Fellows' Presentation, Lectures

CANCELED: Race, Democracy, and the Long 19th Amendment

Fellow's Presentation

Due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, we have regrettably decided to cancel this public program. We do not take these decisions lightly, but the health and well-being of our community must come first and we are acting in accordance with the most recent Harvard University guidance.


Liette Gidlow and Manisha Sinha, both 2019–2020 Mellon-Schlesinger Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute, take the long view of the 19th Amendment. On paper, the article granted women in the United Sates the right to vote—but in practice, not all women were able to exercise the right to vote, especially black women in the Jim Crow South.

Sinha will trace the roots of the 19th Amendment to abolitionist feminism and to progressive constitutionalism and the use of the law as an instrument of liberation during Reconstruction.

Gidlow will share research that finds that a small but significant number of southern African Americans voted after ratification of the 19th Amendment and that their successes, together with unceasing agitation by many who remained disfranchised, transformed not only the black freedom struggle but political parties, election procedures, and social movements on the right and the left.

Following their presentations, Gidlow and Sinha will be joined in conversation by Evelyn Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

A post-talk opening reception for the exhibition, Seeing Citizens: Picturing American Women’s Fight for the Vote, will be held in the Lia and William Poorvu Gallery at the Schlesinger Library. Allison K. Lange, guest curator of the exhibition and an assistant professor of history at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, will speak.

Free and open to the public.

Part of the 2019–2020 Fellows' Presentation Series


Liette Gidlow, 2019–2020 Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow, Radcliffe Institute; associate professor of history, Wayne State University

Manisha Sinha, 2019–2020 Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow, Radcliffe Institute; James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

Moderated by Evelyn Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Introduction by Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute; Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences


Liette Gidlow. Photo by Tony RinaldoLiette Gidlow. Photo by Tony RinaldoLiette Gidlow is a 2019–2020 Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and an associate professor of history at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She writes and teaches about post–Civil War US politics, gender, and race. Her recent research examines the grassroots efforts of African Americans to vote in the South after 1920. At Radcliffe, Gidlow is drafting her next book, which explores connections between the woman suffrage amendment of 1920 and the African American freedom movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

Manisha Sinha. Photo by Tony RinaldoManisha Sinha. Photo by Tony RinaldoManisha Sinha is a 2019–2020 Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests lie in the transnational histories of slavery, abolition, and feminism and in the history and legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction. At the Institute, she is researching and writing a long history on the 19th Amendment, one that employs a “Greater Reconstruction” framework to elucidate debates over gender, labor, race, and democratic citizenship in the aftermath of the Civil War.


The Long 19th Amendment

Building on the Schlesinger Library’s rich collections, the Long 19th Amendment initiative at the Radcliffe Institute seeks to shape scholarly and popular understanding of women’s suffrage. Although the 19th Amendment dramatically increased the American electorate, the result fell far short of a universal adult franchise. Disenfranchisement remains a significant and growing problem today. Penal restrictions on voting, battles over immigration and naturalization, and the push for voter ID laws demonstrate that the fight for suffrage—who counts as a voter, and whose vote gets counted—is far from over. The initiative is funded by a four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.