Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Rate this book
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.

40 pages, Hardcover

Published July 14, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jonah Winter

72 books76 followers
Jonah Winter is the celebrated author of many picture book biographies, including Barack, which was a New York Times bestseller. His books include Here Comes the Garbage Barge, Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente, and more. A poet and a painter, Mr. Winter divides his time between Santa Fe and a small town in Pennsylvania.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
746 (53%)
4 stars
479 (34%)
3 stars
136 (9%)
2 stars
22 (1%)
1 star
13 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 307 reviews
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,029 reviews934 followers
March 1, 2017
This was a great story about a black women's experience trying to vote. It went back through all the generations before her and the struggles and experiences they had trying to vote. It talked about white men first being the only ones allowed to vote. Then they allowed all men, but nonwhite men had to pay a tax and pass an extremely hard test to vote. Then women were allowed.

This book talked about the progress the US made and the regress we would make right after it.

This book lead to a lot of discussion with my students on the history of our right to vote.
Profile Image for Karen Witzler.
482 reviews164 followers
September 21, 2021
A history of voting rights for African -Americans in Alabama after the Civil War is told through the journey of one hundred year old Lillian up a hill to the voting booth. Very good - discusses the infamous "tests" given during the Jim Crow era. Stops just short of the the present era and the after-effects of ending the Voting Rights Act.
Profile Image for Henry Martin.
Author 102 books151 followers
August 17, 2015
An interesting book for young readers about the dark and recent period (and some might say ongoing) in American history and the controversial American policies pertaining to equal voting rights.

Through the metaphor of an old woman climbing up a hill to vote, pausing now and then to reflect upon a memory of her enslaved great-great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, and eventually her own, the writer emphasizes important (and failed) milestones in the equal rights movement throughout the past 300 years. It reflects upon the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the marches which led to it, and the recent removal of federal oversight from voting regulations, which sparked the various Voter ID laws on state by state basis.

An important book to read with those unfamiliar with history, or those who are ignorant enough to take their rights for granted. Man is a corrupt being, and what man has done, a man can undo. Learn from history and keep your guard.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews109 followers
February 22, 2016
Follow the long, uphill journey of 100 year-old African American Lillian as she goes to an Alabama courthouse to cast her vote In this picture book for older readers. As she climbs upward, Lillian recalls her family's history - from her enslaved great-great-grandparents and their baby Edmund being sold on the courthouse steps, to her enslaved great grandfather Edmund picking cotton from early morning to night and his later attempt to vote after the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed him that right, to her grandpa Issac being charged a poll tax, and her uncle Levi asked impossible questions to answer, like "how many bubbles in a bar of soap?" Later her parents would be chased away from the polls by an angry mo, a cross burned on their property and Lillian's first failed attempt to vote. But as she nears the courthouse, she also recalled the Civil Rights Movement and the men and women who fought for voting equality for all African Americans and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Set in narrative form, Lillian's life allows for a timeline of African American history right up to the point where she presses the lever to cast her vote. There is a sad note at the back of the book about how the Voting Rights Act was dismantled by the Supreme Court in 2013. This is an incredible book for kids to read and on that will work really well in classrooms and for homeschooling. Shana Evans's mixed media illustrations really capture the long, hard upward climb, both historical and for Lillian personally.
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
July 24, 2015
Inspired by the true story of Lillian Allen, who at 100 years old voted and campaigned for President Obama, this overview of the history of Civil Rights uses Lillian's story as a metaphor to revisit key points in the history of African Americans getting the vote.

An author's note comments on the inspiration for this story as well as provisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which serves to make voting more difficult for the poor and elderly in states with "voter ID laws."

Mixed media illustrations. I especially liked the last two images in the book: Lillian past meets Lillian present, and a closeup on Lillian's elderly finger as she cast a vote in a historic election.

Highly recommended reading for grades 3-5+, especially during Black History Month.
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,733 reviews32 followers
December 12, 2015
The combination of Lilian's story and the stunning illustrations make this a worthwhile purchase.

However, the fact that I was among 300 lucky souls chosen to recreate the march from Selma to Montgomery, made this very special book hit close to my heart.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,166 reviews211 followers
September 5, 2020
Featured in grandma reads session. . .

It can be dicey choosing which books to read to the kiddos. You've got parents of all stripes who can get rather exercised (and should!) if you veer too far off their appointed path. Yet, as a reader of at least one remove, I have the opportunity to bring into their worlds topics, stories and genres they don't self-select and which may be outside those books brought into their world by parental choices. This was one of those books. . .they are little kids. Not voters. Still. . .

