American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

Understanding Elections in U.S. History: A New Resource Page from the American Social History Project

Published October 15, 2020

Every election is consequential and determining who has the right to vote has been a struggle since the founding of the nation. Over the course of U.S. history, the stakes of some elections have been higher than others, especially in times of a national political, social, economic, or health crisis. Elections can also indicate the vitality of democracy itself, testing the structures of government as well as the public’s embrace of democratic principles. For those wanting to better understand this history, the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning has gathered a number of documents and teaching resources related to elections in the United States. 

Some of the collected materials describe the efforts of men and women to expand voting rights in order to realize the nation’s ideals of freedom and democracy, for example, the campaign to win women’s suffrage. The movement to secure voting rights for African American and Mexican American residents showed the bravery, tenacity and patriotism of activists. All of these voting rights campaigns also reveal persistent efforts to constrict the electorate in order to maintain white supremacy and keep political power in the hands of those with race and economic privilege. 

Other materials focus specifically on past elections, highlighting moments when the media and political campaigns developed new ways to persuade voters or to forecast election outcomes.  

Finally, given the contentious 2020 Supreme Court confirmation process, a section addresses the issue of Supreme Court nominations and how the composition of the Court became politicized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an attempt to advance the New Deal. At the bottom of the page, we share links to other digital archives and resources that examine these, and many other issues, in more depth.

Click here to explore Understanding Elections in U.S. History.

Latest ASHP NewsASHP Web Projects