Tips to teach and celebrate 54 years of the Voting Rights Act
Keeping the Voting Rights Act front and center in the classroom
Civics education is always in season, but especially these days as the country hurdles toward a contentious presidential election and interest in politics – at all levels – is surging.
Teachers looking to introduce more civics into their classrooms can start with the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law Aug. 6, 1965. The landmark legislation prohibits state and local governments from enacting laws that limit citizens’ right to vote based on race. “It makes sure every citizen, regardless of their race, has an equal opportunity to have a say and participate in our great democracy,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
The Voting Rights Act was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and a milestone in our democracy, extending rights to millions of people of color whose right to vote had been suppressed through discriminatory laws.
Over the years, some states and counties have chipped away at the act’s provisions, while other states have expanded voting rights. Twenty-six states, for example, now allow 17-year-olds to register to vote. Some states even allow 16-year-olds to register. Check your state’s minimum age voting requirements here.
Teachers who want to incorporate the Voting Rights Act into their lesson plans have plenty of great options. Here are a few resources to get you started:
- Civil Rights Teaching: Voting rights
- Martin Luther King Jr. Teaching and Research Institute: Lesson plan – civil rights or human rights?
- Informed Voter Education in the Classroom
List of voting rights teaching resources, provided by the National Education Association.
Do you have any tips for teaching about the Voting Rights Act? Let us know! Email Carri Schneider or Carolyn Jones with your ideas and inspirations.