BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Biloxi native Jean Smallman was a fierce advocate for voters' rights. She passed away back in August, but September 22, 2020 would have been her 79th birthday. It’s also National Voter Registration Day, so her family held a voter registration drive to honor her memory.
“My mother was one of the first black people in Biloxi to be able to vote after the Voting Rights Act was passed‚" Smallman’s daughter, Stevonne Doughty, said. “They had to take a test then on the U.S. Constitution. She was among the first blacks to vote.”
Jean Smallman was also an Army veteran who received a proclamation from the U.S. Armed Forces honoring her service.
The Rech Foundation took part in Tuesday’s effort. The organization is dedicated to education and restoring voting rights for people who have been incarcerated.
“I was incarcerated and my passion comes from own experiences," Pauline Rogers said. “In Mississippi, there are 22 disenfranchised things that keeps a person from voting. We’re on a mission to make sure people get restored because participating in democracy is important.”
Smallman instilled in her family community activism, and a passion for making a difference. Doughty knows her mother is looking down on her with pride.
“This is something she instilled in me as a little girl. The price that was paid. We don’t realize, especially African Americans, the blood, sweat, and tears for us to be able to vote,” Doughty said.
The deadline to register to vote is October 5, 2020. You can do so by mail or in person at your county’s circuit clerk’s office.
To find out if you are registered to vote, where your polling place is located, or how to vote absentee in Mississippi, visit: https://www.sos.ms.gov/Vote/Pages/default.aspx