Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Daughter of civil rights leader to speak at Norfolk book fair

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of evelynbutts.com)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of evelynbutts.com)

NORFOLK — The daughter of Evelyn Thomas Butts will discuss her mother’s life as a civil rights leader during a book fair here.

Charlene Butts Ligon will be the featured author at the Norfolk Public Library’s 2nd annual Local Author Fair Saturday. She will discuss her book, “FEARLESS: How a poor Virginia seamstress took on Jim Crow, beat the poll tax and changed her city forever.”

The event will be at the Slover Library at 2 p.m.

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Butts was a voting rights champion, civil rights activist and one of the region’s most important African-American political leaders.

In 1963, she challenged Virginia’s poll tax. Her lawsuit and a similar suit were combined and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966.

On March 24, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that poll taxes were an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and that “Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth nor to paying or not paying this or any other tax. After the ruling, Butts stepped up her efforts by helping thousands of African-Americans register to vote for the first time.

After the ruling, Butts helped thousands of African-Americans register to vote.

She also spearheaded a variety of voter-education initiatives and helped found the Concerned Citizens for Political Education, the most influential African American political organization in Norfolk during the 1970s. By the end of the 1970s Butts was considered one of the region’s most important African American political leaders.

The book includes a foreword by Kenneth Cooper Alexander, the first African American to be elected mayor of Norfolk. In his foreword for the book, he writes of Evelyn Butts, “What she accomplished as a voting rights champion truly spans the generations and deserves our continued recognition.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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