The story of Lillian is profound and a good example of the sufferings of so many. My little group is white and absolutely sure that everything that happens to them, the good and bad, happens to all children of the world. Their worldview doesn't change unless the truth is actually shown them - climate change, favorite animals going extinct. . .they get that because it is on their favorite shows. There is no favorite show telling them of the struggles others have to just vote. So I read this book, and they were rapt with attention, taking it in. I got misty, I wish to hell I could stop that, but they do tolerate it, even anticipate it. Jeez.

I'm glad there are more materials for our youngest citizens that discuss the difficulties that have been laid in the paths of so many. Awareness is the first step toward fixing this American dilemma. Protecting this basic right is critical to peaceful prosperity and civic order.

Parents even leaned in on this one.
8 reviews1 follower
October 12, 2017
“Lillian’s Right to Vote” is told from the point-of-view of Lillian, an elderly African American woman who is going to vote on voting day. Jonah Winter provides a sad but beautiful retelling of this strong woman’s history and the struggles that African Americans have gone through over the years from slavery till today’s modern struggles. As Lillian walks up the hill to the voting house, she is reminded of all these struggles and she goes through flashbacks where she explains both the triumphs and tribulations (tragedies) throughout these years. Many of these events are centered on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This book does an outstanding job at bringing in social studies and complicated citizenship ideas into children’s literature. Still I believe this picture book would be best in grades higher than First or Second, and is more geared towards higher grade (3rd-5th).
I would use this book within a citizenship unit and more specifically when doing lessons on the Constitution and Amendments. This picture book would serve as a great jumping point into discussing the struggles that various people and groups have gone through especially when in comes to ideas and parts of citizenship. Students could compare and contrast the various years and events in the book with today. They could also discuss racial issues that they are surrounded by today and complete a writing piece connecting what is occurring today to the events that occurred in the book. As an educator that tried to incorporate various stories and social justice in all parts of the classroom and lessons, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I think it must have in any classroom.
9 reviews4 followers
February 23, 2018
Historical Fiction:

This book is amazing. While the book follows the life of a women named Lillian it also goes back in time demonstrating the struggles African Americans faced regarding their right to vote. This children’s book has beautiful illustrations that bring the story to life. I believe this book could be used instructionally for grades 3-5 but also could be read aloud to younger grade levels.

I think this book is the perfect opportunity to integrate Language Arts and Social Studies lessons. Although it is a children’s book, it is packed with historical content that could lead to a lot of meaningful conversations and writing opportunities. I think that the text provides many opportunities to ask “what if” questions that place the students in the shoes of Lillian and her ancestors and realize just how unfair history truly was. This book could also be used to teach literary tools such as metaphors because it shows Lillian trekking up a hill to go vote which could represent the uphill battle her family and self had to fight to get the right to vote.

This book was a WOW book for me because it really captured the history of African American voting rights. I think it is a book that would be beneficial to all classrooms, whether using it to introduce these points in history or continuing to build on prior knowledge. The book was engaging, passionate, and meaningful and to me that encompasses all that a WOW book should be.
Profile Image for Joanne Roberts.
1,038 reviews14 followers
February 21, 2017
Beautifully told story honoring African-American struggle told through the eyes of aging MC. Lovely art supports theme of MC's physical struggle to reach the voting booth with civil rights struggle. Engaging, honest voice. Honored older citizens. Important subject matter, expertly handled. I'm not sure I loved the way the story ended, that the youngest readers will understand you vote for someone based on their ideas or character, not on their physical characteristics, but if this book is thoughtfully used, I think it can be a stirring reminder of our nation's historical heritage and a powerful motivation to get it right going forward.
5,870 reviews130 followers
May 21, 2021
Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a children's picture book written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane W. Evans. In a book commemorating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, readers are introduced to 100-year-old black Alabaman Lillian, who recalls her long-delayed journey to exercise her American right to vote 50 years ago.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections.

Winter's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. Winter's prose has a lofty, oratorical quality, skillfully blending Lillian's individual path to the voting booth with the historical context that made it possible. Backmatter includes an author's note. Evans is equally adept at balancing the political and the personal, giving Lillian a stateliness and evident inner strength.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Lillian is an elderly African-American woman whose walk up a steep hill to cast her ballot doubles as a metaphor for the struggle for voting rights. En route, mirage-like figures from the past appear in the background, including Lillian's great-great-grandparents, shown in shackles at a slave auction. She remembers moments of progress and protest as she walks, such as the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment and the march from Selma to Montgomery, and she also hears echoes of her uncle describing the impossible literacy test questions he was forced to answer at the polls.

