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.
The historical struggle for human rights is something that affects us, our children, and future generations as we fight for equity and inclusion in an increasingly torn society. It can also be difficult to speak with students about sensitive subjects, which is why this Share My Lesson collection provides expertly curated lesson plans, resources, and activities that define these rights, develop a global awareness, and teach how we can all make a difference when we act together.
In the Bill of Rights edition of Do I Have a Right? your students run a law firm that specializes in constitutional law, specifically the rights protected in the Bill of Rights. Clients bring various complaints, and students must identify if they “have a right.” As students successfully resolve cases by matching them with the correct attorneys, their law firm grows along with the skills of their lawyers.
The Bill of Rights is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. This original joint resolution of Congress proposed 12 amendments to the United States Constitution, but only 10 were ratified. Added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.
This short video traces the evolution of James Madison’s thinking about the necessity of a Bill of Rights. While originally opposed to both a bill of rights and conditional ratification, Madison came to appreciate the political and the practical efficacy of both. Professor Jack Rakove notes that, unlike many bills of rights which use the phrase “the government ought not”, the American Bill of Rights says “the government shall not”, thus creating a set of legal commands to limit government.
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.
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.