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I came across a tweet today with this image and text, which looks very wrong to me:

Putting Kamala Harris as VP into perspective.See the red box? Until then, she would have been enslaved.See the blue box? Until then, she couldn’t vote. Yellow box? Until then, she had to attend a segregated school. The green one? Until then she couldn’t have her own bank account

enter image description here

To be clear (since it took me a minute) this is a composite picture of all of the USA's Vice Presidents, in chronological order.

The biggest problem I see here is that the Voting Rights Act wasn't passed until 1965, which is clearly long after the late-mid 19th Century VP circled in blue in the picture. I'm also quite sure that schools remained segregated until at least the early 70's until anti-housing discrimination legislation and court-ordered busing, which happened considerably after the Eisenhower/Nixon administration.

I'm also suspicious that the first red circle likely marks the Emancipation Proclamation, not the ratification of the constitutional amendment that made slavery illegal nationwide.

So where should these colored circles really be?

Additionally, it might also be nice to know what happened during the VP's term to make the picture's creator think that was the right place to put that box, if that's discernible.


Update: Dicussion in the comments has made it clear that the picture itself is not chronological earlier than the bottom two rows. While that renders it pretty damn useless for its original supposed purpose(!!), this question itself seems to be unaffected, because the boxes are still on the wrong men.

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    Could the blue /vote box be based on her gender? – Mark C. Wallace Jan 25 at 16:43
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    @MarkC.Wallace - You know, that might make sense. Being the guy I am, didn't even think of that. Still, intersectional bigotry should be considered, so pretty clearly one ought to take the later of the reasons she would not have been allowed to vote. Sounds like a good thing for someone to put in an answer. – T.E.D. Jan 25 at 16:55
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    Also, has Kamala Harris ever lived in a former Confederate State? She'd not have been a slave unless resident in a slave state. She graduated high school from Westmount High in Montreal, at that time the most exclusive school district in Canada bar none - though Lawrence Park in Toronto did pass it shortly afterwards. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 25 at 17:35
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    I think all the VPs are there, at least, it's 48 pictures and there were 48 before Harris. But the order is entirely messed up from the beginning – Gort the Robot Jan 25 at 17:54
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    @PieterGeerkens - I thought of that (mostly from the standpoint of her being a California resident), but it seems fairly clear the picture wasn't intended to be California-specific (slavery was outlawed there in 1850), so I think the proper way is to continue to look at it as when these things were really no longer being allowed anywhere in the USA. – T.E.D. Jan 25 at 18:08
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First off, the language was obviously more imprecise than we'd like here. Instead I'd prefer to talk about what a woman of African and/or (Asian) Indian decent would be entitled to do everywhere in the USA, by circling the VP under whose service that right was effectively enforced, or if the office was vacant, then next VP.

This should get rid of nits like that she wasn't born yet, or arguments about where she would theoretically have been living.

Given that:

  1. Slavery was outlawed in the entire USA by the 13th Amendment, which was certified as passed on December 18, 1865. There's an exception that remains to this day for criminal punishment.

Many people incorrectly believe this was accomplished with the Emancipation Proclamation, but that was a wartime order, applicable only to rebelling areas not the entire nation.

  1. This one is more arguable, but the strongest case is probably for this happening nationwide with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effective on August 6th of that year.

Technically, the 14th and 15th amendments should have guaranteed this right, but it was only with the passage of the VRA that the most common dodges and humbug ways to work around those amendments were made illegal nationwide. However, at least one state took this to the Supreme Court, and that case wasn't decided until 1970, so you could make an argument for that date. However, that challenge wasn't or racial or gender grounds, but rather age.

  1. This one's really complicated. The strongest case is probably for April 20th, 1971 (Swann), when the courts finally got serious about forcing recalcitrant cities to integrate their schools.

One could argue other dates, going back as early as Brown vs. the Board of Education on May 17, 1954, to as late as 1998, when Topeka schools were certified fully desegregated. However, prior to Swann cities were using tricks with district boundaries and housing discrimination (both legal and otherwise) to make sure students of color didn't really have an opportunity to go to all the same schools as the white kids.

