Rock The Vote–Here’s Why

No matter who you are voting for today, the important thing is you get out and VOTE!!!!!

Too many people struggled and died (seriously) fighting for their right to be enfranchised. As a former high school history teacher and current community college history teacher, let me geek out for a minute today.

Women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920 (19th Amendment). The women’s suffrage movement officially started in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, although women had been fighting for their right to have a voice well before that.

Most states allowed some women (white, upper class) to vote in some ways prior to the 19th Amendment, however the vast majority was not enfranchised (nationally) until 1920 at the tail end of the Progressive movement. Suffragettes had a two-pronged strategy:  they pursued state-by-state campaigns to win residence-based state suffrage as well as fought for full national suffrage through a constitutional amendment.

Green=full suffrage; all other colors=some form of suffrage (orange was only presidential suffrage for instance); light red (mid-atlantic states and Alabama)=no suffrage

It was a hard-fought battle. Suffragist activism ranged from protests and leaflets to hunger strikes and 100-mile hikes. As a history teacher if I have time in class I usually love to show the movie Iron Jawed Angels with Hilary Swank, Frances O’Connor, Julia Ormond, Anjelica Huston AND Patrick Demsey. I highly recommend watching this movie (preferably TODAY!) but be warned: it’s pretty graphic since it’s about suffragettes that go on a hunger strike. Here’s the trailer:


These were some badass women who fought hard to give me my right to vote today.

Although the 19th Amendment meant that all citizens of the United States–men and women–were legally enfranchised, not all citizens were able to exercise their legal right to vote. African American men were given the legal right to vote with the 15th Amendment starting in 1870 during the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War. However, by the middle of the 20th century many black Americans–mostly those living in the South–were disenfranchised due to literacy tests, poll taxes (which also hindered poor Whites), and intimidation (lynching, KKK)–all part of the institution of Jim Crow. Literacy tests were administered at the discretion of the officials in charge of voter registration. If the official wanted a person to pass, he could ask the easiest question on the test–for example, “Who is the president of the United States” Even if someone knew all of the answers to the test, the official could still decide who passed and failed. Only the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 invalidated literacy tests.

Although literacy tests and poll taxes prevented many from voting, intimidation and fear played the biggest role in disenfranchising African Americans during the Jim Crow era. African Americans found voting risked severe violence, bodily harm, and/or death by lynching. Need I remind everyone that this was a mere 60 years ago?

[To accompany this picture, here is Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit–a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish high school teacher protesting lynchings]

Mississippi was one of the most violent of all states where Jim Crow was present. If you get a chance, please PLEASE watch Eyes On The Prize episode 5 “Mississippi: Is This America?” I’ve included it via YouTube here. It does such a wonderful job of revealing what happened in Mississippi from 1962 to 1964 as well as Freedom Summer, a campaign during the summer of 1964 in which northern college students traveled down south to work with civil rights organizations like SNCC to try to register as many African American voters as possible.

In fact, if you’d like to watch a historically accurate feature film on Freedom Summer and the murder of three young men, watch Mississippi Burning with Gene Hackman. Ready for another trailer?

Bottom line today? VOTE. Even if you have to work all day and am tired, hungry, have to wait in a line, have to walk to your polling place or have to take 5 metro rides. People fought for many years for the right that we can all exercise today.

I’ll be back later with a New Music Tuesday 🙂

Did you Rock the Vote today???

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10 Responses to Rock The Vote–Here’s Why

  1. Awesome post! I voted absentee about three weeks ago!

  2. I’m a Canadian and I’ll be up until the results are through! Great post!

  3. katiemoves says:

    Going to vote later today! Great post- love the history!

  4. Joelle says:

    I am a history teacher too and I love iron Jawed Angels. it is such a powerful movie.I’ve shown parts of it to my classes as well. Great post!!

  5. Yvette says:

    Thanks for posting Claire!

  6. Jorie says:

    Whoa, fascinating post, Claire! I had no idea you were a history teacher. That’s awesome. I absolutely love American history.

  7. Melissa says:

    I was voter #21 at 6:45am lol. #obama2012!!! Great great informative post Claire! :))

  8. jumpeatrun says:

    Awesome post! I voted first thing in the morning 🙂

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