My favorite thing about Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne is that it’s accurate, and the author highlights Black women who fought hard during the Women’s Suffrage era to get women of color to the ballot box and voting in American elections. It’s not just women we’ve heard about like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it’s women highlighted in the preface and throughout the book that tell the stories of the Black women we don’t know but who made a big difference.  


I urged people to place “I Voted” stickers on the graves of Black suffragists like Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Shirley Chisholm, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who have fought for generations, from the end of legal enslavement in the United States to the present day, to help secure voting rights for Black people. Whether it was creating organizations that helped elect Black congresspeople, as Anna Julia Cooper did when she cofounded the Colored Women’s League, or running for office, as Chisholm did when she became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress, or encourage Black people to register to vote during the Civil Rights Movement, as Hamer did, Black women have put themselves in the line of fire over and over again. Yet, when people learn about the long fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, it’s often an incomplete lesson. (2–3) 


In this lesson, we will be honoring the Black women mentioned in the preface above and spotlighted throughout this book because, like Dionne said, they are integral to Black history as well as American history.  


Mini Lesson

  • Read the passage above and acknowledge that it took many people to make a big difference during Women’s Suffrage. We will explore the names we haven’t been taught.
  • Have students pair up and decide which Black woman they will research and present about. The options are listed in the passage above, but also should include the darker pages in the book that provide biographies for lesser known, yet still integral Black women of that time.
    • Sarah Mapps Douglas (pages 10–11)
    • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (page 13) 
    • The Forten Family (page 16)
    • Hetty Reckless (page 17)
    • Harriet Jacobs (pages 18–19)
    • Sojourner Truth (pages 22–23)
    • Maria Stewart (page 25)
    • Anna Julia Cooper (pages 50–51)
    • Ida B. Wells-Barnett (pages 57–59)
    • Mary Church Terrell (page 64)
    • Nannie Helen Burroughs (pages 80–81)
    • Mary McLeod Bethune (pages 86–87)
    • Frannie Barrier Williams (pages 96–97)
    • Alice Paul (page 101)
    • Amelia Boynton Robinson (page 137) 
  • Have students read their passage and research any other important information in the book or on the internet.  
  • Have students create a PowerPoint presentation about their chosen woman and include the following information. Decide who will present which slides to the class. 
    • Title slide with name, birth date, and death date.
    • The 5 W's and H about your person.
      • Who are they? What did they do that made a difference? When did this history take place that had their influence? Where were they located? Why did they do this important work? How did they get involved? How did they make a positive impact in the Women’s Suffrage time period?
    • Photos throughout that cite the source.
  • Have students present their presentations in a way that works for your class environment, such as a whole-class presentation one by one, a gallery walk, or small group presentations.  

    Download the lesson below to easily print or save!



Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.