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Department of State

The Hon. Tahesha Way, Lt. Governor and Secretary of State

The New Jersey Historical Commission Announces 2020 NJ History Conference, Battles for the Ballot: New Jersey Voting Rights, Then and Now

Conference to Explore Voting Rights and Suffrage Stories throughout NJ State History

Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) is pleased to announce Battles for the Ballot: New Jersey Voting Rights, Then and Now, the 2020 New Jersey History Conference, scheduled for Friday, November 13, 2020. The conference will take place virtually.

The NJ History Conference is an annual program established to underscore the importance of studying and sharing inclusive and relevant narratives of state history. The 2020 program will focus on voting rights and suffrage history in New Jersey—a history of competing visions of who deserves a voice in American society. For centuries, activists, policymakers, and everyday people have fought to define that vision, especially on the basis of race and gender. As New Jersey marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment—against the backdrop of a presidential election year and a global pandemic—Battles for the Ballot will explore how the right to vote has changed over time and the meaning of participation and representation in a democracy.

The 2020 keynote program will feature three speakers: Ari Berman is a Senior Reporter at Mother Jones, Reporting Fellow at Type Media Center, winner of an Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media, and author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, and the forthcoming Minority Rule. Ryan P. Haygood is President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. A nationally respected civil rights lawyer who has litigated some of the most important civil and voting rights cases of our time, Mr. Haygood leverages his expertise to advance the Institute’s work to empower New Jersey’s communities of color through criminal justice reform and expanding democracy and economic justice in the Garden State. Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how Black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Professor Jones is the author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America and ,em>Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Fought for Rights for All

Conference panel sessions will explore the historical implications of questions of voting rights across New Jersey, the nation, and the world, including: who has and has not had the right to vote throughout history; how different factors (e.g. race, gender, class, geography, economy, society, culture, etc.) have influenced voting rights over time; grassroots and activist efforts to gain the right to vote and fight disenfranchisement; New Jersey voting patterns; voting legislation; and election administration and policy. The program will also include a virtual exhibition and breakout discussions to interpret and frame the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“Now more than ever, understanding the history of voting rights and suffrage can help New Jerseyans contextualize and interpret the world around them. The 2020 NJ History Conference will provide a platform for doing so, while also highlighting new scholarship and, we hope, encouraging civic engagement,” said Sara Cureton, Executive Director of the New Jersey Historical Commission.

Conference registration is planned to open on September 28. For registration and more information including a conference preliminary program, please visit and follow the NJHC on Twitter @OfficialNJHC and Facebook @NewJerseyHistoricalCommission.

The 2020 conference is co-sponsored by the Alice Paul Institute, New Jersey State Archives, New Jersey Digital Highway, and NJ Women Vote: The 19th Amendment at 100.

About the New Jersey Historical Commission

The New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) is a state agency dedicated to the advancement of public knowledge and preservation of New Jersey history. Established by law in 1967, its work is founded on the fundamental belief that an understanding of our shared heritage is essential to sustaining a cohesive and robust democracy.


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