Big Ideas In Vote?
- Voting Rights
- Voter Suppression
- Women’s Suffrage
- Equal Rights
- Revolutionary War
- Civil Rights
- Women’s Right to Vote
- Voting Age
Nicole Harrison and Daniel Alighieri watch a movie together. Their friend Krista Stone interrupts and reminds them what day it is – Tuesday, Election Day! She tries to convince them to join her at the polls, but they are reluctant to leave their post on the couch. Daniel seems to be a lost cause, but Nicole could be convinced. As Krista tries to get her to go, Daniel works to keep her there. As they go back and forth, a sudden cold comes on and they are transported to Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War. Krista and Daniel appear to be Revolutionary War soldiers named Peterson and Stephens.
No Taxation Without Representation
As Nicole tries to figure out what is going on, Peterson and Stephens decide her disorientation must be due to the cold. Nicole stands and is quickly pulled down to safety. The British are just on the other side of the hill and could strike. Marcus, a Black man joins the group and encourages Nicole to keep moving her hands for warmth. Nicole discovers the British have taken over Philadelphia and she is in Valley Forge. Just as she is trying to wrap her head around why they do not get up and leave, George Washington arrives. Nicole asks why they are all here. He explains – a man who knows no suffering, thousands of miles and eight weeks of travel away is not the leader they chose. Soldiers fight to right the wrongs of taxation without representation and because, “all men are created equal.” They must endure the suffering to fight for freedom.
Nicole wonders about whether or not the only way to beat bad guys is with a gun. She looks around at the soldiers who are hungry, cold, and willing to die so people like them are free to vote and choose their own leader. Peterson corrects her, because unfortunately, people like him and Marcus will not be able to vote. Nicole learns that because Peterson does not own property and because of the color of Marcus’ skin, they are ineligible. Just then, they hear a noise and all charge forward. Nicole falls to the ground. Silence.
The Right to Vote, If…
It is the 1800s and a well-dressed legislator, J.K. Vardaman, enters and sees Nicole, or in this new time period, she is called Lenora Ann Connors. Nicole looks around for the soldiers and realizes she has moved forward in time. Vardaman is walking to the polls and Nicole asks if she is joining. He scoffs, as of course, women are ineligible to vote. Vardaman, on the other hand, owns 500 acres, ten slaves, and valuables worth one thousand pounds. Nicole asks about the soldiers that fought for everyone’s freedom and Vardaman brushes her off, explaining that would allow uneducated rabble the ability to impact the vote. On top of that, because he is a land owner, he pays taxes, which he believes entitles him to decide his leaders. After all, if you give the poor the right to vote, who is next?
With that, he goes to cast his vote and Elizabeth Cady Stanton enters with papers, pens, and books. She immediately puts Nicole to work. There is a lot to do! Lucretia Mott enters with the newspaper, which carries a headline about the First Women’s Rights Convention of 1848. There, they will demand the same rights as men. Nicole helps to write the specifics and learns that women’s’ salaries go to their husbands, they are unable to own property, and do not have the rights to their own children or bodies. Nicole wonders aloud, if the only way to stop bad guys is with guns? It seemed to work in the Revolution. Stanton and Mott tell her that it is the last thing that will work now as violence just creates more violence. Instead, they plan to beat them at the ballot. Feverishly working on the document, they craft their own “Declaration of Rights,” and this time it says, that “all men and women are created equal!” They hope people will show up to hear it! Mott reminds them that even if there are only a few, it will be a start. After all, tidal waves must start with a ripple.
Just then, their ally and famous abolitionist speaker, Frederick Douglass arrives. As an African-American, he is fighting for the rights of both women and African-Americans. His doctrine is “Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color.” As he leaves, Vardaman returns to antagonize the group, spouting that if women engage in politics, the institution of marriage will be threatened, as well as the future of the nation. He says the day women get to vote is the day he moves to Mexico.
Women’s Suffrage Continues…
As he leaves, Peggy Baird Johns and Lucy Burns enter in early 20th-century clothes. It is 1917 and women have still not won the right to vote. Johns and Burns are not disheartened as these things take time. As they prepare for a silent protest, they see an angry crowd gathering outside. Unfortunately, even if the police arrive, they will not be there to protect the protesters, they will arrest them. America is at war and the women wonder – why fight for freedom on foreign soil when we do not have freedom here at home. The mob is getting bigger and Nicole is getting more nervous as she hears about the realities of prison. The crowd becomes angry and rushes the women. All fall to the ground and two men enter – Patrick Murray and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicole discovers she has once again moved forward in time. She is in Selma, Alabama preparing to march with twenty-five thousand people. It is 1965 and the march today is about the right for all people, and specifically Black Americans, to raise their voices and vote. Nicole is confused because technically, the end of the Civil War meant they could vote. Murray and Dr. King share that although the laws of the land say one thing, but when you go to the polls, only white people are there to vote. Terror, intimidation, and voter suppression prevents those that should be able to vote. As they prepare for the march, Nicole learns just how much danger those fighting for civil rights are in when Dr. King and Murray share the story of Jimmie Jackson, who was shot and beaten to death by state troopers at a protest. As Nicole hears more about the abuse and terror peaceful protesters have endured, she wonders if they should have guns? Dr. King tells her that we have a choice in how we strike back- we can do so like an animal and increase hate or stand tall like a man and increase peace. He knows which side he is on. They must take a stand until everyone is free. Nicole decides to join them.
Voices from the Past
Nicole begins to hear the stories from those she has met along her journey. Lucy Burns stands and says she was beaten and arrested. Peggy Johns reports that she was locked in a prison workhouse for sixty days. Dr. King shares that the police released dogs on the marchers in Birmingham. As they continue to describe stories of violence and struggle, Vardaman reappears voicing the views of the oppressor. All begin to circle Nicole, their voices and stories overlapping. When they stop, Nicole becomes Sojourner Truth and shares an impassioned speech. At the end, Vardaman says of course women and Black Americans should vote. When Nicole is confused, he says, it was not him who personally disagreed with it.
Protests in the Late 1960s
Overhearing Vardaman, a crowd of young activists confront him on voter eligibility based on age. Those who are eighteen or older should have the right to vote. To that, he says “ridiculous!” They offer arguments about the fact that eighteen-year-olds are sent off to fight in Vietnam, then they should be able to vote. Their voices join in chant and solidarity, fighting for the freedom to vote across gender, race, and age. As Vardaman gets put in a corner he transforms to present-day Daniel.
A Drop of Water
Nicole is aware of her present-day surroundings once again and realizes that it is now her turn. She must add her drop of water to the ocean; it is too important! Not only that, she remembers, “We can beat them, but not through violence. We must use our minds.” Krista and Nicole try one more time to convince Daniel, but he refuses. They leave because they have votes to cast!