Readings for the Document Based Lesson on the Voting Rights Act


Here are links to the readings for A Documents-Based Lesson on the Voting Rights Act: A Case Study of SNCC’s Work in Lowndes County and the Emergence of Black Power. We recommend printing the student readings to have as a reference as you read the lesson description. We have only included the text readings, not the video clips. The Additional Resources lists for students and teachers are optional.

Required: Students Readings

  1. Ella Baker, “Bigger than a Hamburger,” delivered in April 1960 and published in The Southern Patriot, June 1960.
  1. Atlanta Students, “An Appeal for Human Rights,” The Atlanta Constitution, March 9, 1960.
  1. John Lewis and SNCC, Speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Aug. 1963.
  1. John Hulett, “How the Black Panther Party Was Organized,” May 23, 1966.
  1. Stokely Carmichael readings, 1966-67.

a. Carmichael with Charles Hamilton, “Black Belt Election: A New Day A’Coming” excerpted from Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (New York: Vintage, 1967), reprinted in The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader, ed. by Clayborne Carson, et al. (New York: Penguin, 1991), pp. 262-68.

b. Stokely Carmichael, “What We Want,” Sept. 1966 in New York Review of Booksexcerpt published in The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader ed. by Carson, pp. 282-86.

  1. Courtland Cox, “What Would It Profit a Man?” 1966.
  1. SNCC Political Education Materials, created for Lowndes County in 1965-67 by SNCC staffers Courtland Cox and Jennifer Lawson. “One Man, One Vote: Is this the party you want? Or is this?,” “Us Colored People,” Sheriff, Tax Assessor, Coroner, and Board of Education.
  1. Jack Minnis, “Lowndes County Freedom Organization: The Story of the Development of an Independent Political Movement on the County Level,” 1967.
  1. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, “A Story Too Often Untold,” in Bridges: The Story of the Voting Rights Struggle in Selma & the Black Belt ed. Connie Tucker (Selma, AL: Imani Press, 2015), pp. 104-7.
  1. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, on “freedom rights” and “freedom politics,” excerpts from Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in the Alabama Black Belt (New York: New York University Press, 2010), pp. 4, 8, 177.


Optional: Additional Resources For Students

  1. “The Lowndes County Freedom Organization, 1965-66: ‘Vote for the Panther, Then Go Home,’” in Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s ed. by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer (New York: Bantam, 1990), 267-82.
  1. Ordinary People’: Alabama and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization,” in A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC ed. by Cheryl Lynn Greenberg (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998), 87-109.
  1. Gloria House, “We’ll Never Turn Back,” in Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (Urbana: University of Illinois press, 2010), 503-514
  1. Emilye Crosby, “The Selma Voting Rights Struggle: 15 Key Points from Bottom-Up History and Why It Matters Today,” Teaching for Change.
  1. Emilye Crosby and Judy Richardson, “The Voting Rights Act: Beyond the Headlines: Twelve Things You Should Know,” Teaching for Change.


Optional: Additional Resources for Teachers

1. Charles Payne on “the master narrative” excerpted from Charles Payne, “The View from the Trenches,” in Debating the Civil Rights Movement by Steven F. Lawson and Charles Payne (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1998, 2006).

2. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, “SNCC, Black Power, and Independent Political Party Organizing in Alabama, 1964-1966,” Journal of African American History (Winter 2006), 171-93.

3. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, “Remaking History: Barack Obama, Political Cartoons, and the Civil Rights Movement,” in Civil Rights History from the Ground Up ed. by Emilye Crosby (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 259-77.

4. Emilye Crosby, “‘This nonviolent stuff ain’t no good. It’ll get ya killed.’: Teaching about Self-Defense in the African-American Freedom Struggle,” in Teaching the Civil Rights Movement eds. Julie Buckner, Houston Roberson, Rhonda Y. Williams, Susan Holt (New York: Routledge, 2002), 159-73.

5. Emilye Crosby, excerpt from “Conclusion: ‘Doesn’t everybody want to grow up to be Ella Baker?’ Teaching Movement History” in Civil Rights History from the Ground Up: Local Struggles, a National Movement, pp. 455-61.

6. Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (New York: Scribner, 2003), chapters 20-23 (on Lowndes County, being elected SNCC chair, the Meredith March, and Black Power).

7. Northern connections.

For teachers interested in comparing the issues in the South with those in the North after the CRA and VRA, a good place to start is “Beyond Dixie: The Black Freedom Struggle Outside the South” in The Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, vol. 26, no. 1 (Jan. 2012). See also, “Black Power” in The Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, vol. 22, no. 3 (July 2008).

8. Contemporary connections.

For teachers interested in making connections to contemporary issues, a good place to start would be with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay, “The Case for Reparations,” which explores the structural basis of housing discrimination and its contemporary impact. ProPublica’s series on school segregation, which also looks at housing, is another very helpful resource for exploring the historic roots of today’s segregation. Teachers can use these materials to help students understand both the importance and the limitations of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in African Americans’ pursuit of equality.

In addition, The House We Live In, the third episode in Race: The Power of an Illusion, provides an excellent introduction to the ways structural inequality is built into our society. A brief introduction is available in the trailer.

Nick Kotz’s review of Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, provides a brief, but helpful, overview of how New Deal programs and the GI Bill disproportionately benefited whites. (New York Times, Aug. 28, 2005)

The New York Times editorial, “How Segregation Destroys Black Wealth,” points to the persistent and far-reaching problems associated with housing segregation and discrimination. (New York Times, Sept. 15, 2015)

9. Key Dates

Here is a selective list of dates specifically related to the assigned readings and key events in this assignment.