Like a lot of people’s grandmothers, Flonzie Brown-Wright keeps a candy jar in the living room of her single-story home, which is also adorned with potted plants and family photos.
For Brown-Wright, 74, this jar is a reminder of the absurd questions — questions with no real answers — that she and other African-Americans had to answer before registering to vote in Mississippi in the 1960s.
“‘How many jelly beans in a pound of candy? … ‘How many feathers are on a chicken?’ And I got a bar of soap somewhere – but anyway, how many bubbles in a bar of soap?'” she recalled.
Brown-Wright says you could pass or fail those tests on the whim of an election commissioner. She failed the first time, but eventually became election commissioner herself in nearby Madison County, Miss. — a groundbreaking achievement for a black woman in the Deep South in the late 1960s.
Now Brown-Wright is not pleased with the current political climate she says Donald Trump is fostering — and she’s not alone. Trump has been promising to help bring jobs and security to black neighborhoods. But his poll numbers with African-Americans are in the low single digits, and many say his message is insulting.
Brown-Wright now gives workshops on voting rights at local colleges, where she takes her jelly bean jar and soap bar.”I try and make it real for people so people understand clearly that this is not something that we’re just making up. That was on the test,” she said.
“It’s been in my lifetime that I could not register and vote freely. So when I contrast the then and the now, in many respects, this is not what we really fought for — in terms of the animus, in terms of the …