All in all, Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a much-needed picture book that will enlighten a new generation about battles won and a timely call to uphold these victories in the present.
Profile Image for Mariko.
12 reviews
October 7, 2020
This book is about the main character Lilian's journey as she attempts to exercise her due right to vote. Using a metaphor to represent the numerous barriers that must be overcome before she can get there, Lilian works hard in climbing up a steep hill throughout the entire story. At each stop, she envisions and narrates the story of the various voting barriers faced by her ancestors. From slavery to poll taxes to literacy tests to intimidation tactics, the book illustrates the history of voting rights in the U.S. Lilian is determined to vote, especially after all the hardships her predecessors faced in earning their rights. The book is relevant to current politics not only because the presidential election is this year, but also because thousands of Americans still struggle to exercise their entitled right to vote. Although blatant racial discrimination has been outlawed, voter ID and permanent address requirements are some of the many petty reasons why thousands of Americans face voter discrimination to this day. The book highlights the privilege of voting and it serves as a good reminder to the readers that this act of democracy we take for granted today was not always offered to everyone. I hope that both children and adults reading this book can recognize both the progress we have made in voter rights while also realizing that thousands of Lilians are still struggling to climb the steep hill of voter discrimination.
Profile Image for Olivia Lebert.
16 reviews
December 3, 2022
Voting looks different for everybody when it comes to waiting in line to the feeling of casting their vote for who they think will best represent the democracy of our country. Lillian has an eye-opening perspective on what it feels like for her to cast a vote during election time. In this story, I felt that there was two very moving stories taking place at the same time. In the plot of this touching piece, Lillian describes the gradual "climb" that both her and her ancestors had to endure to finally be able to participate in the elections of this country. During one story, we see Lillian describe each step that this country had to move through to finally give African-Americans and women the right vote in the country they have a right to vote in. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had a long climb before it could even be passed. Lillian demonstrates this climb intricately throughout the plot of this story by describing the circumstances her great-grandparents endured to finally having the right to vote. I truly enjoy learning about the different perspectives of what African-American's had to endure before they could finally practice their right to vote. Shane W. Evans, the illustrator of this story, carefully and beautifully intertwines the two stories being told by displaying the climb Lillian is making into the courthouse to vote and the climb African-American's had to endure to finally have the rights that they have today. This compelling story won the Jane Addams Book Award that chooses books that demonstrate social equality and the movement towards peace. I think this is deserving of this award and tells a moving story that readers won't want to miss out on learning.
Profile Image for Carson Tuscany.
13 reviews1 follower
October 1, 2020
Jonah Winter does a great job of highlighting the importance of voting and voters rights in this book, and explains how hard of a road it was to get to this point of voters equality that we are at today. I feel like this is a very important book because I think that as a society, many of us underestimate the privilege we have with out right to vote, and a lot of times those votes get wasted without consideration of the hard work and struggle it took for so many people to earn the right to vote in elections. The book does a phenomenal job of using flashbacks, and combines illustrations of the past and present so easily that they flow very well together and tell a story of how things used to be for previous generations. The illustrations and colors used have plenty of thought put into them, and they are beautiful and evoke so many different emotions in the reader, all depending on the mood of the current page.
Profile Image for Leah McDonald.
15 reviews1 follower
October 1, 2020
I really enjoyed this book! It tells the journey of Afrian American people from slavery to the civil rights movement ending with finally equal rights to vote. I found it intriguing how the story was told through Lillian's eyes as a young girl and the impact of slavery on her family. Lillian's pride to vote regardless of how hard it was for her to get there was evident throughout the story. In relation to the difficult journey for Lillian -a very old lady- to walk up a steep hill to vote, a parallel can be drawn with the long, hard journey over many years for equal rights to vote. Very impressive story highlighting history in an easy to read way!
Profile Image for Kim.
739 reviews36 followers
April 15, 2022
A beautiful book with a beautiful and vital message. I don’t often have too much to say about picture books. But every now and then, one truly hits me right in the heart, and this is one of them. I was so moved by the story of Lillian, born at the turn of the 20th century, and how she witnessed the various methods that were used to prevent black people from voting (voting taxes, tests full of foolish and nonsensical questions, just to name a few), and how slowly people began to push back against these injustices, seeking and demanding that they too be allowed to exercise their rights as citizens of the United States and vote without interference from anyone else.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leah Harris.
9 reviews
October 6, 2020
I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing the rights amongst African Americans. We see in this story, the long road they went through to get to where they are today. The struggles that were faced, the deaths, the celebrations all included in one story. The illustrations add a bunch of color and brightness to show the joy and bright future that is to come. I thought all around the book is a must read and taught me a lot I was unaware of.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,494 reviews88 followers
September 25, 2021
Lillian walks a steep hill to the polling place to cast her vote. She is quite aware of the struggles others have endured so she can vote...the relatives who attempted to vote, only to be denied because of poll taxes or 'literacy' tests. She knows of John Lewis's blood shed on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. She knows. The hill is steep and she is old, but she knows of the sacrifices others have made for her right...she keeps climbing. She remembers the Voting Rights Bill of 1965. She knows how sacred her right is..

