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The power of the black vote

History and data reveals in every election, black voters have increasing power in Democratic primaries.

MINNEAPOLIS — Black voters make up about 20-percent of all Democratic voters. That is according to data from the Pew Research Center.

History and data reveals in every election, black voters have increasing power in Democratic primaries; but one of the most well known civil rights activist in the state wants to know if young black voters understand the power of their vote. 

Josie Johnson, born in 1930, has been an activist in Minneapolis since the late 1950s. We talked to her about suppression of the black vote for a black history special report which marked 150 years since the 15th amendment, which gave black men the right to vote following the Civil War.

"I am not sure sometimes whether our children, young people, have seen enough positive results of voting," she said. "I  have observed that is taken rather casually by many of our young people because they are not yet convinced voting matters."

Johnson risked her life  in the late 50's and 60's fighting for voting fairness.

She said she remembers vividly the abuse black men and women endured fighting for the right to vote. At the end of our conversation, she left us with questions for young voters.

"I am interested in your generation of black people and their sense of the right to vote," she said after we asked if she had anything else to share. "How are we going to urge our people to truly think about voting and voting rights in the serious forum that our ancestors believed and died for?"

RELATED: How to vote in Minnesota on Super Tuesday

So we put out a call on social media  asking voters to respond. 

Robert Harper, 26, said this will be his third time voting in the presidential election. 

Miles Mendes, 18, also responded. Mendes will vote for the first time on Super Tuesday.

Josie Johnson: "I am interested in knowing do they feel that their elders and ancestors have created an environment for them to want to vote and to be active and engaged?"

Miles Mendes: "I am not really sure. My dad has taught me about why it is important  to vote. My mom told me to register."

Robert Harper: "There is a gap between older African Americans who are active participating in policy and people my age. A lot of folks my age don't understand what Super Tuesday is or what  the importance of it. A lot of folks  don’t feel their voices are impactful at a local level or on a larger scale."

Miles Mendes: "I just learned today that voting on Tuesday is a big part of what comes in November. I thought (Super Tuesday) was mostly for the older people to vote."

Harper: "During presidential elections, you start to hear politicians talk about the needs of African Americans a lot more  than you do any other time throughout that four year span."

Johnson: "I really want to know how our young people feel about the society today. Do they feel safe?"

Harper: "In the United States today, I feel safe but I do not feel politicians and polices are working in the best interest of people who look like me."

Mendes: "We don’t always have the fair rights. This  is our opportunity  as young people to take up what  (people like Josie Johnson) left off and do the best we can and keep pushing for African Americans and our rights."

Johnson: "We have got to keep teaching but we also have to prove that (voting)  matters. And that things change. So many of our people don't see change."

Harper: "History shows if we show up to the polls and vote we have the power to influence outcomes."

RELATED: Can I change my early vote if my candidate dropped out?

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