Voter Education Project
Founded during the civil rights era, the Voter Education Project (VEP) was an Atlanta-based voting rights and voter education organization that remained active for thirty years. The VEP granted funds to organizations throughout the southern states to administer voter education programs and voter registration drives.
Leslie Dunbar, the director of the SRC,
In 1964 the SRC proposed a permanent program with expanded goals, including maximum voter registration, citizenship education, and leadership training. The second executive director of the program, Atlanta attorney Vernon Jordan, established VEP offices in several southern states. From 1965 to 1970 the VEP continued to channel grant money to various voter registration projects throughout the South.
Although the VEP primarily focused its efforts on poor African American communities in the South, it also awarded grants to many organizations throughout the country. Both under the SRC and independent of it, the VEP remained a nonpartisan organization. It also functioned as a research center and became known as an authoritative source for statistics on southern elections and voter registration in general, as well as for trend analysis, studies on specific issues, and statistics broken down by race and gender. The VEP emphasized the collection of evaluative statistics for its own programs and the communication of its findings and results to the public.
The economic recession of the early 1970s severely curtailed the VEP's activities and reduced office staff. During this time the organization held benefit dinners, streamlined administrative functions, created an executive committee, expanded its board of directors, and increased its direct involvement in programming, all as strategies for the survival of the VEP.
In the middle and late 1970s the VEP participated in several national voter registration campaigns, expanding into radio and television. In 1977 John Lewis resigned as executive director to run for the U.S. Congress and was replaced by Vivian Malone Jones. The years 1977 and 1978 were low points for funding of the VEP, and staffing and programs were cut. Jones resigned in 1978 due to poor health, and Sherrill Marcus became the fifth executive director of the VEP.
Due to a lack of funding, the VEP closed its doors in January 1992. At that time executive director Ed Brown was the only employee, and he served his last months in that position unpaid. His final act was to transfer the records of the VEP to the library at Clark Atlanta University; the records are housed today at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center.
Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989).
Leslie W. Dunbar, "The Southern Regional Council," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 357 (January 1965): 108-12.
David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: Vintage Books, 1988).
Courtney E. Chartier, Atlanta University Center
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.