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Defining Moments

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not a sudden occurrence. It was the culmination of years of racial discrimination, violence, the rise of hugely influential civil rights leaders, and newly developed forms of social protest. It was a uniquely American triumph—proving that tenacity and resiliency can produce lasting change in the United States and extending the tenets of democracy to the nation’s African-American citizens.

Defining Moments: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also explores the event’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with The Voting Rights Act
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 are below:

  • Study the history of racial discrimination and violence in the Jim Crow South
  • Describe the rising influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders
  • Review the important milestones of the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, and the March on Washington, and select one to analyze in depth
  • Explain the history of nonviolent resistance and how it was used in the civil rights movement
  • Study how poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means were used to suppress black voting rights
  • Explore white resistance to black equality and the tactics used by whites to maintain segregation
  • Analyze the “I Have a Dream” speech, given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington, and explain why the speech is so powerful
  • Investigate voting rights protests and voter-registration drives in the South, including the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and the Selma-Montgomery March of 1965
  • Imagine yourself as a young adult in the early 1960s and discuss what your life would be like and what involvement, if any, you would have in the civil rights movement
  • Explicate the major provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Discuss the renewals, extensions, and Supreme Court interpretations of the legislation
  • Explore the impact of the Voting Rights Act on black voter registration, election of African Americans to public office, and minority representation and influence
  • Describe potential new threats and challenges to minority voting rights


“Useful for those seeking a basic or starter overview of events in U.S. history, the volumes from this series are recommended for high school and public libraries.”

—Library Journal, Apr ’09

“The Defining Moments series will appeal to readers who are well beyond its storytelling style generally aimed at middle and high school students because of its selection of primary texts not often reproduced in other histories. … Within 200 pages, this volume ably reviews the impetus and hard-won battle for voting rights, while retaining traditional study aids such as a timeline, glossary, bibliography, and opposing viewpoints. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is recommended for school and public libraries.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2009