Quick Picks: The Voting Rights Act

Lillian's Right to Vote
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter

A woman goes on a symbolic journey through American history on the way to cast her ballot.

This book was inspired by Lillian Allen, who voted in the 2008 election at the age of 100!

It impressed me to learn that the real Lillian Allen campaigned from door to door in Pittsburgh for President Obama’s first election.  My pop-pop and great aunts live in Pittsburgh and are almost Ms. Allen’s age.  Doing anything door to door in mountainous Pittsburgh is quite a feat!

Grandaddy's Turn
Grandaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein

Young Michael goes with his grandfather as he attempts to vote and is prevented from doing so.  Michael carries the memory with him when he is old enough to vote for the first time.

The notes on this book discuss how literacy tests were used to keep people from voting.  I had a chance to look at some old family papers a few years ago and was surprised to see forms certifying the literacy of my mom’s parents.  It seemed funny at first, since they were both college graduates.  It was less funny when I saw the marriage paperwork for two of my dad’s grandparents.  His grandmother was a new immigrant, and signed an X instead of her name.

Comparing the two books, Lillian’s Right to Vote does more to show how people worked to change unjust laws.  It also brings up (in the Author’s Note) the current issue of voter ID laws.  Although the story in Grandaddy’s Turn is moving, it’s a little unsatisfying that such elements are not included– and that Michael’s grandmother is never shown going to vote.

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