Our Story

In the wake of the 2004 general election Ken Smaltz launched Black Folk Must Vote as a way to bring more Black voters to the polls, especially after the controversial Florida election recount of 2000. The inspiration to start an initiative came from an original pin-back button with the “Black Folk Must Vote” slogan. The slogan was first used in Mississippi in the 1960s to register and encourage African Americans to vote in a mock election. Today, “Black Folk Must Vote” is one of the longest running, most recognizable pro-voting slogans out there. Here’s our full story:  

  • 2004: BFMV

    A few months before the 2004 general election, Ken Smaltz revives the 1960s “Black Folk Must Vote” slogan to help bring Black voters back to the polls.  

  • 2004

    BFMV launches with this endorsement from LL Cool J at Howard University’s Homecoming in Washington, DC. 

  • 2004

    The Washington Times covers BFMV during Howard's Homecoming. 

  • 2007

    BFMV unveils logo and voter education materials. 

  • 2007

    Founder Spotlight: Ken Smaltz is an Uptown Magazine Innovator.

  • 2007

    Ken Smaltz and BFMV march in Jena, LA to protest attempted murder charges against six Black teens convicted in the beating of a white classmate. (This is the story of this BFMV/Ken Smaltz photo seen around the world!) 

  • 2008

    BFMV is center stage at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) “Rip the Runway” fashion show.

  • 2008

    BFMV launches its first-ever HBCU college tour during the historic 2008 Presidential election.

  • 2008

    Models encourage Black folks to vote during the Diesel Spring 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Tent, Bryant Park. 


    Naomi Campbell spotted on 5th Avenue wearing a BFMV button.

  • 2012

    BFMV founder educates young people at Safe Space on the importance of voting. Safe Space serves at risk, homeless and disadvantaged youth.

    BFMV registers students to vote at Lehman College  GOTV event.

  • 2012

    BMFV teams up with Power 105.1 and Jaslene Gonzalez, the first Latina to win America’s Next Top Model, to encourage Black and Latino people to vote.

  • 2014

    MSNBC’s ‘MHP Show,’ host Melissa Harris Perry holds up Black Folk Must Vote button on air during a segment on voting.

  • 2014

    BFMV marches in New York City to stand with the families of Eric Garner (Staten Island/NYC) and Michael Brown Ferguson, MO) against police brutality.

  • 2016

    BFMV founder Ken Smaltz goes live with Charles Elison of the Elison Report, a weekly radio show and Journal of Politics, policy and the people.

  • 2016

    Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members endorse BFMV at the CBC Foundation’s 2016 Annual Legislative Conference.

  • 2016

    BFMV attends the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia,PA - July 25 - 28.

  • 2016

    BFMV volunteers drive Philadelphian voters to the polls on election day.

  • 2018

    Black leaders endorse BFMV at the National Cares Mentoring Movement’s 4th Annual 'For the Love of Children' Gala. 

  • 2019

    Journalist Roland Martin promotes BFMV on MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi.

  • 2019

    BFMV slogan appears "Let the People Decide," a documentary film by Gavin Guerra about the struggle for voting rights in the US.     

  • 2020 - New Logo

    BFMV launches new Logo 

  • Feb 2020

    BFMV launches new pro-voting PSA during Black History Month.

  • March 2020

    Ken Smaltz and Harlem's Fashion Row (HFR) founder/CEO Brandice Henderson co-host BFMV's 2020 Media Mixer and voter education event.

  • May 2020

    BFMV and FoxSoul announce new partnership and plan to launch the 'FOR THE CULTURE' VIRTUAL CAMPAIGN with celebrity supporters to create awareness and collectively motivate millions of eligible Black voters. 

  • July 4, 2020

    BFMV and FOX SOUL launches 'SOULMATES FOR BLACK FOLK MUST VOTE!' Call-to-Action with key influencers and celebrity supporters.

  • Black Folk Must Vote vintage button

    August 25, 2021

    The inclusion of the “Black Folk Must Vote” button in the Smithsonian Institution.
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