Teaching the Civil Rights Movement
While the Civil War officially ended slavery, people of color continued to face discrimination and segregation particularly through the passage of Jim Crow laws and laws that limited voting rights. These injustices led to the mobilization of people across the nation to fight back against discriminatory practices and laws in the U.S.
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he said:
“The purpose of the law is simple. It does not restrict the freedom of any American, so long as he respects the rights of others.”
Originally proposed by President Kennedy in 1963, this landmark piece of legislation made discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin illegal. Additionally, the Civil Rights Act ended the practice of unequal voter requirements based on race or sex and ended racial segregation in schools.
Then on August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This law protected the right to vote for all citizens; forced states to obey the Constitution; and reinforced the 15th Amendment. The Act includes provisions to regulate elections. Congress subsequently amended the Act to expand its protections. And in 1971, the 26th Amendment was passed, changing the voting age to 18 years of age or older.
The Share My Lesson team has highlighted free lesson plans, activities and classroom materials that you can use to teach your students about the Civil Rights Movement from the March on Washington to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to the Gay Liberation Movement.
The impact of the Civil Rights Movement continues today. The Supreme Court of the United States used Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to side with plaintiffs against employers discriminating against LGBTQ employees. Check out this blog below for further reading and ways to engage your students: Exploring Civil Rights History with Digital Resources.