Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter & Illus by Shane W. Evans

This is an awesome book describing in kid friendly terms, the African-American struggle to vote. 

On voting day, 100 year old Lillian climbs a steep hill get get to her polling place. (Allegory!)

As she walks, she sees the history of her family. Her great-great grandparents on the block at the slave market. 

Yes, her great-great-grandfather is naked. This is a great, understandable way for kids to understand how dehumanizing slavery was. I wouldn't read this to anyone too young, but the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades seem to get the enormity of taking a person's clothes and dignity away from them and allow people to stare at them like cattle. 

Her great-grandfather picking cotton as a slave.

Then comes the Civil War and the brief interlude afterwards that allowed black people to vote. 

Within twenty years, almost no black people could vote, due to poll taxes and ridiculous questions, such as "How many bubbles in a bar of soap?" 

With my classes, I illustrated this point by asking someone something really easy, like who is our current president? and then asking the next kid, something impossible. Of course it isn't fair! 

Finally 1920 rolls around and Lillian, her mother and father go to the polls to try to vote, since her mother could vote for the first time. 

An angry mob turned them away. 

As a result of Lillian's family daring to try to vote, a cross is set on fire on their front lawn. 

Lillian meets a young man, and asks him if he is voting.

"You better!"

As she continues along, she sees the coffin of those killed in peaceful riots, protesting the voting discrimination

Lillian sees the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King. 

She sees LBJ signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, allowing all American citizens the right to vote.

And finally, she is at the polls. And remembers the first time she voted as a young women. 

And finally, Lillian votes. 

This is a great book showing how long the struggle to equality and voting rights was. For older kids, it is a great starting point, to discuss the unfair treatment and civil rights in general. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this one. Checking library now...

  2. This is a great book! We had some lively and in-depth discussions in class with this book. Kids seem to be able to respond to the way information is presented.