Coppin State University

Constitution Day


African American Women & Voting Rights

August 26, 2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment. On June 4, 1919, the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing all women the right to vote and it was ratified into the U. S. Constitution August 1920. A major question is why have African American women had to wait so long to safely cast a vote. Although the 15th and 19th Constitution Amendments declares that states could not discriminate based on race or gender, respectively, that did not hinder states from using other methods to discourage and prevent African Americans from voting. Their voting status was further complicated by Jim Crow legislation that kept many Africans disenfranchised, until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Why was an act of Congress necessary to protect the voting rights of African Americans?

Telling the story of African American women and their struggle for voting rights is historically important. The stories of the suffrage movement and African American women have not been widely shared; uncovering their humanitarian efforts will evoke the revitalization of a community’s history. History is one of the forces that drives humanity—assist with the understanding of current issues such as human value, ethics, and attitudes. Recounting the African American women’s struggle for the vote will accentuate why African American women and other historically marginalized groups should exercise their democratic right to vote in all elections.

Timeline: Major Events in the African American Struggle for Voting Rights

Selected Resources


Untold Stories of Black Women in the Suffrage Movement, by the Washington State Women's Commission


Standing up for Change: African American Women and the Civil Rights Movement

Sojourner Truth and the Rise of Women's Rights Activism

Counting Down with #19Suffrage Stories: 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

The National Women's History Museum


Abram, Stacey.  Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. New York: Macmillan, 2020.

Browne-Marshall, Gloria. The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Dudden, Faye E. Fighting Chance: The Struggle Over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Giddings, Paula. Ida: A Sword Among Lions. New York: Harper Collins, 2009

Gordon, Ann D. and Bettye Collier-Thomas. African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.

Jones, Martha S. Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. Basic Books, 2020.

Lowery, Lynda Blackmon.  Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March.  New York: Speak, 2016. 

Murphy, Mary-Elizabeth B. Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, D.C., 1920–1945. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Neverdon-Morton, Cynthia. Afro-American Women of the South and the Advancement of the Race, 1895 – 1925. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Wells, Ida B. Crusade for Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.