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1870: Senator Hiram Revels (left) of Mississippi with some of the first black members of congress, (from left) Benjamin Turner, Robert De Large, Josiah Walls, Jefferson Long, Joseph Rainey and Robert Brown Elliot.

What everyone should know about Reconstruction 150 years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification

Patterson is an assistant professor of secondary school studies at West Virginia University.

I'll never forget a student's response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: "Martin Luther King freed the slaves."

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

While shocked, I knew this mistaken belief reflected the lack of time, depth and breadth schools devote to black history. Most students get limited information and context about what African Americans have experienced since our ancestors arrived here four centuries ago. Without independent study, most adults aren't up to speed either.

For instance, what do you know about Reconstruction?

Based on my experience teaching social studies and my current work preparing social studies educators, I consider understanding what happened during the Reconstruction essential for exploring black power, resilience and excellence.

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The high court in Missouri said a new voter ID law "misleading" and "contradictory."

Heart of new photo voter ID law struck down by Missouri Supreme Court

A key part of Missouri's new and strict voter identification law has been struck down by the state's highest court.

The decision has potential nationwide importance. That's because the provision at issue, which allows people without photo IDs to cast ballots only after signing sworn statements, is similar to laws recently enacted in several other states.

Those have been labeled by critics, mostly Democrats, as thinly veiled voter suppression efforts, because poor, elderly, disabled and minority voters are less likely to have photo IDs or be agreeable to signing affidavits. But proponents, mainly Republicans, label such rules an appropriate guardrail against fraud.

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Democratic campaign committees are funding lawsuits challenging a variety of voter suppression tactics including rejection of mailed-in absentee ballots.

Democrats to spend more than $10M suing for voting rights in purple states

In recent years, competition between the Democratic and Republican parties to gain a tactical edge in elections has centered on technology — who had the most sophisticated system for identifying potential voters and getting them to the polls.

This time, though, the leaders of the Democratic congressional campaign organizations have settled on a new strategy: going to court.

The party has gained scattershot headlines in recent months by filing federal lawsuits in mostly purple states, alleging an array of their election laws are unconstitutional voting rights violations or contradict federal law. But the ambitions of this strategy, and the size of the investment, did not become clear until last week.

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Nebraska could become the eighth state to enact a strict voter identification law.

Nebraska Republicans push for voter ID law

Republican lawmakers in Nebraska want to require all voters to show valid identification before accessing the ballot box.

The legislation, introduced last week, would amend the state's Constitution to require poll workers to review photo IDs to verify each person's identity before allowing them to vote. If passed by the Republican-controlled, unicameral Legislature, the provision would then be posed to voters on the ballot this November.

The lawmakers behind the bill say it will protect Nebraska against potential voter fraud, preserve each citizen's right to vote, modernize the state's election infrastructure and ensure the integrity of elections. Seven other states have strict photo ID laws like the one being considered in Nebraska.

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