As Civil Rights Era Fades From Memory, Generation Gap Divides Black Voters

For years, Loretta Green has voted at her Southwest Atlanta precinct wearing the same custom T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of her first voter registration card, dated to 1960. The front of it reads: “This is why I vote.”

Since gaining the legal right, Ms. Green, 88, has participated in every possible election. This November will be no different, she said, when she casts a ballot for President Biden and Democrats down the ticket.

But conversations with her younger relatives, who have told her they’re unsure of voting or considering staying home, illustrate some of the challenges Mr. Biden’s campaign faces in reassembling his winning 2020 coalition, particularly in key battleground states like Georgia. While Ms. Green and many older Black voters are set on voting and already have plans in place to do so, younger Black voters, polling and focus group data show, feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all.

“To me, voting is almost sacred. Look at what people went through. The struggles. The people that allowed themselves to be beaten,” Ms. Green said of the civil rights movement that ignited her determination to vote in every election. “I think there are some young Blacks who probably feel like it didn’t even happen.”

Black voters have long been Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and high turnout from this bloc is crucial to Mr. Biden’s re-election. Any drop-off in support could imperil his chances of winning in November. And surveys have shown a striking generational divide within this bloc, driven by what many young people see as broken campaign promises and what party leaders have suggested is a difficulty in communicating Mr. Biden’s accomplishments to voters.

Ms. Green, an Air Force veteran, was excused from poll taxes in Alabama. Such poll taxes were abolished in the 1960s.Credit…Alyssa Pointer for The New York Times
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