharecroppers, the same Black hands were barred from casting ballots in public elections. If they dared to vote, they faced threats of violence by the local Ku Klux Klan or White citizens.
It wasn't until Black landowners organized registration drives to help Black citizens vote did change begin--but not without White farmers' attempts to prevent it. They violently evicted Black sharecroppers off their land, leaving families stranded and forced to live in tents. White shopkeepers blacklisted these families, refusing to sell them groceries, clothes, and other necessities. But the voiceless did finally speak, culminating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which legally ended voter discrimination.