Its also worth noting that educational discrimination on the basis of gender wasn't outlawed until June 23, 1972, which is even later than the date arrived at above.

  1. October 29, 1974 was when the equal credit opportunity act was passed. This essentially made it illegal for lending institutions to discriminate against women. Prior to this, many would require a woman to present a man to cosign any account. It was passed with surprisingly little fanfare.

When the Banking committee marked up the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, Boggs added a provision barring discrimination over sex or marital status -- without telling her colleagues first, inserting the language on her own and photocopying new versions of the bill.

"Knowing the members composing this committee as well as I do, I'm sure it was just an oversight that we didn't have 'sex' or 'marital status' included," Boggs told her colleagues, according to the House historian's office. "I've taken care of that, and I trust it meets with the committee's approval."

The committee approved the bill unanimously.

Rolling this up, we get:

  1. Red Box (Slavery) - Schuyler Colfax was the next VP to take office after that. The office was vacant at when it passed.
  2. Blue Box (Voting) - Hubert Humphrey
  3. Yellow Box (Segregated Schools) - Gerald Ford
  4. Green Box (Sexist Banking) - Nelson Rockefeller

How the original did:

  1. Johnson (March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865) - Wrong. He was President when the 13th was passed. He wasn't even a Senator yet when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but the EP did not free all enslaved Americans, so that wouldn't matter anyway. He was VP when the Civil War ended, so that's likely what they were thinking.

  2. Calvin Coolidge (March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923) - Wrong, and I'm not sure what the heck they were thinking with this one. The best I can come up with is the 19th Amendment (allowing women to vote nationwide), but it was passed in 1920, and black women were still not allowed to vote in many states for decades after that.

  3. Nixon (January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961) - Arguably wrong. One can make the argument if one takes the earliest possible date mentioned above, but being the earliest possible, its also the weakest possible argument.

  4. Agnew (January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973) - Wrong. Off by two, unless they were thinking of something other than the ECOA.


With my own poor image editing skills, I've fixed the order of the images to be more chronological, and circled the appropriate ones as above.

enter image description here

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  • I'd originally wanted to post this as a Community Wiki answer, but after typing it up, I think there's too much of my own judgement involved in it for that. Would be willing to switch it if I'm wrong about that. – T.E.D. Jan 26 at 3:30
  • Also, I'd like to point out that the errors were consistently on the side of making things out to be earlier than they actually were. That's ... somewhat distressing. – T.E.D. Jan 26 at 3:44
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    Revised graphic is (IMHO) even more impactful; so much of the change occurred within my own lifetime. Nicely done. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 26 at 14:34
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    BTW, if anyone really wants to make an answer with the circles in different places, I've posted an uncircled chronological copy in our Time Machine chat. – T.E.D. Jan 26 at 17:18
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    My guess is that the blue is meant to represent women's suffrage. Given the level of "scholarship" of the original, it wouldn't surprise me if widespread black voter suppression slipped their mind. – Gort the Robot Jan 26 at 17:47
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Red box (End of Slavery)

The red box should be empty. When the 13th amendment was ratified, there was no Vice President.

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." archives.gov

Wikipedia Johnson was vice president under Abraham Lincoln and became president on April 15, 1865 after Lincoln's death. A vacancy in the office of vice president was not filled until the next election prior to the adoption of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967.

Wikipedia provides a list of VP and images LOC and ThoughtCo may be useful for checking facts.

Note that Wikipedia's chart shows when the office was vacant.

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  • Working quickly before my next meeting; I'm open to corrections – Mark C. Wallace Jan 25 at 18:26
  • It would be interesting to see a version of this composite with blank spaces for all the times there was no VP for a significant period. That's probably better as fodder for another question some day though. – T.E.D. Jan 25 at 18:29
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    Note "abolished" but "ratified." – Moishe Kohan Jan 25 at 20:14

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