A Day On

MLK Day 2022

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2022

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sighed the Voting Rights Act (VRA), following a civil rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the aim of securing legislation focused on equitable voter rights. The VRA abolished literacy tests and poll taxes, systemic signatures alienating African American voters from democratic participation (King Institute Stanford). The VRA was later amended to offer voter protections to speakers of multiple languages, lifting up the 14th and 15th Amendments that were intended to ensure every citizen’s equal opportunity to participate in the vote.

Supreme Court decisions in 2013 and 2021 walked the VRA backwards, relinquishing the supports for voter equity. Now, while many states have expanded voter access (including Washington State), other states have made voting more difficult. 33 laws across 19 states reduce access to voting mechanisms intended to ensure democratic participation for all citizens.

On Twitter, Dr. Bernice King said she stands in solidarity with her brother, Martin Luther King III, in "calling our nation's attention to securing and protecting the most sacred right of our democracy, which is the right to vote." She asks that on MLK Day, supporters will “speak and act in a way to ensure that this nation lives up to its promise of democracy…and instead of taking the King Holiday off, they should make it a 'day on'..."

Learn | Voting Rights

Below you'll find links to lessons and activities to support our collective learning about voting rights and the history of voting rights.
A Cartoon History of Voting Rights

Comic journalist Andy Warner explains, in three illustrated parts, the history of the Voting Rights Act and the impact of the Supreme Court's 2013 decision.

Voting Rights

Text and videos, grades 4-6

The Voting Rights Act

Content for scholars up to 5th grade, scholars 6-8th grade, and up.

Voting Rights Fact for Kids

Kids encyclopedia facts and images.

Mock Election Toolkit

The Mock Election is an educational activity that teaches kids to be informed voters. The full activity has passed, but the pamphlet has useful resources.

Voting Rights Timeline

Click on the image for a link to the text and the full timeline. For full size images of the voting rights timeline, please contact Janis Velasquez Farmer.
The History of U.S. Voting Rights | Things Explained
Voting for Kids | Why Voting is Important? - Election day | Kids Academy

Activate | Voting Rights

Teaching elections in Washington State

Lesson plans & classroom activities

Choosing to Participate

This resource is a valuable addition to units on civics, government, and US history.

Writing Letters in Elementary

Explore resources geared towards you and your young change makers from Scholastic, Mikva Project, Mozilla, Kentucky Writing Project, young students in Des Moines, @LakesideMrT at the #2NextPrez hashtag on Twitter, and others.

Facing History & Ourselves

Teaching ideas, readings, explainers, and lessons.

Ideas to commemorate the legacy of MLK

  • Plan now for teaching and learning about voting and civil rights leaders throughout the year. Hang pictures and quotes and integrate lesson plans about each into all subject areas, including math, English language teaching and learning, art, science and more.
  • Consider utilizing Dr. King, Jr.’s lesser known speeches or reflect on the deeper meaning of popular resources embedded within his messages. Bring metaphors to life and further interpretations beyond surface and sanitized narratives.
  • Use resources created and developed by Black scholars in writing, the sciences, and the arts, such as: The Civil Rights Museum, Titus Kaphar, Kimberle Crenshaw, Joy DeGruy, Glory (John Legend and Common) and many more.

Sample program

Day 1

Connect this quote in every subject or each class throughout the day.

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by human beings for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others.

Martin Luther King

Start the day reflecting on student interpretations.

Day 2

Ask students how their day started.

List the different things they did to get to school and write their responses on the front board. They should have a list that looks something like this:

  • They turned on water for a shower and to brush their teeth.
  • They ate a little breakfast.
  • They traveled in a car or on a bus.
  • They arrived at school.

Now ask students to identify the different ways their state or local government was involved with those actions. What did local government do to make sure those services were delivered or make sure they went smoothly?

(Refer to the answers in parentheses.)

  • They turned on water for a shower and to brush their teeth. (City or county operate and maintain the water supply.)
  • They ate a little breakfast. (State or local health departments make sure the food they eat is safe and properly prepared and packaged.)
  • They traveled in a car or on a bus. (Streets and roads are built and maintained by state and local governments. Traffic signs and laws in place to make their journey safe.)
  • They arrived at school. (State and local governments fund and operate school systems.)

Ask students what their morning might look like if they didn’t have those services.

Resource: PBS Down Ballot lesson

Day 3

Using the rest of the Down Ballot lesson, play the video and follow the activities.

Assembly or advisory lessons

Present student work, projects, or research. Ask students to reflect on the importance of local elections.

Sample program

Day 1

Explore Washington State's voting rights timeline.

1078 - 2021-22

  • Restoring voter eligibility for all persons convicted of a felony offense who are not in total confinement under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections.

Day 2

Explore the NPR Voter Access map.

  1. Ask students to work in small groups and record their observations.
  2. Share out with the larger group.

What patterns emerge?

Day 3

Study Congressman John Lewis and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Review the classroom guide to voter registration.

Assembly or advisory lesson

Connect research and learning to local leaders.