Youth Resistance

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History of youth resistance

Our research found youth resistance in every historical movement in America for the last 100+ years. There were fourteen different movements covered with a majority of activism occurring during the 1960s. We examine the events during the 20th and 21st centuries below:

1906: child labor movement

In 1906, an Indian chieftain was interviewed for Cosmopolitan magazine regarding the most surprising thing he saw on his tour of New York City, he replied, "little children working." One in five children worked by 1900 selling newspapers, shining shoes, and carried messages. "Newsies" were the face of child labor in America. Mines, cotton mills, factories, home workshops, and farms were children s workplaces. Children were parent's property.

In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provided the first guidelines for child labor. It wasn't until 1970 that the Supreme Court's Darby decision accomplished a monumental reform victory of the young mother's "Child Labor Movement".

1912: Young Women's suffrage movement

In 1912, the Women's Suffrage Movement marched on 5th Ave. in New York City. Their campaign lasted from 1912 to 1920. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote. The Women's Suffrage Movement secured the right for women to vote in America.

1918-Today: Black Lives Matter

In 1918, the black resistance to racialized violence was documented in a book titled, "As the Current Flows". Young black men, women, and children had to fight back against white, vigilante mobs in urban centers during the "Red Scare". The Red Scare was a nationwide fear of communists that radicals were plotting revolution in the United States.

In addition to being politically active among the youth of today, "Black Lives Matter" made policy changes to advance serious reforms of a broken criminal justice system. Economic justice reforms evolved to improve the lives of the working poor. "Death in Custody Reporting Act" to reduce racial profiling by federal law enforcement officials. Current efforts focus on unnecessary violence during encounters with police.

1950-2016: antisemitism at city college of New York

1950s Antisemitism demonstration at the City College of New York. The allegations of antisemitism stem from a letter penned by the "Zionist Organization of America" to CUNY, accusing the group "Students for Justice in Palestine" of antisemitic actions on campuses.

The New York State Senate voted to slash $485 million from senior colleges funding in the City University of New York system in 2016. Not enough was being done to fight campus antisemitism.

1960: free speech movement university of California at Berkeley

Student civil rights activism for the "Free Speech Movement" of the 1960s at UC of Berkeley spread nationwide. The Jackson State University in Mississippi had two students killed by police during a free speech demonstration. The result of this movement was that free speech restrictions were lifted in the end.

1963: Peace and Love Movement -or- rebellion and defiance of the establishment

The 1960s counterculture wanted to build a system based on love, trust, brotherhood, and "flower power" according to Abbie Hoffman, icon of the movement. New York's Village Voice published Abbie's works in the sixties.

Tom Hayden was a radical youth who penned the Port Huron statement in 1962. It became a call-to-arms for the "Students for a Democratic Society" which was made up of affluent students attracted to rebellion and defiance of the establishment.

The movement was undermined by the Vietnam War, drugs, and the loss of idealistic leaders like President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, to name a few. These events were witnessed first-hand by your author and it signaled a loss of innocence and the movement specifically.

1970: Anti-Vietnam War Demonstration at Kent State

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed student protesters at Kent State. Four students were killed and nine others seriously injured during "anti-war protests" on the college campus. This event resulted in the fear of the possibility of war on the home front.

1970: Women Movement & Gay education at UGA

"Many female students who had protested for civil rights and against the Vietnam War began fighting for the equality of women." These women also changed abortion laws and tried unsuccessfully to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) approved by the Georgia legislature.

The University of Georgia's homosexual men and women began speaking out at the time of the women's movement. The Committee on Gay Education successfully sued the university and won the right to hold a dance in late 1972. A dance was held for gays and lesbians on university grounds.

2017: Women's "Anti-Trump" Resistance Movement

The organized "Left" has experienced a 5.2 million person "Women's March" on Feb. 6, 2017 which was held to protest President Trumps election.
"Run for Something" organized millennial candidates to run for political offices in Jan. 20 2017. Over 3,000 people signed up to run for office by Feb. 2017.
"Next Up Huddles" is a part of the "10 Actions for the 100 Days" campaign which was responsible for launching the "Women's March". There have been 5.447 Huddles groups organized by Next Up.


#ENOUGH National School Walkout guidelines were established to hold student, teacher and administrators or parents walkouts to bring attention to school shootings. Their goal is to ask that something be done about the 200 school shootings and 400 people shot since the Sandy Hook incident. #ENOUGH is focusing on schools and universities across America. Their objective is to guide youth-led action.

The #MeToo movement that evolved after the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal sparked a movement calling for the acknowledgment and equality of women. It began back in 2006 by Tarana Burke who spoke at the University of Minnesota on Feb. 16, 2018. The students took a stand with the victims and survivors of sexual abuse. The University had expelled the former Gophers basketball star Reggie Lynch for alleged sexual misconduct. He did not challenge the action.


Our research found youth resistance in every historical movement in America for the last 100+ years. There were fourteen different movements covered with a majority of activism occurring during the 1960s.
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Vote 16 movement - US

Vote16 is a movement based on studying the previous revolutionary movements, including lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, women’s suffrage, ranked choice voting, and felony re-enfranchisement. Establishing the voting age at 18 was an idea originally proposed in 1942 by Jennings Randolph, a Democratic congressman from West Virginia. It was signed into law almost 30 years later by President Richard M. Nixon.

