The fascinating tale of how a bipartisan coalition worked successfully to lower the voting age “Let Us Vote!” tells the story of the multifaceted endeavor to achieve youth voting rights in the United States. Over a thirty-year period starting during World War II, Americans, old and young, Democrat and Republican, in politics and culture, built a movement for the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution, which lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in 1971. This was the last time that the United States significantly expanded voting rights.
Jennifer Frost deftly illustrates how the political and social movements of the time brought together bipartisan groups to work tirelessly in pursuit of a lower voting age. In turn, she illuminates the process of achieving political change, with the convergence of “top-down” initiatives and “bottom-up” mobilization, coalition-building, and strategic flexibility. As she traces the progress toward achieving youth suffrage throughout the ’60s, Frost reveals how this movement built upon the social justice initiatives of the decade and was deeply indebted to the fight for African American civil and voting rights.
2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this important constitutional amendment and comes at a time when scrutiny of both voting age and voting rights has been renewed. As the national conversation around climate crisis, gun violence, and police brutality creates a new call for a lower voting age, “Let Us Vote!” provides an essential investigation of how this massive political change occurred, and how it could be brought about again.
Jennifer Frost is Associate Professor of History at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and author of “An Interracial Movement of the Poor”: Community Organizing and the New Leftin the 1960s, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservativism, and Producer of Controversy: Stanley Kramer, Hollywood Liberalism, and the Cold War.
"Jennifer Frost’s thorough, valuable Let Us Vote! celebrates the amendment’s semicentennial by chronicling the long struggle to pass it—alongside considerations of the role of the youth vote in contemporary politics."
"Skillfully guides the reader to different places and moments where efforts to lower the voting age gained traction. Frost successfully integrates a broad array of voices and histories, especially through her attention to the efforts of organizations like the NAACP to attack disfranchisement more broadly. This is an original history and an engaging read that will appeal to an audience beyond historians of the United States."
~Kathryn Schumaker, author of Troublemakers: Students’ Rights and Racial Justice in the Long 1960s
"Jennifer Frost has produced a major contribution to our understanding of the 1960s, the history of voting rights, and constitutional change. Her recognition that the movement for the 18-year-old vote must be seen from the top down and bottom up makes for a comprehensive and illuminating history of a strangely neglected topic. In pushing back against the long pattern of neglect of this history, this book is really important."
~Robert Cohen, author of Freedom’s Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s
"Frost explores the struggle for youth voting rights in the United States. Her comprehensive study of youth suffrage’s major players ... can be read as a case study of the laborious U.S. legislative process, set against the changing political landscape of the 1960s. Readers interested in U.S. politics will appreciate Frost’s research."
"Frost is unsparing with historical detail…She argues persuasively that the campaign for youth enfranchisement was made possible by and entangled with the bottom-up and top-down campaigns for ensuring African Americans’ civil and voting rights."