Civil Rights

The Civil Rights unit covers the early days of the expansion of slavery in the United States through the momentous 1950s and 60s and into the modern Civil Rights Movement. Use primary documents, readings, activities and more to introduce your students to key concepts, events, and individuals of this facet of American history.

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  • Video

    The Shelleys & the Right to Fair Housing

    In this video, students learn about J.D. and Ethel Shelley and their fight against restrictive housing covenants. Unable to purchase the house of their choice because of an agreement among homeowners to not sell to people of color, the Shelleys took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. Their actions changed accessibility to housing for millions of Americans.
  • Video

    Stepping Forward: The Fight for College Integration

    In this video, students learn about the courage of Autherine Lucy and Pollie Ann Myers. When they were denied admission to the University of Alabama because of the color of their skin, Lucy and Myers fought back. Their actions were important steps toward the racial integration of colleges in the United States.This video was made in conjunction with Makematic.
  • Video

    Breaking Barriers: Constance Baker Motley

    In this video, students learn about the accomplishments of Judge Constance Baker Motley. As the first African American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, be elected to the New York state senate, and be appointed a federal judge, Motley broke racial and gender barriers throughout her career while fighting for the civil rights of all Americans.This video was made in conjunction with Makematic.
  • DBQuest

    Historical Monuments & Meaning

    Civil War-era monuments are in the news. Some people want to remove statues because they represent ideas many find disturbing. Others want to keep the statues because they show our nation’s history, even if it is difficult. This DBQuest looks at one such statue, the Freedmen’s Memorial in Washington, DC. These primary sources will explore the complicated nature of memorial statues by looking at who funded and designed the Freedmen's Memorial, as well as a critique of the monument by a leading voice of the time, Frederick Douglass. 
  • Video

    Students and the Struggle for School Integration

    In this video, students learn about the activism of teenager Barbara Johns. In 1951, she organized over 450 students to protest in support of better conditions at their segregated high school in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The students' actions would lead to a lawsuit that became one of the five cases represented in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.
  • Video

    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

    In this video, students learn about a team of lawyers dedicated to achieving racial justice through the legal system. Formed in 1940 as part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) raised money, amassed lawyers, and launched lawsuits throughout the country to fight segregation. 
  • DBQuest

    Little Rock: Executive Order 10730

    When President Eisenhower authorized troops under federal authority to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, he became the first president since Reconstruction to use federal forces to help enforce equal rights for African Americans. Using the example of Executive Order 10730, students will explore how executive orders can be used to enforce the law and examine how Eisenhower justified his actions. 
  • DBQuest

    Woman Suffrage and World War I

    Students will learn how World War I impacted the woman suffrage movement. Sources will show how suffragists promoted woman suffrage as a war measure, how women’s roles expanded during the war and how suffragists used the stated purpose for fighting the war— fighting for democracy— to fight for this same right at home. The sources will also show how the tactics suffragists used varied and influenced public opinion both positively and negatively.But wait there's more! Use our women's suffrage infographic A Movement in the Right Direction and our WebQuest Movement and Action: The Women's…
  • Lesson Plan

    A Movement in the Right Direction (Infographic)

    How did women win the right to vote? Explore how the women's suffrage movement spread across the United States beginning in the late 1800s. Use this infographic to show students how two different approaches to the movement worked to grant women the right to vote.
  • Lesson Plan

    Slave States, Free States

    The debate over slavery ultimately helped drive the United States into civil war, but before it did, there were decades of careful balance between slaves states and free states. In this lesson, students learn about that balance and its geography, including the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850.