The voting rights virtual book discussion canceled by the Lafayette Parish Library Board begins March 10 thanks to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Edith Garland Dupré Library.
The "Who Gets to Vote?" book discussion is funded by a grant through the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
The UL library was awarded the grant after the board of the Lafayette Parish public library system declined the grant in January. Board members said two university professors selected to moderate the discussion were too left-leaning and the library director, who has since retired, did not select a conservative moderator as they instructed.
Some of the board members accused the librarian and others of turning the voting rights book series into a political controversy with only one side represented. Some of the topics that could have been discussed included voting rights for convicted felons and voter suppression.
The public library board's decision drew strong reaction from library supporters and gained national news media attention. Some called for the resignations of five board members who voted to reject the LEH grant.
At a meeting scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Monday at the main library in downtown Lafayette, the library board is expected to appoint an interim library director to serve up to six months while a search is conducted to replace Teresa Elberson, who resigned days after the board rejected the LEH grant.
UL has scheduled four book discussions from 6:30-8 p.m. between March 10 and March 31 on Zoom. Pearson Cross, a UL professor of political science, will facilitate the discussion on March 10 and 24. Theodore Foster, an assistant professor of history at UL, will moderate on March 17 and 31. Foster was one of the two original moderators chosen when the public library board rejected the LEH grant.
The book discussion schedule includes:
• March 10: The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present by Allan J. Lichtman.
• March 17: Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones.
• March 24: One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson.
• March 31: Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy by Gary May.
Participants are expected to discuss themes such as the expansion of voting rights since the country’s founding, the electoral process, women’s suffrage and historic and contemporary voter suppression practices.
The LEH grant covers the cost of books for participants. The number of participants is limited. Spots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. A waiting list will be available in case of dropouts.
Those interested can register here. The Zoom link will be sent to participants one week before the discussion date.
For those who are unable to register but wish to participate, the University will provide a simulcast on Dupré Library’s YouTube channel. Acadiana Open Channel, Lafayette's open access channel, has agreed to televise the discussions and livestream them to its YouTube channel.
“Who Gets to Vote?” is part of the “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
UL supporters for the book discussion series include the Department of History, the College of Liberal Arts and the NAACP campus chapter. Community supporters include the Lafayette League of Women Voters and the Acadiana Center for the Arts.