Leaders A (100%)
Groups A (100%)
Events A (75%)
History D (29%)
Opposition D (25%)
Tactics C (43%)
Content A (69%)
Grade levels A (100%)
Current events F (0%)
Civics A (100%)
Other movements A (100%)
Context A (75%)
Items the state requires:
Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Stokely Carmichael, A.G. Gaston, Autherine Lucy, Fred Shuttlesworth, James Meredith, S.B. Fuller, Vivian Malone. Groups: CORE, SCLC, SNCC. Events: 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, Birmingham, Brown, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Little Rock, March on Washington, the Selma-to-Montgomery March. History: Integration of armed forces, poll taxes. Opposition: George Wallace. Tactics : Black Power, sit-ins, voter registration.
Grade A means Alabama includes at least 60% of the recommended content and sets higher expectations for its students than other states.
Alabama’s Course of Study (2004) for social studies contains extensive required and suggested civil rights movement content. Unlike many state standards, the examples contained in Alabama’s state standards are not optional; rather, they provide “essential content.” Study of the movement begins in elementary school and is extensive in the high school U.S. history course.
Elementary and Middle School
Grade 3: Identify significant historical sites in Alabama, including locations of civil rights activities. Examples include: Montgomery, birthplace of the modern civil rights movement; Birmingham, home of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; and Selma, site of voting rights activities.
Grade 4: Describe the social, political and economic impact of the civil rights movement on Alabama. Identify important people and events (Examples: Martin Luther King Jr., George C. Wallace, Rosa Parks; Montgomery Bus Boycott, Birmingham church bombing and the Selma-to-Montgomery March). Identify benefits of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Grade 6: Describe the role of major civil rights leaders and significant events occurring. Examples: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Brown v. Board of Education, Montgomery Bus Boycott, student sit-ins, March on Washington, Freedom Rides, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Malcolm X, voter registration efforts and the Selma-to- Montgomery March.
Grade 7: Students studying civics should “Describe examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence of groups, societies, and nations, using past and current events.” The suggested activity is “tracing the political and social impact of the modern civil rights movement from 1954 to the present, including Alabama’s role.”
Grade 11: “Trace events of the modern civil rights movement from post-World War II to 1970 that resulted in social and economic changes, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, the March on Washington and the Freedom Rides.” The following activities are expected for all students:
• Tracing the federal government’s involvement, including the abolition of the poll tax, the desegregation of the armed forces, the nationalization of state militias, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
• Explaining contributions of individuals and groups, including Martin Luther King Jr., James Meredith, Medgar Evers, SCLC, SNCC and the CORE.
• Identifying people and events in Alabama that influenced the movement, including Rosa Parks, Autherine Lucy, John Patterson, George C. Wallace, Vivian Malone, Fred Shuttlesworth, the Children’s March, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing and the Selma-to-Montgomery March.
• Describing the development of the Black Power movement, including the change in focus of SNCC, the rise of Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panther movement.
• Describing the impact of African-American entrepreneurs including S. B. Fuller and A. G. Gaston.
Sociology elective: “Describe social movement and social change” by contrasting the impact of the modern civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gun rights movement and the environmental movement in the United States.”
Alabama’s standards contain an exceptionally high amount of required detail. This is appropriate, given the central role the state played in major civil rights events. Geography and history are not the only reasons for Alabama’s high grade. The state was one of the highest ranked in the Fordham Institute’s survey, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011, with a grade of A- and a final score of 90 percent.
The state still has room to improve its standards. While Alabama requires students to learn about a variety of leaders, events and groups in the civil rights movement, its requirements fail to include the nature and extent of white resistance, including key concepts like de jure and de facto discrimination and Jim Crow laws. Although the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing is included in required content, students are not required to learn about the Ku Klux Klan or Bull Connor, both important symbols of white resistance to the civil rights movement.