And WE know how fragile this right is...how endangered. How very much under attack by the children of Bull Connor and the shadow of Jim Crow.

Miss Lillian climbed, and we must too. A children's book, fiction, that is steeped in truth. A cautionary tale. A warning.
Profile Image for Sam Grace.
473 reviews48 followers
May 27, 2017
Read this to my 2 year old and I am convinced that the reason he was rapt, despite it being much longer than his average book, is that I was so totally into it. I cannot imagine NOT being filled with gratitude and strength and solidarity and pride and the anger of righteousness while reading this aloud. And the illustrations are great. This is a new favorite.
Profile Image for Lorraine.
1,265 reviews24 followers
February 17, 2020
A beautifully illustrated children’s book that tells the story of woman named Lillian who is one hundred years old and her triumphant journey to cast her first vote. This story celebrates the anniversary of the 1965 law that President Johnson signed - the Voting Rights Act. A absolutely beautiful children’s book!
26 reviews
March 24, 2019
Beautiful book filled with history and the story of Lillian and her uphill fight for her rights. I definitely want to add this book to my collection, as well as look more into works done by Jonah Winter.
Profile Image for Michelle.
246 reviews29 followers
October 15, 2020
It took a lot for many of us to actually be able to vote. This explores the history of voting rights in America with beautiful illustrations and poetic prose.
Profile Image for Laura La Rosa.
30 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2019
Recipient of 2016 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Younger Children and listed on the National Council of Social Studies Notable Trade Books for Young People, this historical fiction picture book is based on the life Lillian Allen. Lillian's climb to vote helps her remember the struggle of various members of her family as they struggled for freedom from slavery and eventually the right to vote.

Though the book details over a hundred years of African American history, it provides an approachable and easily understandable way because the story is told in short vignettes of memories Lillian has of her various family members who struggled to secure the right to vote. The story goes into the most detail about the Civil Rights Movement and the march from Selma to Montgomery, events Lillian herself took part in. Because it is told in a the form of memories, this book would be a simple way to introduce young readers to the complex struggle African Americans have faced securing the right to vote. This book would be appropriate for third through fifth graders and could even be used in middle school classrooms to supplement a fuller study of civil rights or African American history. Middle schoolers could be in charge of researching each of Lillian's memories and providing a nonfiction account of the events that are described in Lillian's memory.
November 29, 2022
Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a Jane Addams Award winner for the social justice and peace that Lillian and her family has been through. As Lillian is going up the hill to the polling place she remembers everything her family has been through the civil rights movement. This is a great book to teach younger children about social justice and peace. If you haven't read this book yet, I would go pick it up for yourself or your children!
Profile Image for Camille De Zeeuw.
16 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2016
This book is part of my diverse girls literature set.
1. Rationale: This book walks children through a timeline of United States history with the main character, Lillian. She talks about the struggle her family as well as other African Americans encountered as they tried to obtain the right to vote. It tells a wonderful story with fabulous illustrations. The book also serves as a nice introduction to historical fiction for young readers.
2. Text-to-text: This book made me think about the social studies texts I have read and taught from in the past because it touched on so many historical events. This book would make a great read aloud book for older kids and nicely compliment a social studies text.
3. Questions using Bloom’s Taxonomy:
Remembering: Name an event from Lillian’s life that was difficult.
Understanding: What was the main purpose of this story?
Applying: If you could meet Lillian, what questions would you ask her about her life?
Analyzing: How was Lillian’s life different from African-Americans today?
Evaluating: Why is it better to have all kinds of people involved in voting?
Creating: Lillian talked about the “hill” her family and she had to climb to get to be able to vote. We all have stories about tough times. Talk with family members and recall your own memories. Create and illustrate your own hill with difficulties your family and you have experienced. Include three or more events. Only include events you are comfortable sharing on your paper. If you only want the teacher to see your hill, please say so on your paper. Use these questions to help you get started:
Has anyone in your family ever broken a body part?
Did something ever turn out differently than you expected?
Did you ever get sick when you wished you hadn’t?
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment?
Did you ever get really mad or sad?
Did you ever lose anything?
Did you ever make a poor decision or choice?
Profile Image for Stephanie Sutter.
13 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2016
Narrative Introduction
“How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?” (quote from pg.10) [Wait for students’ guesses] What if that was a question you had to get right before you could vote? Would this be fair? [Students Response] This is just one of the unfair ways African-Americans were kept from voting. Today, we will read Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans as another way to celebrate all of the people who have fought to help African-Americans gain the right to vote. This goes along with our Black History Month studies. In this book, Lillian climbs a hill on her way to vote. Pay attention to how the hill gets harder for Lillian to climb, but Lillian keeps going because she remembers the hardships many people had to face so that African-Americans could vote. It is important for us to know how hard many people fought for African-Americans to have the right to vote. Let’s read and see if we can learn more about this important part of our history.

