For Educators: Voting Rights Act of 1965

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


For this activity the students will read and analyze the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and discuss why this act was needed despite the existence of the 15th Amendment.

Class Time Needed: two or three class sessions

Teacher Tip


To begin this activity, ask the students to respond to the "What I Know" column on their KWL chart (pdf) about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After they have completed this task, the teacher will play the following videos:

Discussion Question:
Based on the information presented in the videos, what event or discriminating practices motivated President Johnson to address Congress about providing federal protection for the rights of African Americans and other minorities to vote? (The March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Jim Crow segregation laws, tactics to prevent voters from registering, etc.)


Tell the students that they will now have the opportunity to read portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was discussed in the short videos to learn about and understand the impact of the act then and now. This reading activity also gives the students an opportunity to review and interpret an actual bill.

Divide the class into five smaller groups. Print a copy of the document for each group.

Teacher Tip

Assign each group (see assignments below) a section of the Act for them to read and interpret its meaning. Remember, a word or phrase has been given to each assigned section as a clue to the students in interpreting the passage.

Give each group a large sheet of white paper and marker. Once they have read the passage within their group, they should write on the paper the groupís interpretation of what the requirements are of that section of the act.

Assignment Sections:

In a large group discussion, have each group share their interpretation of their assigned portion of the Act. After each presentation post the written interpretations on the wall for reference throughout the lesson.

Discussion Question:
Based on your interpretation of the act, what impact do you think it had on changing laws and practices to prevent voting registration in the 60s and now?

Web Research

To stimulate further discussion about the challenges of ensuring every American's right to vote, refer the students to the
Leadership Conference and Civil Rights (LCCR) web site to view
video testimonials from real people whose lives have been affected by the Voting Rights Act. These are contemporary stories supporting the need to renew and enforce the requirements of the Act.

Extended Activity 1: Creative Writing

Drawing from class discussions, video viewings and readings, engage the students in creative writing assignments. These exercises will enable the students to view the issue from the perspective of another person.

Creative Writing 1: Write a short story or poem based on the photo image: "Voting Rights Poster and Man on Grass." To focus students' observation of this image, share with them a copy of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet. The information they draw from reviewing the image may be incorporated in their writing.

Creative Writing 2: The Voting Rights Act Impact on other Minorities
Have the students write a narrative description of a discriminating experience that could impact oneís ability to vote, i.e. personal experience or an immigrant American experience, or the elderly.

Concluding Activity

Ask the students to now complete column two, "What I Want to Know" of their KWL chart organizer.

additional information and links.