Voting Rights Then and Now

Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Race & Racism
Social Justice
American Voters Stand in Line
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Grade Level:
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Race & Racism
Social Justice

Racial Discrimination and Safeguarding the Right to Vote 

In August 2015, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. The Voting Rights Act is landmark federal legislation that was enacted during the Civil Rights Movement and was intended to prevent racial discrimination in voting. Prior to that, even though Black people had the right to vote, barriers such as literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats and even violence prevented many people of color from voting. For almost fifty years the Voting Rights Act secured and safeguarded the right to vote for millions of Americans.  

Over the past several years, there have been developments that threaten voting rights. In addition to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder that gutted key elements of the Voting Rights Act, in many states there are restrictions on voting rights that disenfranchise Americans and disproportionately impact African American, Latinx, young and elderly people’s ability to vote. There are also tactics that some states use to intimidate or scare voters so that less people vote. Voting rights for all is a key component of any democracy and that right is in peril for hundreds of many Americans. 

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for high school students to explore the difference between the right to vote and the ability to vote, learn more about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and reflect on some of the current day threats to voting rights and what can be done about it.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will explore the complex nature of voting rights.
  • Students will learn about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and what led to its passage.
  • Students will read and reflect upon state laws that restrict many people’s ability to vote.
  • Students will understand and analyze their own state’s voting rules and restrictions.

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