The questions of who gets to vote, and how, have generated some of the most divisive struggles in American political history. “Voter Suppression in the United States, Past and Present” — a Virginia Tech webinar held on October 8, 2020, at noon — set the voter rights activism of our own time in historical perspective.

Panelists drew on their own experiences with voter registration campaigns as well as their knowledge of previous generations’ battles over the right to vote. Speakers included:

  • Claudrena Harold, Professor of History, University of Virginia;
  • Jason Chavez, Elections Division, Arizona Secretary of State’s Office;
  • Karen Jones, Editor-in-Chief of ColorsVA and PAC Chair of Local NAACP; and
  • Jasmine Castillo Alvarado, History and Political Science Major at Virginia Tech.


Loading player for

Claudrena Harold has published two books, The Rise and Fall of the Garvey Movement in the Urban South, 1918-1942, and New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South; coedited two volumes; and co-directed with Kevin Everson eight short films on the black experience at the University of Virginia. In November 2020, her new book, When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras, will be published.

Jason Chavez received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech. As a former elections official in Pima County, Arizona, Chavez worked to increase early voting opportunities for voters on the Tohono O’odham Nation, of which he is an enrolled member. In his Virginia Tech master’s thesis, Chavez examined the arbitrary and political barriers that render political participation more difficult for Native Americans. He currently works in the Elections division of the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Karen Jones is a graduate of Radford University’s School of Communication and the editor in chief of ColorsVA, a magazine that highlights issues relevant to southwestern Virginia’s communities of color. She is actively involved with organizations promoting diversity and social justice; is a member of Asbury United Methodist Church; serves on the board of the Hill School Community Center in Christiansburg and Opera Roanoke; chairs the Political Action Committee of the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP; serves as assistant secretary for the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP; and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Jasmine Castillo Alvarado is a senior majoring in history and political science at Virginia Tech. Her academic interests include race and ethnicity, gender studies, and education reform. She plans to attend Virginia Tech’s School of Education to obtain a master’s degree in secondary social studies education and teaching after graduation.

The event was sponsored by the Virginia Tech Department of History, with support from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.