Humanities Nebraska is conducting a series of virtual programs that will explore the hard fought battles waged historically to give all Americans the right to vote. This series begins November/December 2020 with an emphasis on women’s suffrage in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and continues in early 2021 with programs that focus on the Civil Rights movement.
All are invited to attend these events online, explore history and discuss the topic’s relevance today with friends and family

About the Events and Guest Presenters

Dianne Bystrom presents:
“A Century of Women’s Suffrage: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment”

Dr. Dianne Bystrom is director emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. She directed the center for 22 years before retiring in August 2018. She also founded Iowa State’s Leadership Studies Program and served as its director for 10 years. At Iowa State, she taught courses on women and politics, political campaigns, and women and leadership. Dr. Bystrom has contributed to 25 books—including the two-volume Women in the American Political System: An Encyclopedia of Women as Voters, Candidates, and Office Holders (2018); An Unprecedented Election: Media, Communication, and the Electorate in the 2016 Campaign (2018); and Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American Politics (2018, 2014, 2009 and 2006) as a co-author, co-editor or chapter author. She also has written journal articles on women and politics, youth voters and the Iowa caucus. Dr. Bystrom continues to serve as a speaker and commentator about political and women’s issues for community groups, professional organizations and the media. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kearney (NE) State College and a master’s degree in journalism and Ph.D. in communication, both from the University of Oklahoma.


Laureen Riedesel presents:
“Clues to Clara Bewick Colby: The Rediscovery of Local Women’s History”
While researching the origins of the Beatrice Public Library, Laureen Riedesel and Diana Church came across a footnote naming Clara Colby as the founder, uncovering a chapter in Nebraska history that was nearly lost. Clara Bewick Colby was one of the most active and versatile participants in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. This presentation introduces us to a remarkable woman. Riedesel also shows how state, regional and national resources can be used to rediscover local history.
Laureen Riedesel recently retired after a 47-year career at the Beatrice Public Library, where she served as youth outreach librarian and executive director.

Dec. 1 at 2 pm Central, Sally Bisson-Best presents “Nebraska’s Forgotten Suffrage Leader Doris Stevens”

Join us for a panel discussion with:
  • State Senator Anna Wishart
  • Sarpy County  Election Commissioner Michelle Andahl
  • Voter Services Director for the League of Women Voters of Nebraska Toni Monette
  • Co-President for the League of Women Voters of Nebraska Dianne Bystrom

Thursday, December 3 at 2 p.m. Central

Friday, February 12 at 1 p.m. Central

Joanne Blackmon Bland is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama. She was a highly active participant in the Civil Rights Movement from her earliest days, and at age 8 was the youngest person to have been jailed during any civil rights demonstration during that period. By the time she was 11 years old, Bland had been arrested a documented 13 times.

Lynda Blackmon Lowery marched on “Bloody Sunday” and “Turn Around Tuesday,” and is the youngest marcher to walk every step of the successful march from Selma to Montgomery. Her involvement in the civil rights movement has been the foundation for her work throughout her life. She is the author of the illustrated memoir “Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March.”

Willie Barney, founder and president of Omaha’s Empowerment Network, will facilitate the conversations.


1:00 pm – 2:00 pm CST

Join us for a conversation with Charlie Cobb and Leslie Burl McLemore. Charlie Cobb was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and one of the committed student activists from outside Mississippi who came to the state to challenge the system of white supremacy. In 1963, the twenty-year-old Cobb originated the idea of freedom schools as part of the 1964 Summer Project. He imagined that the schools could overcome the poor training African American students received in underfunded Mississippi public schools, teach new lessons about African American history and culture, and provide lessons in citizenship, including ways of organizing and protesting. Like many activists, Cobb experienced intimidation: he was arrested about a dozen times, and he and other activists faced gunfire in the Mississippi Delta. Leslie Burl McLemore, political scientist, civil rights activist, director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy at Jackson State University, and Jackson City Council president, attributes his earliest political consciousness to the influence of his maternal grandfather, Leslie Williams, a store owner. whose political acumen helped him navigate Jim Crow laws. In 1962, after leading local demonstrations for integration and access to the ballot, McLemore became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working on voter registration campaigns in Benton, Marshall, Tate, and De Soto Counties. As the northern regional coordinator for the 1963 Freedom Vote campaign, he was named to the executive committee of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. McLemore also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, where the Freedom Democratic Party challenged the seating of the all-white delegation from the Mississippi Democratic Party.

Willie Barney, founder and president of Omaha’s Empowerment Network, will facilitate the conversations.


Wednesday, February 24 at 1 p.m. central.

Professor Martha S. Jones discussed her new book “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All,” selected by TIME magazine as a “must-read” book for 2020.

Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy.

Our moderator was Prof. Jennifer Harbour of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. An associate professor, Jennifer Harbour is a 19th Century social historian who specializes in black women, slavery and emancipation. Her new book on African-American activism, “Organizing Freedom,” was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2020. Harbour teaches courses on African-American history, Modern African history and genocide. Her teaching interests include human rights law, pedagogies of kindness and black feminisms. She also is part of the women’s and gender studies department and an affiliated faculty member in the Goldstein Center for Human Rights. She joined UNO’s faculty in 2013.

A panel discussion about how the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was experienced in Omaha. 

Our guest speakers include: 

Preston Love, Jr.
Founder of Black Votes Matter and Civil Rights Tour
Terri Sanders
Publisher of Omaha Star

Matt Holland
Son of the founder of the DePorres Club

Pastor Kenneth Allen Senior Pastor of Zion Baptist Church
Willie Barney 
Founder of Empower Omaha, returns as our moderator
1 p.m. CDT
Join us for the conclusion of our Valuing the Vote series by exploring the Voting Rights Act from its inception in 1965 through current day.  This discussion will address the successes of the Voting Rights Act, how the Voting Rights Act has been challenged, and what we can expect in the future.

Our featured presenter is Dr. R. Keith Gaddie from the University of Oklahoma, co-author of Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act (2016).  This conversation will be moderated by Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado,  Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Watch now!

This program was funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Participating Organizations

Flicka Farms, LLC
Millard South High School
Sioux County Schools
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer