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  • Lesson plan
  • College/Adult,
  • Grades 11-12,
  • Grades 9-10

And She Could Be Next (Episode 2): Voter Suppression

Overview

It is a contribution to truth, an array of facts, the perusal of which it is hoped will stimulate this great American Republic to demand that justice be done though the heavens fall.

Ida B. Wells, Oct. 26, 1892

Part two of And She Could Be Next peels back the curtain on one of the most insidious threats to American democracy: voter suppression. In this concluding episode, the spotlight turns toward the growing and tireless coalition work of multiethnic and multiracial organizers powering the grassroots campaigns of the women of color candidates featured in episode one. In their mission to expand democratic participation to communities of color, immigrant communities, disengaged voters, young people, and low-income communities, viewers witness firsthand how their efforts are met with systematic attempts to upend progress by stripping communities of their votes and voices.

In this lesson, students will learn about varied historic and contemporary voter suppression tactics used to exclude, silence, and intimidate potential voters in predominantly BIPOC communities. Students will research laws and policies, such as voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, and voter registration policies, and analyze how these regulations expand or impede democractic participation to all. This lesson is intended to build on concepts introduced in lesson one but can also be a standalone lesson. The lesson also provides ample opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration across subject matter curricula for educators who want to develop grade-level unit plans across content areas (e.g., history, ELA, mathematics, government).

A Note from Curriculum Creator, Stacia Cedillo

We are taught in America that justice is inherent in the failsafe architecture of our democratic institutions. We are taught that our three branches of government — designed to operate in perfect balance by those we entrust to lead — form infallible pillars of accountability, fairness, objectivity, and oversight. We are taught that we have a fundamental and inalienable right to seek justice through a court system that ensures fair trials and due process. But what we aren’t taught about justice, we learn through other means. And what we learn from the “array of facts” about voting in America is that our institutions, and the people who lead them, are not always neutral arbiters of justice and democracy, as we are taught.

This journey of un-learning what we are taught about American democracy can be a difficult journey for many of us, including those like myself, who view schools and education as potential sites for radical transformation. I cringe when I think back to my first year teaching, recalling all the ways I uncritically taught American mythologies of equality, democracy, and justice to my eighth-grade students. My un-learning process has involved years of political engagement with grassroots activists, ongoing reflection of my own complicity in white supremacy as a white Latina, and a deep commitment to studying historic texts written by those who knew, long before I, that democracy and justice have never been a guarantee to everyone in America. One such scholar-historian is the great Ida B. Wells, quoted above, whose foundational reporting on lynching continues to shape my understanding of the perpetual presence of anti-Black intimidation and violence in this country. As a critical pedagogue, I believe that it is these encounters with truths-never-learned — moments of conscientização, to use Paolo Freire’s term — that are the beginnings of the necessary journey to re-imagine and re-work schools to be sites of emancipation, liberation, and justice.

A Note to Teachers

For many, discussion of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election can activate trauma, anxiety, and anger. The anti-immigrant, racist, misogynistic, and violent language that characterized that election carried over to the 2018 primary elections that are featured in this film. Take care to pay attention to students in your classroom whose identities, families, and communities are the intended target of this hateful rhetoric.

Subject Areas

  • Civics
  • Government
  • U.S. History
  • Language Arts
  • Political Science

Grade Levels: [8-13+]

Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

  • Understand and analyze how specific U.S. laws, policies, and regulations enable targeted voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement.
  • Discuss ways that policies can be improved to advance fairness in U.S. elections.
  • Research local voting rights advocacy groups and grassroots organizations.

Materials:

  • Film clips
  • Notebook
  • Writing utensil
  • Chart paper, dry erase board, or document camera
  • Internet access, or pre-prepared packets with up-to-date information on:
    • Your state’s voter registration laws
    • U.S. voter suppression laws

Time Needed:

Two to three 50- to 60-minute class periods.

About the authors

Stacia Cedillo

Stacia Cedillo, M.A., is a former middle school science and social studies teacher. Stacia completed her master’s degree and doctoral coursework in cultural studies in education at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied the role of race in education politics, policy, and ideology. She has worked as a community organizer, campaign volunteer, and policy intern in the Texas Legislature.