African Americans and the Vote
"The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.  The year 2020 also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) and the right of black men to the ballot after the Civil War.  The theme speaks, therefore, to the ongoing struggle on the part of both black men and black women for the right to vote." 
Read the full summary through Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Major Figures

Sojourner Truth (1797-1833)

A former slave, Truth was an advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women's rights. She argued that suffrage for women should come simultaneously with suffrage for Black men. Her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" addressed discrimination on both race and sex. 

Thomas Mundy Peterson (1824-1904)

First known Black voter after the 15th Amendment's adoption.

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924)

Founder of the Women's Era Club in Boston, where she edited their monthly publication. She convened similar organizations together in Boston in 1895, where the National Federation of Afro-American Women was first organized. This organization was a precursor to NACW, of which she served as the first vice president. 

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Known for her journalism and anti-lynching activism, Wells condemned injustice and disenfranchisement in print, which made her a lot of enemies in the south. In 1913, she was going to join the suffrage parade through Wilson's inaugural parade when she was asked to stay out of the group by the organizers. Wells joined the parade anyway, but this incident illustrated the racism present within the women's suffrage movement. 

Mary Church Terrell (1864-1954)

One of the founders of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She is credited with coining the phrase, "Lifting as we climb", which became the motto for NACW. Terrell was an activist focused on women's suffrage and civil rights as she recognized that as a group, black women belong "to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount...both sex and race."

Harriette Moore and Harry T. Moore (1905-1951)

Both were educators in Florida. They organized The Progressive Voter's League in Florida in 1944 after Thurgood Marshall won Smith vs. Allwright declaring the all white democratic primary unconstitutional. Under Harry's leadership over 116,00 black voters were registered in the Florida Democratic Party over the span of 6 years. This work resulted in both Harriette and Harry getting fired from their teaching positions and Harry moving to full time work with the NAACP. Harry was the first NAACP official to be murdered in the civil rights era in 1851 when a bomb was placed under their bed. 

Malcolm X and "The Ballot or the Bullet" (1925-1965)

Malcolm X's speech in Detroit in 1964 was considered the fullest illustration of his black nationalists beliefs where he outlined his perspective on the fight for racial justice expanding from civil rights to human rights.

Amelia Boynton (1911-2015)

Boynton was the first African American woman in Alabama to run for congress in 1964 on the campaign slogan "a voteless people is a hopeless people." She marched alongside John Lewis and others in Selma on "Bloody Sunday" for voting rights.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)

Hamer was a sharecropper-turned-record-keeper on a cotton farm in Mississippi, a position from which she was fired when she attempted to register to vote in 1962.  She became active in the Civil Rights Movement despite murder attempts and a near-fatal beating because "The only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember." She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and eventually forced the integration of the state's delegation at the national party convention.

John Lewis (1940-2020)

Prominent civil rights leader and Congressman, John Lewis led over 600 protestors in Selma, Alabama in 1965 to protest for voting rights. Lewis was considered one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, despite his young age. 

Stacey Abrams (1973- )

Former candidate for Georgia governor, founder of Fair Fight, an organization committed to combating voter suppression in Georgia and nationwide.

Voting News in 2020

Use our Newspaper Guide to look into current topics such as​:

  • Gerrymandering
    • Gerrymandering and the Supreme Court
  • Voter disfranchisement
  • Voter Suppression

As well as historic topics such as:

  • The 15th Amendment and the 1870's
  • Race and the Women's Suffrage Movement
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965
    • Selma and Bloody Sunday

Organizations Supporting Voting Rights

Additional Ebooks