Louisiana Literacy Test – 1964

Rigging an election

Fifty years ago, voting in the state of Louisiana was restricted to people who had attended school to Fifth-grade.  Anyone who couldn’t prove that they had this minimal level of education was required to pass an insane literacy test packed with questions that were deliberately confusing and ambiguous.

The test, of course, had nothing to do with education and everything to do with excluding blacks from the vote.  Countless ignorant, uneducated crackers were excused from taking the test while nearly all Louisiana blacks, even those with a university education, were forced to solve this ludicrous puzzle.

Here’s a few examples.

  • In the space below write the word “noise” backwards and place a dot over what would have been the second letter should it have been written forward.
  • In the first circle below write the last letter of the first word beginning with “L”
  • Cross out the number not necessary when making the number below one million.


  • In the third square below write the second letter of the fourth word.
  • Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.
  • Write every other word in the first line and print every third word in the same line but capitalize the fifth word that you write.

That sort of stupidity.   You can just see the ignorant redneck pedant who dreamed it up wheezing at his own cleverness, which is fairly limited since some of the questions could only have been posed by an ignorant, uneducated fool.

This, for example:

Divide a vertical line in two equal parts by bisecting it with a curved horizontal line that is straight at the point of bisection of the vertical.

People sitting the test had ten minutes to finish it, and they failed the test if they got a single question wrong (as judged by the all-white registrars of voters).  Most blacks failed.  Most whites passed.

Of course, that sort of thing would never happen today, right?

Why not take the test for yourself and find out if you would have been illiterate according to the State of Louisiana in 1964?

Louisiana State Literacy Test 1964 001



Louisiana State Literacy Test 1964 002

Louisiana State Literacy Test 1964 003

Here are some Harvard students trying to prove their literacy.


6 thoughts on “Louisiana Literacy Test – 1964

  1. My favourite is: “spell backwards, forwards”.
    As opposed to spelling it backwards.


    Did you have to do it blindfolded too, while doing a jig and juggling some balls?

  2. I presume you are referring to the recent push by Republicans and Conservatives to purge the voter polls to prevent fraud and how it’s disproportionally affecting blacks and other minorities? Journalist Greg Palast has some excellent investigations on all this.
    Quick take from The Daily Show

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