Background Information

It is important to reveal historical accounts that are left out or “brushed over” by mainstream history textbooks and education curriculum. Educators and students should pose the question: why do textbooks and curriculum brush over controversial topics and suppress those who have been victim to social and political abuse. This webpage is designed to further uncover the stories of those who fought for their constitutional right to vote. By looking through our webpage, students will be asked to analyze primary source documents of Women, African American’s and 18 year olds pleading for their right to vote. The primary sources will include letters, postcards, videos, and pictures. Teaching history through primary sources gives students accurate historical information and tells the stories of those who were socially and economically inferior.

African American Suffrage
The first tab titled “African American Suffrage” explains the harsh, brutal and brave road African Americans took in order to attain their voting rights.

On February 3, 1870 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the 15th amendment into law, giving African American males the right to vote. Although African American males were granted the right to vote in 1870, Jim Crow Laws nearly prohibited African Americans from voting. What are Jim Crow Laws, you ask? Well, Jim Crow Laws were local and state laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern states. These laws encouraged voting restrictions such as:

  • Poll taxes: People had to pay to vote, and the law makers knew that most African Americans could not afford the fee.
  • Literacy tests: These were given to African Americans when they would register to vote and when they went to vote. If they did not pass, they could not register. These tests were nearly impossible to pass.
  • Grandfather Clause: This clause was signed into law in some southern states in 1898. The grandfather clause denied suffrage to African Americans by taking the right to vote from anyone whose grandfather did not vote prior to 1867. Due to the 15th amendment was not signed until 1870, African Americans could not vote.

It was not until 1965 when President Lyndon B, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law that African Americans were truly given the right to vote.

Woman Suffrage
The second tab titled “Woman’s Suffrage” will explain the road women took to get voting rights. On August 18, 1920, President Wilson signed the 19th amendment into law, giving all American women the right to vote. While the 19th amendment is celebrated in school curriculum, the brutal fight for women’s suffrage is often overlooked. Women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, Alice Paul, and many more fought long and hard (62 years) in order to receive their right to vote. Many times, people are shown photographs of women peacefully protesting and they are told that President Wilson helped women receive their right to vote, but they are not told of the brutalities that women endured while protesting or imprisoned, or of the stories of President Wilson ignoring their pleas from prison cells. Yes, we said prison cells. Women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were imprisoned and tortured for peacefully protesting and advocating women’s suffrage. Click here for a secondary account of what women such as Lucy Burns and Alice Paul endured while fighting for their right to vote.

18 Year-Old Suffrage
The third tab titled “18-year old Suffrage” tells the stories of 18-year-old soldiers arguing that “if we are drafted and fight in war then we should be allowed to vote.” During WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt lowered the draft age from 21 to 18. Since the draft age was lowered, many young soldiers believed if they could fight in war then they should be allowed to vote! By the early 1970’s the American culture of young adults was ripe for change. Many young American’s and University students took to the streets to protest the Vietnam War along with lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. Lowering the national voting age became a controversial topic in congress when congressmen decided to create a bill that had the lowered voting age riding in on the coat tails of another bill. President Nixon, however, did not permit congressman to pass the bill in such a way because he knew that 18 year old suffrage needed to be a bill of its own. Due to this, congressman created a new bill that strictly proposed the 26th amendment. On July 5th, 1971 the Richard M. Nixon Administration ratified the 26th Amendment

After analyzing each tab, the students will choose an activity to complete. The activities include creating a Two-Voice poem, writing an essay, or drawing an illustration. The directions for each activity is under the tab titled “Performance Task.”