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Book Review: Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book, Historical Fiction, African American History
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky — she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery.

Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.

 

My Review: Lillian’s Right to Vote is an excellent story celebrating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and why it is so important and meaningful. Based on a real person named Lillian Allen, this book is honest, inspiring, memorable, and poetic.

Although Lillian is old and her body aches and she needs a cane, every year she walks up a sloping hill to go exercise her right to vote that was given to her by the many who marched, protested and died so that she and everyone (under one equal banner) could.

I love the clever usage of the hill Lillian climbs as a metaphor for the challenges African Americans faced to achieve equal voting rights. Through hauntingly beautiful illustrations, we see visions of Lillian’s past and shared history from slavery to present. The reader journeys through history along with Lillian – from slave auction blocks, the 15th Amendment in 1870 and the 19th Amendment in 1920, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the poll taxes and literacy tests used to prevent blacks from voting.

I was completely engrossed in this story. A lot of things I already knew about, but it seemed different, more meaningful through Lillian’s eyes. The unfortunate truth is that even now we’re still combating voter suppression and ensuring equal voting rights. It’s why I found the author’s note (which I recommend reading) particularly moving, especially the final sentence: “Will a new generation rise and continue this fight?” Lillian’s Right to Vote is an important story everyone should read.


Definitions

The 15th Amendment of 1870: no U.S citizen shall be denied their right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

The 19th Amendment of 1920: (aka Women’s Suffrage) women who were U.S. citizen were granted the right to vote.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965: banned “discriminatory voting practices” and thereby provided African Americans equal protection in the exercise of their right to vote as deemed under the 15th Amendment.

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