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50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

Photograph of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders look on, Washington, DC, April 6, 1965. (National Archives Identifier 2803443).

From the Civics Renewal Network:

50 years ago today — on Aug. 6, 1965 — President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed vote-suppression tactics adopted in much of the South after the Civil War. It also provided a legal avenue for court challenges of future voting restrictions.

In the summer of 1964, student volunteers from around the country joined organizers and local African Americans in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in Mississippi, one of the nation’s most segregated states. This Freedom Summer webpage was created by the National Endowment of Humanities’ EDSITEment Project and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It features historical background essays, bonus video of interviews with participants and original art work. Watch the entire film Freedom Summer at the bottom of the Created Equal homepage.)

This lesson from the American Bar Association provides 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 to deny minorities the right to vote. It offers opportunities to reflect on why the right to vote is important, and to appreciate the outcomes of constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and the Voting Rights Act in the expansion of this right.

For a complete list of voting resources from the Civics Renewal Network, click here.
For more information on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 from the National Archives, go here.
Also check out the Zinn Education Project’s “The Voting Rights Act: Ten Things You Should Know” here.

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