Black History Month
February is Black History Month
It is a chance to learn about leaders and events important to the history and progress of African-Americans in the United States. One civic learning opportunity related to Black History Month is voting rights. A large part of the civil rights movement was dedicated to establishing voting rights for all Americans.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guaranteed voting rights would not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. It was made official in 1870, after the Civil War.
In some states, African-Americans voted and were elected to local, state and federal offices. In other states, particularly in the South and in other areas, state governments enacted voting laws that required citizens to own property, pay a special tax or pass a literacy test to be eligible to vote. This meant that many people, including poor or uneducated African-Americans, were unable to register to vote.
Over time, civil rights supporters worked to overturn these voting requirements. This was done through activism, protests and other methods of communication and advocacy. The people involved included both famous leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as other private citizens who wanted to make a difference.
In 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It outlawed the literacy requirements for voter registration. It also provided federal protection to help ensure that voters were given equal opportunity to register and vote.
Use the context of Black History Month to learn and think critically about voting rights. A variety of activities are available. Modify based on your grade level or subject area. For example, you can focus students on the community, North Carolina, the United States or another country. Connect this to history, literature or in a global community. There are many opportunities for writing, reading, small group discussion and oral presentation. The activity aligns with several core standards. Skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Reading information
- Civic literacy
- Media literacy
- Civic leadership
- Effective communication
- Group discussion
- Connecting historic events, personal knowledge, current events or global life