Black History Month: IBEW Leader Breaks Down Voting Barriers for People of Color in Mississippi

It took years of hard work, but Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2262 member and former local president Charles Horhn didn't give up on his dream. Horhn, a member of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1966 March Against Fear in Mississippi and worked with the Mississippi AFL-CIO, the NAACP, as well as other community and faith groups to register voters of color all over the state starting in the 1960s.

Back when Horhn began his advocacy, only 6.7% of people of color in Mississippi were registered to vote and faced intimidation and violence when they tried to exercise their right to vote. Empowered by the Civil Rights Act, Horhn was able to dispel fear and help register more and more people to vote, working with local congregations to provide transportation to make registration and voting easier.

Decades of hard work paid off when enough representatives were elected to the Mississippi state legislature to overturn antiquated and discriminatory voting laws, such as the poll tax, and create a voter registration by mail system—a huge victory.  

Horhn was the president of his IBEW local for 20 years and helped to organize the plant where he worked and addressed various discriminatory practices in terms of hiring and job assignments (particularly related to African American women).  

Horhn has a message for the next generation of activists:

I encourage young people to continue to fight on for civil rights and workers' rights and always remember the history and that we're standing on someone else's shoulders.

Listen to Horhn's story here: