Valentine’s Gift From My Great-Grandfather

Yvonne Moore shares the story of how her great-grandfather inspired her passion for democracy and voting rights.

Yvonne Moore is the Principal Advisor at Moore Philanthropy. We are very grateful for the chance to share her story!

Have you ever heard of a poll tax? This is a copy of my paternal great-grandfather’s poll tax receipt. He paid a tax of $1.75 so that he could exercise his right to cast his vote. And in 1936, that was a day’s wage!

Would you give up a day of your pay to cast YOUR vote?

Image: 1936 Poll Tax Receipt

Poll taxes were just one of the legal means used in state and local governments throughout the United States to try and keep Black folks from voting. Maybe you’ve heard about some of the other ways:

  • “There’s a fee you have to pay in order to vote; everybody has to pay it.”
  • “Can you read or write? We’ll have to test you to make sure.”
  • “Do you own any land? Oh, only landowners are allowed to vote in this county.”

Yvonne with her great-grandfather, William A. Daniels

My grandmother, who was a teacher, was wise enough to keep a copy of my great-grandfather’s poll tax receipt. She later had the receipt enlarged and laminated so it could be preserved, and then gave a copy to my father. When my father found the receipt again (decades later), he showed it to my siblings and me.

We were simply amazed. To see a piece of American history brought to life, to be reminded of the systematic structured oppression of our people, was no longer a random fact. It was personal, not just history. As the eldest child, I actually knew my great-grandfather.

I now keep his poll tax receipt on my office wall because I never want to forget about my rights, my voice or my obligations. Democracy is not a spectator sport. In order for it to work, we have to be involved in the process, know the rules and share that information with others. Although poll taxes became unlawful under the 24th Amendment to the Constitution and many other barriers were eliminated with the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, do not be fooled. The tools and methods used to disenfranchise voters have changed, but the game remains the same today. Voter ID laws – ring a bell?

Listen, if there are people who want to try to suppress your right to vote, don’t make it easy. How do you fight back?

  • Learn exactly what you need in order to register to vote, and cast a ballot on election day, in your state.
  • Register to Vote. And if you missed the most recent deadline, register NOW anyway. You’ll be ready for the next election.
  • If you have any questions about what documents or ID you need in order to register and vote, or if you need help getting an ID so you can vote, contact VoteRiders: toll free at 844-338-8743 or visit their website at!
  • And finally – Vote!

Don’t give away your vote and your voice. Take your power back!