24th Amendment: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Would you spend money to vote? In this lesson, you'll learn about the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed the poll tax, a practice used to keep some American citizens from the voting booths.

Paying to Vote

If you had $25.00, what would you spend it on? Maybe you'd go to the store and buy a new game or a new pair of shoes. But, would you spend your money to vote?

Up until 1964, American citizens in some Southern States had to pay a poll tax to vote in elections. For people with extra money, this wasn't a problem. But what if you needed food for your family? Or school supplies for your kids? It's a good thing the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, effective in 1964, put an end to the poll tax.

The Poll Tax

A poll tax was a fee people had to pay to register to vote. Why would Americans have to pay to vote? Sadly, the reason the poll tax was created was to keep black people from voting in the South. Even though black men were given the right to vote in 1870 and women, including black women, were given the right to vote in 1920, it didn't mean that they were actually voting.

Receipt for a poll tax in 1917
poll tax

Poll Taxes and Jim Crow Laws

How would you feel if you couldn't ride the same bus as your friends? Or drink out of the same water fountain? Nobody likes to feel separated. Segregation, which was the separating of white and black people, was the rule until the 1960's. Jim Crow was the name given to a system of laws that suggested that white people were superior to black people. Even though black people were technically free from slavery, they weren't necessarily free to sit where they wanted to, drink from a water fountain when they were thirsty, or vote.

One of the goals of the Jim Crow system was to prevent black people from voting, even though it was their right. If black people tried to vote, they were threatened and beaten. Their homes were burned and their families hurt. They were given reading tests, and if they couldn't pass them, they couldn't vote - even though many black people who had lived in slavery were never taught to read. White people even went as far as erasing black people's names from voting lists.

And then there were the poll taxes, which could run as high as $20-$50 in today's money. This affected not only black people who didn't have enough money, but also poor white people.

Fighting for Voting Rights in 1963
March on WA

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