The 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment — the Reconstruction Amendment on the right to vote — is this year, also an election year.
This is an ideal time to teach about the long history of the struggle for voting rights, the Reconstruction era, and contemporary issues in voting.
The struggle for the ballot is emblematic of the struggle to make real the democratic promises of this country’s founding narrative. Just as the United States has never been a true “government by the people, for the people,” the right to vote has always been incomplete, contested, and compromised by the racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia of policymakers and the status quo they act to protect.
Voting rights have expanded in the last 400 years; but they have also been taken away, requiring activists to rise up, again and again, to restore of the achievements of prior generations. The fight for the ballot is ongoing.
In a moment of renewed and insidious voter suppression, examining the history of Reconstruction and the struggle for voting rights presents an opportunity to challenge the deeply entrenched fable of the steady forward progress of U.S. history. Students can learn about the tremendous accomplishments of an interracial Reconstruction era coalition that brought public education, the right to vote, and other progressive laws to African Americans and whites alike — and how those efforts were dismantled in the decades that followed.
Toward that end, the Zinn Education Project is partnering with Color of Change on a campaign to teach about voting rights — in history and today — on this 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment. We are offering:
- Who Gets to Vote? Teaching About the Struggle for Voting Rights in the United States unit with three lessons on the history of the fight for voting rights.
- Resources on the 15th Amendment for teachers and students
- Classroom and School Commemorations of the 15th Amendment mini-grants for speakers and other resources. (Can be done remotely.)
- Color of Change Voting Rights Toolkit for students, parents, and community members who are committed to take action to protect and expand the right to vote.
- A formal request to school districts to devote more time and resources to the Reconstruction era.
Please share this announcement on social media with the hashtag #TeachVotingRights.