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By Stanley Bowling

As we come up to the next midterm election in the U.S., it seems that as a nation we forget the reason for elections, and forget the challenges that came about so we could exercise this franchise.

In doing some image checks recently, this letter from The SNCC Papers (part of the History Vault Black Freedom module) caught my eye. It touched me because it is such a poignant letter, expressing not only the struggle to earn the vote and then encourage people to vote, but it also addresses the simpler things that were just part of daily life, such as going to a public swimming pool, mourning a loss, or sadly, having nobody to mourn your loss. Or having a diverse group of people working together for a common cause:

Items we take for granted, such as a telephone, were such a luxury then, that the author had to use the phone at the funeral home across the street.  While $300 for a phone may sound familiar in context to today’s phones, converted for inflation, that $300 in 1965 would be nearly $2,200 today!

The postscript of his conversation with a young woman at his hotel is especially emotional. I wonder how many similar cases would still be found today, not just in inner cities, such as nearby Detroit, but even in smaller cities such as Natchez, and around the world. There may be the desire to learn, and to better oneself, but there are still stones to trip over, causing many to fail. 

It is more than just a wish of mine that more people would see this, and learn for the first time, or remember what was involved to earn some of the rights and freedoms we enjoy, like voting. Then we must appreciate it enough to use it!

This is a reality because of the work we do here at ProQuest. Adding content to History Vault, or our HNP products, or GIS content, brings all of this to light. If people decide not to participate, not to exercise their franchise, it can no longer be simply that they don’t know, it is that they chose not to do so.

The importance of the work we do is typified by two recent ProQuest blog posts (here and here) related to History Vault content, and to this module specifically.

Of course, the real test in the U.S. tomorrow will be to see if people have learned from history, and actually vote when they get the chance.  Despite the tenor of some of the political ads, it is a right everyone should consider exercising; if for no other reason, because it cost so much to attain.  [More detailed information about voter turnout is available in the Statistical Abstracts of the U.S.]

(Other countries around the world have dealt with either low voter turnout, or astronomically high voter turnout. ProQuest International Datasets tracks Eurostat data, which European voter turnout for national and EU parliamentary elections. In Statistical Abstracts of the World, we have election tables in 20 of the 51 statistical yearbooks, featuring voter turnout data for Norway, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, and Israel.)

We never forget that our work here at ProQuest is important, and does have an impact on the world at large, because it holds up the mirror of the past.

Thank you for helping to make us successful.

03 Nov 2014

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