News Article

Zoom In to Black History Month

Friday, February 19, 2016

Zoom In, a free online tool for teaching American history, features document-based, literacy-rich units on key moments in the struggle for African-American civil rights. Now, just in time for Black History Month, a new lesson on Voting Rights has been added. 

Why, in 1960, were almost no black people voting in Mississippi—nearly 100 years after the Constitution guaranteed them that right? As in other Zoom In units, students read and discuss primary source documents: an oral history interview with Fanny Lou Hamer, government reports, and an SNCC pamphlet. Then students write their own essays to explain the barriers that prevented African-Americans from voting—literacy tests, poll taxes, and voter intimidation—and to describe how ordinary people used non-violent tactics to stand up for and claim their right to vote.

The Voting Rights lesson can be used along with other units on the African-American experience, such as "Running Against the Odds: Why did so few slaves escape north," "African-American Military Service During the Civil War," "Freeing the Slaves: Why did Abraham Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation?" and "United We Win: Labor on the World War II homefront."

Zoom In lessons, materials, and teacher supports are available free online at