Carol Anderson’s new book—One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy—tracks targeted efforts by elected officials to deny African Americans the right to vote. This toolkit offers resources that can help you teach the subject of voter suppression and contextualize this history for students.
In our interview with Carol Anderson, the award-winning historian and author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, she details the ways in which a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, led to dismantling of portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act was a landmark victory of the modern civil rights movement that included protections for black voters in places where their right to vote had been actively suppressed. Since the Shelby decision, government-sanctioned actions such as gerrymandering, voter ID laws and poll closures have been on the rise, again systematically denying black people their right to vote.
This present-day injustice is grounded in a long history of denying people of color the same access to voting and representation as their white peers. It also indicates a vital through-line that students must learn so they can understand how the history of American government and society affects life today.
These resources offer background, tips and lessons that can help you teach this subject in a nonpartisan way.
- How can I teach effectively about voter suppression in my classroom?
- How does present-day voter suppression compare to voter suppression historically?
- What has allowed elected officials the leeway to enact tactics of voter suppression?
- How can my students use their voices—and, potentially, their votes—to take action against voter suppression?
1. Test your knowledge.
Begin by taking this quiz to see how much you already know about voting in America, and assess where you may need more background.
2. Learn the history of voting rights—and pass it on to your students.
Using our Democracy Class lesson “The History of Voting Rights,” you can first familiarize yourself with the ways voting rights expanded and contracted throughout the history of the United States. Then, pass the lesson on to students, encouraging them to recognize the degree to which Americans have continuously fought for the right to vote, and to consider the forms voter suppression takes today.
3. Learn these tips for teaching about voter suppression and gerrymandering.
These companion articles—“Teaching the Truth About Voter Suppression” and “Teaching the Truth About Gerrymandering”—offer concrete tips for tackling these subjects in a nonpartisan way. Take note of which tactics overlap with subjects you’re already teaching.
4. Browse our lessons, texts and activities to see which voting classroom resources could work for your students.
There are many options for educators hoping to find a way into a discussion about voter suppression, both historical and present-day. For example, our “Expanding Voting Rights” videos—and accompanying lessons—offer middle and high school students a visceral look at the fight for and against voting rights. Our Story Corner video, “Having the Talk,” gives elementary-age students a glimpse at reasons adults might not vote today. Our film kit for Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot helps guide you through lessons on an empowering documentary about how students led the fight for voting rights. You’ll find many more options on our Voting and Voices Classroom Resources page.
5. Motivate yourself!
We know this topic can raise eyebrows, especially for educators who anticipate administrative or community backlash for talking about voting—a seemingly “partisan” topic. We’re here to alleviate that concern—and to encourage you! Watch this video, in which we illustrate four key ways educators can teach voting in a nonpartisan manner—no matter what subject they teach. Read the accompanying article here.
We’ve pulled together some of our favorite resources for teaching about the history and process of voting in the United States.
Our September 2018 webinar with Rock the Vote is now available on demand! In it, you'll learn about free, use-tomorrow resources and strategies to help combat polarization in the classroom and create a culture that encourages civil discourse. You'll also explore lessons on the history of voting in our country and state-specific guides for conducting voter education and registration drives.