11 April 2018 Blogs

Lesson Plans and Resources for Teaching Civil Rights

Intro Copy

Fifty years ago today (April 11, 1968), President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. One week earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. The president condemned the slaying and asked Americans to pray for peace and understanding. But the following week saw massive nationwide protests and demonstrations that often turned violent, and riots broke out in 125 cities across the nation. Local and federal officials called in the National Guard to deal with the violence, arson, and looting. In Washington, Chicago and Baltimore, tens of thousands of regular Army soldiers and Marines were brought in to help overwhelmed local police forces. When the riots ended, some 39 people were dead, more than 2,600 injured, and 21,000 had been arrested. Title VIII of the law, also known as the Fair Housing Act, was an attempt by Congress to impose a comprehensive solution to the problem of unlawful discrimination in housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, or religion. The new law allowed people in the protected classes equal opportunity to rent or own residential property in areas that were previously segregated. Johnson had previously signed other landmark legislation--the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  As the president signed the legislation into law, he stated: “I do not exaggerate when I say that the proudest moments of my Presidency have been times such as this when I have signed into law the promises of a century. I shall never forget that it was more than 100 years ago when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation--but it was a proclamation; it was not a fact. In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we affirmed through law that men equal under God are also equal when they seek a job, when they go to get a meal in a restaurant, or when they seek lodging for the night in any State in the Union. In the Civil Rights Act of 1965, we affirmed through law for every citizen in this land the most basic right of democracy--the right of a citizen to vote in an election in his country….Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. It proclaims that fair housing for all--all human beings who live in this country--is now a part of the American way of life.” SIRS Issues Researcher has an Educators' Resources section that now includes a collection of classroom-ready, editorially-selected lesson plan websites related to Leading Issues and other high-interest content. Below are some featured lesson plan websites for teaching Civil Rights: Civil Rights Lesson Plan: Baseball, Race Relations and Jackie Robinson Civil Rights Lesson Plan: The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March Civil Rights Lesson Plan: Segregation: From Jim Crow to Linda Brown Civil Rights Lesson Plan: From Canterbury to Little Rock Civil Rights Lesson Plan: After Reconstruction: Problems of African Americans in the South Civil Rights Lesson Plan: Women in the Civil War: Ladies, Contraband and Spies Educators can find a wide variety of other useful tools here, including teacher and student-ready PDF curriculum guides (also available in MS Word) with editable fields that are aligned to curriculum and help teach information literacy skills: editorial cartoons, infographics, primary sources, research guide, statistics, and argument writing.

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