Opening Moves
-Raise questions to spark curiosity.
-Lay the groundwork for helping children understand the theme.
-Prompt listeners to pay attention to details.

This is a great book to include in a Black History Month text set because it explains the history of African-Americans finally getting the right to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also helps students understand how unfair and cruel African-Americans were treated, but they continued to peacefully fight for their right to vote. Included in this book are some leaders of the Civil Rights movement including Congressman John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
July 15, 2015
With stunning mixed media illustrations that show every step up that hill taken by its protagonist, the elderly Miss Lillian, this picture book pays tribute to the legislation that insured voting rights for every American of the required age. Passed in 1965, the law celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, and the book allows readers to journey back with Lillian as she traces the path that led to that important moment and to her own determination to cast her vote. As she reflects on the experiences of her own great-great-grandparents and more recent relatives, readers are afforded a glimpse into literacy tests and poll taxes that kept American citizens from voting. Mention is also made of the civil rights movement and marches that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. By the time Lillian reaches that polling place, readers fully understand why her one vote matters so very much. An afterword provides additional historical context while lamenting the 2013 Supreme Court decision leaving election processes in the hands of states, thus eliminating federal oversight of the process. This picture book will make readers think while reminding them of the long, long road some have taken to get the simple right so many take for granted and never exercise. This one is certainly required reading, a fine primer into part of the civil rights movement.
Profile Image for Amanda Vaughan .
11 reviews8 followers
October 26, 2015
A woman who has walked hundreds of miles over the course of a hundred years, is now about to take one of the most important steps in her life. Lillian has seen things that would break most, she has experienced pains that would wreck the strongest, and she has struggled and endured losses that would cause a normal women to have laid down to die. But, not Lillian, not this woman.

This is an amazing story of an African American women who shares with the reader her experiences, trials, and tribulations in order to reach a turning point in the history of the United States - when women finally gained the right to vote.

This book was a WOW book for me not just because of the lesson on history it provides but, also, because of the detailed account and experiences of Lillian. It was easy to fall into the story and feel like you, as the reader, were right there beside her on her journey through life. The illustrations drew the reader in with the faces of famous civil rights leaders in the clouds pushing Lillian on through her journey.

This book could be used in any classroom but I would recommend it for ages 9 and up that have some background knowledge of American history. I will be sharing this book with my students as they learn to analyze literature in the classroom and look at character development.

Profile Image for Taneka.
655 reviews10 followers
September 2, 2016
This is a compelling story that documents the uphill journey of Lillian Allen's right to vote. At the age of 100' the real Lillian cast her vote for the first time in 2008. This picture books documents each step Lillian takes towards the courthouse with a bit of history. From her great great grandparents, Elijah and Sara being sold on the auction block. To her being denied the right to vote because of the unfair testing given to Blacks.

This story is meant to inspire people to NOT take advantage of a right that was paid for by others in blood, sweat, and tears. Illustrations do an excellent job of telling both the present and background stories.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 307 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.