Women’s Suffrage, Black Suffrage, and Lessons for Today


Recent elections in the United States have commanded national and international attention with voting rights becoming a leading concern for Americans. Though the American public and the judicial and political institutions that represent the American people understand the importance of voting to the health of a democracy, the voting rate among eligible voters in the United States pales in comparison to those of other democracies around the world. This is even more striking when considering the large number of people residing in the country who are not even eligible to vote. Concerns over voter participation often focus on discussions of current issues and policy proposals, but the United States has a rich—and often painful—history of suffrage movements and attempts by marginalized groups to join the democratic process. Current suffrage movements can learn from historical suffrage movements in their pursuit for full participation in American democracy.

This Comment uses the history from the Black and women’s suffrage movements to inform current suffrage movements by uncovering lessons—from both the successes and failures of the Black and women’s suffrage movements—that are relevant today. This Comment builds on the robust scholarship that has focused on these movements by comparing them and applying lessons to three modern oppressed groups who are still actively seeking their suffrage in the United States: people convicted of felonies, non-citizen lawful permanent residents, and people under the age of eighteen.

About the Author

J.D. Candidate, UCLA School of Law