Political Citizenship at Last!

by Veronica Popp

The recent film Citizens at Last (Schiesari 2021) is a strong starting point for discussing suffrage in Texas, but it mainly features white women activists. This lesson plan will focus on using a library guide (LibGuide) to create a more thorough picture of voting by focusing on access for black, indigenous, and persons of color (BIPOC) women in Texas.

A LibGuide is a pathfinder and list of citations created by librarians and researchers that allows for content and information sharing on a specific research topic and subject area. Project SITE (Suffrage in Texas Expanded) is a LibGuide funded by the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership (JNIWL) on BIPOC women’s suffrage, which I worked on as a graduate research assistant from January-August 2021. The goal of Project SITE is to move beyond the limiting discussion that the fight for women’s suffrage ended in 1919 (when the nineteenth amendment was ratified) by showing how suffragettes of color in Texas protested, agitated, educated, and organized for greater equality in their polling places and wider communities for the goal of social justice. I hope this resource offers many points for discussion about suffragettes of color and broader efforts to ensure that all BIPOC women have safe and equal access to voting in Texas. This research guide was created for students, faculty, and staff, and here I explore its use within the undergraduate classroom at Texas Woman’s University as an adjunct to the lesson plan for screening Citizens at Last! This activity could be integrated into a women’s and gender studies or political science classroom, and because of the topic’s continued cultural and communal relevance, it would work well in classes that address voting access in Texas, especially in relation to Constitution Day (September 17) or Lobby Day (generally held in March during spring break) or, in the case of my courses, in a research module.

Due to the stay-at-home order in Texas during 2020, most archival work had to be conducted remotely, and educators increasingly taught online; therefore, I have constructed this lesson plan for asynchronous, synchronous, virtual, and in-person classrooms, which is possible because both resources—Citizens at Last! and Project SITE—are free and accessible online. The LibGuide itself is not limited to film discussions but can be adapted to various fields and curricula. For example, the Art History Department at Texas Woman’s University is using the guide to find images for the Yellow Rose Project, which is about artistic reactions to and representations of the passage of the nineteenth amendment.

Citizens at Last, written and directed by Nancy Schiesari and produced by Nancy Schiesari and Ellen Temple, is about the struggle for Texas women to achieve suffrage. The film is unique in that it presents stories from both the academic and narrative perspective. Professors within the field speak about their research foci and interests, and actors using historical reenactments bring the story alive. The run time of the broadcast version of the film is fifty-seven minutes, but I recommend viewing or assigning the eighty-seven-minute extended cut because it presents a more thorough history of BIPOC suffrage. For example, the former omits a discussion of Rena Maverick Green of the San Antonio Equal Franchise Society (62:00-63:00) and her ten point manifesto for suffrage in La Prensa, the Mexican daily newspaper. Regardless of the version shown, I recommend assigning an additional video on Green’s activist work found in the LibGuide: “100 Years after the 19th Amendment: Rena Maverick Green.” I also suggest screening Citizens at Last! over two or three class periods and have structured the lesson plan for one week of course activity.

Lesson Plan Rationale

Texas is known for its low voter turnout, but during 2020 the state experienced a dramatic rise in voting, through early in-person voting—drive-through voting, and mail-in ballot—due to increased options because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As this documentary has shown, BIPOC women have been disenfranchised in the United States. Therefore, this academic year provides an opportunity to gain experience from the women who came before us and apply these lessons toward future generations’ voting rights activism for BIPOC Texas residents. This lesson plan also builds students’ critical and digital literacy skills. As I discovered when researching in digital archives, metadata may not be inclusive because digital librarians may tag artifacts based on their own worldviews (Hardesty 2019; Hardesty and Nolan 2021). Archival work is often coded by white librarians through structures that are not created and aggregated for scholars seeking BIPOC knowledge and wisdom.1 Such data can lose nuance, and the knowledge in these archives remains cloistered. Therefore, this activity also encourages students to be aware of their own habits of mind and behavior when researching and recognize how databases and archives represent and fail to represent the contents of their collections.

Writing Activity

Writing prompt: Name one person or group of people who come to mind as suffragettes. Can we think of any examples from Texas? Why is it important to know about suffrage and voting rights, historically and in the contemporary moment, in our state? (8-10 sentences)

This activity can be done during a class meeting, or it can function as a pre-screening exercise at the beginning of the week and turned in electronically.

Film Screening

Whether a class is asynchronous or synchronous, a Zoom watch party provides the opportunity to pause the film and have a discussion in real time, a chat forum, or a discussion board to maintain class enthusiasm and energy. If a synchronous screening is not possible, ask students to watch the film and complete a video discussion board within the week.

Video Discussion Board

The video discussion board offers students the opportunity to verbally respond to the film rather than in a traditional written discussion board post. Students complete a short video response (3-5 minutes) in which they address the three questions listed below and refer to a small section of the film (up to 30 seconds), quotations that inspired or fired them up, or general concepts that the film used as an educational tool.

