How Do We Get Students to Understand That Their Voice Counts: Eight Resources on Voting and Elections
How do we get students to understand that their voice counts – today and for the rest of their lives? These multimedia resources provide a thoughtful introduction to the history of voting, elections, and civic participation in different communities around the globe. From case studies on the Holocaust to films about the civil rights era, each resources reveals profound lessons about participating in democracies and the power of voting.
Chicano!: Episode 4 “Fighting for Political Power”
Since the time of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, Mexican Americans have struggled to achieve equality and full rights as citizens of the United States. Chicano is a four-part series that examines pivotal events that took place between 1965 and 1975, the period that was the focus of the Mexican-American civil rights movement. "Fighting for Political Power" follows the community of Crystal City, Texas, after a large group of white citizens moves from town following the election of five Mexican Americans to political office. The episode raises profound questions about inclusion and exclusion, and what it means to advocate for democratic change.
Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Movement is a comprehensive television documentary from PBS American Experience about the American civil rights movement. The 14-episode series utilizes rare historical film and present-day interviews. Episode five focuses on the extraordinary personal risks that citizens faced as they assumed responsibility for social change, particularly during the 1962-64 voting rights campaign in Mississippi.
Exploring the Past: "Freedom Summer"
The video clip "Freedom Summer" from Eyes on the Prize features civil rights activists — many of them students — who traveled to Mississippi to register African Americans to vote during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Teachers might want to show the clip then have a classroom discussion about the problems African Americans faced when trying to register to vote, such as physical threats, economic punishment, and biased "literacy" tests. You can find activities and lesson plans that use PBS’ Eyes on the Prize here.
Eyes on the Prize: Episode 14 “Back to the Movement”
Episode 14 of Eyes on the Prize contrasts the communities of Miami, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois, in the early 1980s. "Back to the Movement" traces the election of Harold Washington to the position of Chicago's first black mayor and explores the themes of power and powerlessness.
18 in 08
This nonpartisan video, conceived of by a former Facing History student, encourages young people to vote and demonstrates the effects youth can have on public policy. The short film includes interviews with politicians and activists, as well as a brief history of the evolution of voting rights and how they came to be extended to those 18 years of age or older.
Reading and Lessons
Civil Rights Historical Investigations
These three units ask students to "do" history—to gather evidence from primary documents, use that evidence to make claims about the past, and then apply what they learn to their own lives today. In the second unit, students explore voter discrimination in the South and the philosophy of nonviolence that guided civil rights activists' responses to this injustice, culminating in the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
Decision-Making in Times of Injustice
Lessons 7 and 8 in this unit supplement the classroom resource book Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. The lessons look at voting and elections in the Weimar republic as a window into how and why democracy crumbled and the Nazis came to power.
Hard Times Return
This reading from Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior introduces the political parties and platforms of Weimar Germany. Through the study of this particular moment in history, students gain a sense of what factors influenced the way these personalities might have voted.
Facing History's Julia Rappaport edited this article. For questions or tips on what Facing History is doing in your community, email her at Julia_Rappaport@facing.org.