For Educators: Voting Rights Act of 1965



Using primary document sources, students will learn about the creation and ratification of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the history of the Congressional Black Caucus' on-going efforts to ensure the enforcement of the law and the reauthorization of portions that had an expiration date. Students will also learn about the power of voting in a democratic society and why it is important to protect this right for all citizens.

Grade Level: 8-12

Essential Question: What social and political structures, particularly in the South, galvanized the protest and advocacy for an eventual ratification of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Learning Objectives
The students will respond to questions that require them to carefully study primary document sources to gain greater understanding about the impact of historical events.
The students will engage in research, writing, debate, and role playing to compare the relevance of past historical events to today's political and social climate.
National Learning Standards

National U.S. History Standards

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties.
Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)
Standard 1: Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics.

National Social Studies Standards

NSS-C.5-8-3 Principles of Democracy
How does the government established by the Constitution Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?
-Who represents you in local, state, and national governments?
-What is the place of law in the American constitutional system?
-How does the American political system provide for choice and opportunities for participation?

National Standards for Civics and Government

Content Standard V: What are the roles of the citizen in American Democracy?
B. What are the rights of citizens?
E. How can citizens take part in civic life?

National Visual Arts Standards

Content Standard 5: Analyzing contemporary and historic meaning in specific art works through cultural aesthetic inquiry.
Content Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.

Select an activity below to view full activity guidelines:

Documents, Resources and Worksheets Used in Voting Rights Act Lesson Unit

Warm-Up Activity: Know, Want, and Learned (KWL) chart organizer (pdf)

Activity 1: Interpretation: What is the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Video of President Johnson addressing Congress and Signing Bill (1:59 minutes)
Video of Historians and Political Leaders discussing this historic moment when the Act was signed and the impact of the Bill (5 minutes)

Activity 2: Obstacles to Participation in the Election Process

Activity 3: Protecting Our Right to Vote

1975 CBC memo to Caucus Members from Congressman Charles Rangel, CBC Chair
Handwritten note from CBC member, Parren Mitchell of Maryland
"Voting Rights Extension Act" speech delivered by Barbara Jordan of Texas, February 19, 1975

additional information and links.