VOTE16 Evolution

Vote16 is an effort to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds, which is currently in its infancy and "stands to gain from the experiences of other voting rights and election reform movements". The movement is based on studying the previous revolutionary movements, including lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, women’s suffrage, ranked choice voting, and felony re-enfranchisement. The movement is focused on the key message: "Success on the local level can lead to success on the state level, and success on the state level can lead to success on the national level," This encourages people to start in their local community because that's where the change begins.

Vote16 is a national campaign, and is led by Generation Citizen. Its aim is to support efforts which are currently made towards lowering the voting age on the local level. The movement is helping people to start new campaigns at the local level and is hoping to elevate this issue to a national level in the future. The campaign was officially launched at the end of 2015 with the first white paper called, 'Young Voices at the Ballot Box: Advancing Efforts to Lower the Voting Age'.

the locations

In Boulder, members of Vote16 USA have been campaigning to lower the city's voting age to 16. They made their appeal to the city's Human Relations Commission in May 2017, but decided to start campaigning in order to lower the voting age to 16 by the 2018 elections. Their reasoning is centered largely "on the idea that voting is a habit, and that it's easier to instill it in people when they're younger". They also insist that "16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are often in more stable situations than 18-year-olds, who often earn the right to vote at the same time they're leaving home". So far, the members of Vote16 have managed to convince the Chairwoman of The Human Relations Commission, which is a body that makes recommendations to the City Council in Boulder.

Vote16 USA is also currently working to lower the local voting age in Washington and San Francisco as well. The Greenbelt, MD City Council voted unanimously to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections in January this year. Now 16-year-olds and above are able to vote in the city's next municipal elections which are happening in 2019. This occurred after four years of committed activism led by the Greenbelt Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), who have been advocating for this legislation to pass since 2015. They achieved this by taking the message directly to voters before the referendum was scheduled. They knocked on doors, distributed fliers, attended community forums, and also called their representatives. The City's Advisory Committee on Education and the Community Relations Advisory Board also gave their support for the movement. This happened after more than 70% of the community was opposed to lowering the voting age to 16 in 2015. Greenbelt is now the third city in Maryland with a voting age of 16.

Greenbelt students were helped by Brandon Klugman, campaign manager for Vote16 USA. The students explained that Vote16 USA is a movement that makes the most sense as it enables them to form habits early in life. A student from Greenbelt plans to study physics in college next year and said that the "lessons learned through voting could benefit young people long after they graduate high school". Low voter turnout which has been seen among registered voters between ages 18 and 25 can be fixed by giving "young people an opportunity to learn how to vote before they go off to college".

Currently there are a few municipalities in the US which allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote when it comes to local elections. Takoma Park, Maryland, was the first ever city to introduce a lower voting age, which happened after the youth themselves convinced the city council that they have the right to have a voice in local elections. The results of introducing the voting at 16 have been visible in just four years after the measure passed in Takoma Park. The youth turnout rates have been as follows:
2013: 44% youth turnout
2015: 45% youth turnout
2017: 48% youth turnout.

At the same time, the overall voter turnout also increased:
2013: 10% all voter turnout
2015: 21% all voter turnout
2017: 22% all voter turnout.

Currently, Takoma Park youth are voting at a higher rate than the residents who are over 18.


In 2016, Berkeley, California, passed a law that allowed the legal voting age to be lowered to 16 for school board elections. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the proposed law to lower the voting age when it comes to city elections lost by a narrow margin. Youth advocates are planning to raise this issue again in 2020. In June 2017, in Wendell, Massachusetts voters approved of lowering the legal voting age from 18 to 16 which would be valid for local elections and town meetings in a vote of 22 to 16. While the vote did win, it was a narrow one, and the opinions even in such a small community and only regarding the right to vote in local elections were split. Most people who voted were split on whether 16-year-olds are mature enough to understand what voting responsibly means and whether they are able to act accordingly.


Establishing the voting age at 18 was an idea originally proposed in 1942 by Jennings Randolph, a Democratic congressman from West Virginia, who was inspired by the America's youth and believed so much in them that he thought they deserved the right to vote: "They possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices in the world and are anxious to rectify those ills." He proposed the idea to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 a total of 11 times after first bringing it up in 1942.

The long debate that followed was a result of the public insisting that the voting age should be lowered from 21 to 18 as soldiers, often much younger than 21, were sent to fight in the Vietnam War. The same men who went to fight in the war didn't have the right to vote, which was caused by President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowering the minimum age for the entering the military draft to 18. This led to the famous slogan "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote". Because of it, in 1943, Georgia became the first state to introduce the voting age of 18 in its state and local election.

On the national level, the change happened later. In 1969, as many as 60 resolutions were introduced in Congress which all had the common goal of lowering the minimum voting age. However, none were passed. In 1970, Congress finally passed a bill which extended and amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which was initially passed to enable African Americans in the South to vote). The extended and amended 1965 bill now contained a provision that enabled for the voting age to be lowered to 18 in federal, state and local elections. The bill was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon, who despite signing it, thought the provision was unconstitutional: "Although I strongly favor the 18-year-old vote, I believe–along with most of the Nation’s leading constitutional scholars–that Congress has no power to enact it by simple statute, but rather it requires a constitutional amendment."


Vote16 is an effort to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds which is currently in its infancy and stands to gain from the experiences of other voting rights and election reform movements. The 1965 amendment which introduced the legal voting age of 18 was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970 during the Vietnam War, after the bill was first proposed in 1942.