• Campus Vote Project

Strom Thurmond Filibustered Voting Rights. 64 Years Later, Advocates Want Senate Action

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

The longest filibuster by an individual senator, Strom Thurmond's opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act, paved the way for current anti-voting rights obstruction. Picking up the mantle from the ancestors, modern-day voting rights advocates continue to push for Congressional action.

Sixty-four years ago, on the evening of Aug. 28, Sen. Strom Thurmond launched into the longest filibuster by an individual in the Senate’s history. Central to the racist history of the filibuster, Thurmond’s 24-hour filibuster failed to stop the new law but laid a foundation for challenging progress in the Senate.


The first new civil rights legislation since reconstruction, the 1957 Civil Rights Act, established the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Eight years before the Voting Rights Act, the 1957 Civil Rights Act expanded the power of federal prosecutors to seek injunctive relief to protect against interference with the right to vote.


Thurmond argued that the new civil rights legislation was both unconstitutional and unnecessary. A refrain echoed by his modern counterparts in the Senate.

Jumping ship during the Civil Rights era, Thurmond became the first of the major Southern Dixiecrats to flip parties. The same coded appeal to white supremacist values and desires to protect state’s rights is present in the modern attack on democracy.


For months, Black leaders and voters have been calling on the Senate to take action and end the filibuster. That same oppressive energy continues to prevent equal access to the ballot and the full promise of so-called American democracy.



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