Modeling Activity

Using the SITE Teaching Tool slides, the instructor will discuss two examples of BIPOC women in Citizens at Last! who are covered in the LibGuide. Stop the film if screening it in a synchronous class or ask students to pause it twice: at 22:30, after learning about Jovita Idár, and at 65:01, after the portion with Christia Adair. Both women of color are activists, for suffrage and for civil rights, respectively, discussed in-depth within Citizens at Last!

Discussion Questions: Address the following questions for Jovita Idár and Christia Adair based on their representation in Citizens at Last! and the Project SITE content to model what you want students to do.

During the discussion, students will debrief their thoughts about Texas suffragists, and while there is no correct or incorrect answer to the above questions, I encourage teachers to emphasize how many activists in the LibGuide are teachers and organizers. What I’m trying to tease out is that both Idár and Adair, and other women discussed in the LibGuide (Laura A. Moore Westbrook, Clarissa M. Thompson, Maude Sampson, Lula B. White, Hattie Mae Whiting White, and Juanita Craft), have been represented from a singular angle, specifically only as teachers and not as activists. The following questions can be helpful in eliciting this point from students: Is there a common theme we see within the job titles and backgrounds of these women of color activists? Why is it important to continue to remember the legacy of women serving as educators in Texas?

Through this lesson plan, another goal is that students think more deeply about what generational activism means for BIPOC women. BIPOC activists mothered younger generations through both their teaching and activist work. For example, Citizens at Last! links Lulu Belle Madison White, executive secretary of the NAACP (1943-49), to Hattie Mae Whiting White, the first woman to hold political office in Texas as a school board member (1958-67), to Barbara Jordan, the first women congresswoman in Texas (1973-79), creating a lineage of black suffragettes and civil rights activities (81:00-83:00).


After the film screening and discussion, ask students to complete the following activity: Choose one BIPOC activist who is not covered extensively in the film and compose a one-page response to the prompt based on their findings in the LibGuide.

Prompt: Select one artifact from the LibGuide (for example, a newspaper article, video, or biographical link) and consider what it means to utilize an intersectional approach to research women’s suffrage (see Suffrage in Texas Expanded (SITE) Teaching Tool).

Question: How does using both the documentary film and the library guide as research tools enhance your understanding of suffrage in Texas?

Extra Credit: The personal archives and papers of many of these women, including Emma Tenyacua, Hattie Mae White Whiting, and Jovita Idár, are housed at Texas Woman’s University. Educators could ask students to visit the archives at their own university or local library and write about what they learned and took away from the visit.

Points of Further Discussion for Citizens at Last!

Works Cited

100 Years after the 19th Amendment: Rena Maverick Green.” 2020. YouTube video, :46. Posted by KSAT 12, 18 August.

Croxton, Rebecca A., Michael A. Crumpton, and Gerald V. Holmes. 2016. “Promoting Diversity to Add Value to the LIS Profession.” The Bottom Line 29, no. 3 (November): 191-206.

Deng, Sai. 2020. “A Glimpse into Metadata Inclusiveness: A Preliminary Literature Review Using Nvivo.” Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works, University of South Florida, July 15.

Ettarh, Fobazi. 2014 “Making a New Table: Intersectional Librianship.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, July 2.

Hardesty, Juliet. 2019. “Bias and Inclusivity in Metadata: Awareness and Approaches.” IUScholarWorks, Indiana University, March 20.

Hardesty, Juliet, and Allison Nolan. 2021. “Mitigating Bias in Metadata: A Use Case Using Homosaurus Linked Data.” Information Technology and Libraries 40, no. 3.

Hathcock, April. 2015. “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, October 7.

hooks, bell. 2018. All About Love: New Visions. New York: William Morrow.

Jones, Martha S. 2020. Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. New York: Basic Books.

Keating, AnaLouise. 2007. Teaching Transformation: Transcultural Classroom Dialogues. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kim, Kyung-Sun, and Sei-Ching Joanna Sin. 2008. “Increasing Ethnic Diversity in LIS: Strategies Suggested by Librarians of Color.” Library Quarterly 78, no. 2 (April): 153-77.

Schiesari, Nancy, dir. and Nancy Schiesari and Ellen Temple, prod. 2021. Citizens at Last! Austin: ET Films/Mo-Ti Productions. 57 and 87 minutes.

1 See Croxton, Crumpton, and Holmes 2016; Deng 2020; Ettarh 2014; Hathcock 2015; and Kim and Sin 2008.

Veronica Popp has a PhD in rhetoric with a minor in multicultural women’s and gender studies from Texas Woman’s University. She served as the Graduate Research Assistant for the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership and Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy project, Suffrage in Texas Expanded (SITE). She has co-published with Danielle Phillips-Cunningham in Peitho, Gender Forum and Women Gender and Families of Color (2022). She is currently an Instructor Level II at Elmhurst University.