While the Reconstruction Amendments were an important step in ensuring equal rights for all people, regardless of race, racial injustices throughout the United States continued into the late 19th and 20th centuries, leading to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the passages of Supreme Court decisions and legislation, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Visit the National Constitution Center’s learning module to learn more about the freedom struggle and civil rights.
When most people think of the Civil Rights Movement in America, they think of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. But “the Movement” achieved its greatest results — the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act — due to the competing strategies and agendas of diverse individuals. Even black Americans, the primary beneficiaries of this landmark legislation, did not agree on the tactics that should be used to secure the equal protection of their rights. This unit presents the views of several important black leaders who shaped the debate over how to achieve freedom and equality in a nation that had long denied a portion of the American citizenry the full protection of their rights.
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments guarantee essential rights and civil liberties, such as the freedom of religion, the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, and more, as well as reserving rights to the people and the states. After the Constitutional Convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a central part of the ratification debates. Anti-Federalists, who opposed ratification, pointed to the missing bill of rights as a fatal flaw. Several states ratified the Constitution on the condition that a bill of rights be promptly added. Pop over to the National Constitution Center’s learning module to discover more!
This DocsTeach page includes a variety of primary sources and teaching activities exploring the ways Americans, including African Americans and others, have fought for, attained, and protected their rights. Many documents at the National Archives illustrate how individuals and groups asserted their rights as Americans. Use this site to find teaching activities to explore the topics such as slavery, racism, citizenship, women’s independence, immigration, and more.
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. 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. The Share My Lesson team has curated a collection of free lesson plans, activities, and classroom materials for educators to use in teaching students about the Civil Rights Act.
Teachers can use this lesson as a supplemental resource in their federalism unit, their Supreme Court unit, or their civil rights and civil liberties unit to help students understand how some rights apply to the states and others don’t. This lesson includes a video from Sal in which he describes the basic concept of selective incorporation, a video about McDonald v. Chicago in which Kim interviews Alan Gura and Elizabeth Wydra about the facts and outcome of the case, and practice questions aligned to the new AP Government and Politics exam.
March 31 is César Chávez Day. Use these K-12 lesson plans and resources to celebrate the life and legacy of this civil rights and labor activist. Topics span his early days as a migrant farmworker, his co-founding of the United Farm Workers union, his use of nonviolent protests to fight for the rights of laborers and includes other change-makers like Dolores Huerta, Lucas Benitez and Librada Paz. You’ll also find related lessons on social justice, on Martin Luther King, Jr., and Hispanic heritage month celebrations.
In the real world, the ability of free blacks to enjoy their natural rights and exercise the privileges and immunities of citizenship depended on the states where they actually lived. When those states imposed a raft of legal discriminations on free blacks they cheapened the meaning of freedom and discounted the value of citizenship. I suspect this bothered Lincoln, but it wasn’t his issue. It would take other men and women, and another century of struggle, before “states rights” was abolished.
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. The Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.
1968 was a tumultuous period in the United States. The Vietnam War, political assassinations and civil rights issues were among some of the challenges the country faced as solutions were sought. At this time, Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Poor People’s Campaign to shift the focus of the civil rights movement to economic issues; however, Reverend King was assassinated weeks before the campaign got underway in Washington, D.C. In this lesson, students will learn about the circumstances that gave rise to this campaign and how it is relevant today.