A 99-year-old man who was born on a plantation just cast his vote in the 2020 election.
Dr. Robert H. Smith Sr., the son of a sharecropper, exercised his rights in Jackson, Miss. and proudly sported his "I Voted" sticker, ABC News reported.
"I remember when I couldn't vote," Smith told ABC News. "Voting is an experience that every American citizen should have."
The 15th Amendment forbade discriminatory voting practices in 1870. But literacy tests and poll taxes still served to prevent Black citizens from fully being able to participate in the nation's democracy until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Smith said he'd reflected on Black Americans' long road to freedom while waiting in line to cast his ballot.
"I lived through the whole process of gaining the ballot, so being able to participate was satisfying for me," he told CNN.
And he wasn't bothered by the slow-moving line.
"It was very pleasing to see so many people out to vote," Smith said. "And to be a part of the excitement that was going on around me."
The Hinds County, Mississippi resident was born in 1921 on the Burks Plantation near Rayville, Louisiana. While his father eventually transitioned from sharecropper to Baptist preacher, Smith finished high school and served with the U.S. Army during World War II.
Smith continued to focus on his education after returning home. He earned a bachelor's degree at Southern University, master's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later, a Ph.D. from Florida State University. The Louisiana native fought against discrimination while going to school, joining the community relations committee at the University of Illinois and participating in sit-ins.
In 1943, Smith met Grayce Stewart, a nurse from Harlem who would become his wife of 72 years. The couple gave birth to three children. Smith also worked as an educator for much of his live, teaching at HBCUs. The former dean said one his greatest accomplishments is when he became a Deacon Emeritus at New Hope Baptist Church Jackson.
Seeing the recent protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people whose lives have been stolen as a result of systemic racism, Smith said it's reminiscent of the past and an indication of the road ahead.
"I've been involved in this movement for the past 50 years, but there's much more to be done," the 99-year-old said.
According to CNN, registration for Black voters has continued to increase since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, reaching a record-high of 73% in 2012 when Barack Obama ran for reelection. In his final essay before his death, Rep. John Lewis encouraged people to exercise their right to vote.
"Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it," Lewis wrote in a column for The New York Times, which was published after his death.