Pushing Towards Civil Rights

The push towards civil rights in the United States has been longstanding and is ever-evolving. While not encompassing, our civil rights unit covers the expansion and abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, and the expansion of rights through court cases and laws. For more coverage, check out additional cases in our Landmark Library.

Topic at a Glance: Civil Rights Movement | Nashville Sit-Ins | Montgomery Bus Boycott | Martin Luther King, Jr. | Rosa Parks | Barbara Johns | NAACP | Legal Defense Fund | Constance Baker Motley | Autherine Lucy | Pollie Ann Myers | Little Rock | Executive Order 10730 | voting rights | voting rights history | slavery | Missouri Compromise | Civil War and Reconstruction | Jim Crow | Jim Crow laws | segregation | separate but equal | right to fair housing | Shelley v. Kraemer | integration | desegregation | women’s suffrage | women’s rights | civic engagement | civic action | changemakers

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  • Lesson Plan

    Slavery: No Freedom, No Rights

    From the basics about slavery to the attitudes that defended it and the efforts of those who wanted to see it abolished, in this lesson students learn about this dark part of America's past.Got a 1:1 classroom? Download fillable PDF versions of this lesson's materials below!
  • 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.
  • DBQuest

    Resisting Slavery

    Prior to the Civil War, over 300 enslaved people sued for their freedom in St. Louis courts. The most well-known of these “freedom suits” was that of Dred and Harriet Scott. In this DBQuest, students will explore the only known account of a freedom suit written by a former enslaved woman, Lucy Delaney.  Using her autobiography, students will consider how enslaved people resisted slavery through both legal and extra-legal means. The Big Question: What decisions did families make in their fight to resist slavery? 
  • Lesson Plan

    Civil War & Reconstruction

    The Civil War and Reconstruction Era brought about the end of slavery and the expansion of civil rights to African Americans through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Compare the Northern and Southern states, discover the concepts of due process and equal protection, and understand how the former Confederate states reacted to the Reconstruction Amendments.
  • Lesson Plan

    Jim Crow

    Use primary documents and images to discover the ways state and local governments restricted the newly gained freedoms of African Americans after the Civil War. Compare, contrast, and analyze post-war legislation, court decisions (including Plessy v. Ferguson), and a political cartoon by Thomas Nast to understand life in Jim Crow states. 
  • 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

    The Road to Civil Rights

    Discover the people, groups, and events behind the Civil Rights Movement. Learn about means of non-violent protest, opposition to the movement, and identify how it took all three branches of the federal government to effect change. Protest posters, fictional diary entries, and a map of the movement's major events develop a greater understanding of the struggle for civil rights.
  • 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. 
  • 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.