On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This landmark piece of legislation made discrimination based on race illegal. This law protected the right to vote for all citizens; forced states to obey the Constitution; and reinforced the 15th Amendment. The Share My Lesson team has curated a collection of free lesson plans, activities, and classroom materials that educators can use to teach students about the Voting Rights Act.
This lesson provides students with a brief overview of the historical evolution and expansion of voting rights in the United States. Students will discuss examples of previous “voting qualifications” used by states in the past to deny minorities the right to vote. They will reflect on why the right to vote is important, and appreciate the outcomes of constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and the Voting Rights Act in the expansion of this right.
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.
Students will learn about the Constitution’s many provisions for voting, including how votes affect the makeup of the government and its branches. The lesson and lesson extensions will have students engage in activities and participate in discussions about how officials are chosen in the three branches of government and how the election process includes the Electoral College.
In this activity, students will explore the struggle for universal suffrage long after both men and women constitutionally had the right to vote. Following a progressive timeline, primary sources highlight voting problems that arose for minority groups throughout the 20th century. Students will answer questions as they work through the documents to reflect on if and when universal suffrage was ultimately achieved.
Freedom Summer is a game-based learning module in which players explore the relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the contentious civil rights debate in Congress. Players are presented with a series of 20 historic events and are required to predict the consequences of each event. Players discover how events of the Civil Rights Movement and concurrent events in Congress impacted each other and the role that both Congress and individuals play in representative democracy.
The book Our Rights, written by David J. Bodenhamer, uses historical case studies to explore the rights in the Constitution. Supreme Court cases are used to demonstrate how a right received its modern interpretation, how the right applies today, and how courts and other interpreters seek to balance this right with important societal concerns such as public safety. The complete book or individual chapters can be downloaded.