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Civil Rights & Voting Rights

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION Traveling Exhibition Service +

In this important election year, and in honor of our traveling exhibitions American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith and Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations are highlighting a diverse array of the Smithsonian’s digital resources that engage audiences around voting, elections, civic engagement, and citizenship.

What is the significance of the civil rights movement? How have voting rights changed over time?

Here are links to websites and online educational materials that answer the questions: What is the significance of the civil rights movement? How have voting rights changed over time?

The Historical Legacy of the March on Washington
A visual resource from the National Museum of African American History and Culture about the famed 1963 march, with historical images, footage and interpretation of its legacy in today’s society.

This website includes activities to do at home, and functions as a launching point for information about the 1963 March on Washington in the collections of the museum.

The Civil Rights History Project
As an ‘inside look’ at the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Project has captured the personal histories and testimonials of unsung activists of the 1950s and 1960s. This collection makes the stories from many of the previously unknown individuals who made valuable contributions to the civil rights movement available to the public.

These members of the freedom movement were committed to eliminating racial segregation and inequality in the United States, sometimes at a great cost to themselves, their families, and their community.

Martin Luther King Jr.: The Later Years (1965 – 1968)
This collection on Smithsonian’s Learning Lab highlights documents, images, objects, and media from the National Museum of African American History and Culture and other Smithsonian units that help to tell the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final years, his assassination, and his enduring legacy. This collection is designed for students in grades 9 to 12 to complete independently, and students in grades 4 to 8 to complete with the guidance of an educator.

Voting Rights in American History
Throughout American history, voting rights have expanded, contracted, and expanded again as Americans dealt with shifting issues of politics, race, class, and wealth. This collection on the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab includes objects and resources from the National Museum of American History related to the founding of the American system of democracy and those who have and have not been eligible to vote at various points of this nation’s history.

History Explorer: Courtland Cox on This Generation’s Challenge
In this podcast, Freedom Summer veteran Courtland Cox discusses his work in the civil rights movement and the relationship between the work of Freedom Summer and voter registration requirements, and emphasizes that the challenge of this generation of young people will be the fight for equal access to quality education.

This episode includes a downloadable teacher’s guide.

History Explorer: Fighting For My Rights – Zoharah Simmons
In this podcast episode, Joy Lyman, a former National Museum of the American History Freedom School intern, hosts this special episode of History Explorer on civil rights activist where she presents the story of Zoharah Simmons, about her experiences in the 1964 Freedom Summer project.

The resource includes a student worksheet and teacher guide.

Oh Freedom! Teaching Art and the Civil Rights Movement
An interdisciplinary resource for K-12 teachers and students to discover the history, influence and Legacy of the civil rights movement through art from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Struggle for Justice
This virtual image gallery and classroom resource related to the National Portrait Gallery exhibition The Struggle for Justice is a good starting point for learning about the specific individuals who were active in the fight for civil rights over the past two and a half centuries.

The individuals represented here are just a few of the countless citizens who have worked to advance the status of women; racial and ethnic minorities; LGBTQ+ individuals; and persons with physical and intellectual differences.

Voices and Votes Conversation Starter: A Vote, A Voice
This 7-minute video encourages Americans to think about the role that they can play in democracy. The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program interviewed people across the country to hear their thoughts on voting and community participation. Interviewees shared with us why they vote, what the right to vote means to them, and talked about issues that motivate them. What issues and debates in your community inspire participation and engagement?

Voices and Votes Conversation Starter: Diversity & Democracy
This 6-minute video is designed to help frame thoughts around voting rights through excerpts of multiple interviews conducted on the topic by Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street and poses questions such as:

Have national symbols or myths in American history helped shape an identity for some, but alienated others in this diverse country? How have these questions impacted your community? How do we bring healing and conversation?

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