Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Erin McClam

President Barack Obama says voting rights must be “vigorously defended.” And he’s making the case in an unusual place — a letter to the editor.

The New York Times published the letter Wednesday in response to an article in its Sunday magazine last month describing efforts to undercut or dismantle the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act,” Obama wrote. “Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.”

President Barack Obama listens as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House.Susan Walsh / AP

He called it a “cruel irony” that Southern polling stations once used the preamble to the Constitution as part of a literacy test to suppress voting.

The president was moved by the article’s portrayal of Rosanell Eaton, 94, who was one of the first black voters to register in her North Carolina county in 1939. Eaton is a plaintiff in an ongoing federal court case seeking the repeal of certain voting restrictions.

“I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality,” the president wrote.