Leaders A (75%)
Groups A (100%)
Events A (83%)
History D (29%)
Opposition F (0%)
Tactics F (0%)
Content B (55%)
Grade levels A (100%)
Current events F (0%)
Civics F (0%)
Other movements A (100%)
Context B (50%)
Items the State Requires
Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges. Groups: CORE, SCLC, SNCC. Events: 24th Amendment, 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, 1968 Civil Rights Act, Brown, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Little Rock, March on Washington, Selma-to-Montgomery March. History: A. Philip Randolph, Jim Crow.
GRADE B means Illinois includes at least 50% of the recommended content and demonstrates that it is committed to educating students about the movement.
The Illinois Learning Standards include 12 specific mandates, one of which is for the study of African- American history:
Every public elementary school and high school shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of black history. These events shall include not only the contributions made by individual African Americans in government and in the arts, humanities and sciences to the economic, cultural and political development of the United States and Africa, but also the socio-economic struggle which African Americans experienced collectively in striving to achieve fair and equal treatment under the laws of this nation. The studying of this material shall constitute an affirmation by students of their commitment to respect the dignity of all races and peoples and to forever eschew every form of discrimination in their lives and careers.
In addition, the Illinois Social Science Assessment Framework gives a detailed description of what students should learn about the civil rights movement.
Elementary and Middle School:
Grade 5: By the end of elementary school, students are expected to: • Identify the significance of major U.S. holidays, including Independence Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Martin Luther King Day.
• Understand the origins and course of the civil rights movement, including the roles of individual American citizens, federal intervention in Little Rock, Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Grade 8: The framework builds on the figures and events learned in fifth grade with additional details and a requirement for more conceptual understanding of the causes of social movements:
• Identify the roles played by federal, state and local political leaders—as well as individual American citizens—in the civil rights movement, including: federal intervention in Little Rock; Rosa Parks and the Montgomery boycotts; Martin Luther King Jr., the SCLC and the 1963 March on Washington; Freedom Riders; Jackie Robinson and the desegregation of baseball; the work of Cesar Chavez and the development of the United Farmworkers; Robert Kennedy and the civil rights movement; Lyndon Johnson and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
• Understand the basic causes, course and impact of significant social movements and events from history and related legislation (where applicable), including: westward expansion before and after the Civil War and the significance of the words, “Go west, young man;” the Gold Rush and the Homestead Act; the abolitionist movement; the birth of the civil rights movement (e.g., roles of Tuskegee Institute and Booker T. Washington, the NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois); significant immigrations before and since the Civil War; the women’s suffrage movement; the civil rights movement in the 20th century.
U.S. History: The framework for the grade 11 course continues to add layers of sophistication to students’ understanding about the civil rights movement while requiring them to:
• Analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights, in terms of key court cases and ballot initiatives: Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of California v. Bakke, Zelman v. Ohio; key leaders: A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall; Constitutional Amendments: 19th and 24th; 1965 Voting Rights Act and Fair Housing Act of 1968.
• Analyze the development of federal civil and voting rights for citizens, including the 19th & 24th amendments, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
• Understands events and influential individuals of the civil rights movement (e.g., the role of civil rights advocates, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez; the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream Speech;” events such as segregation, desegregation, the Bus Boycott, Selma March, the Freedom Riders, and Central High School in Little Rock; the role of African-American political groups, including the NAACP, CORE, SCLC and SNCC; the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watts Riots.
• Trace the origins, events and consequences of major U.S. social movements, including: temperance movement, social gospel, the religious origins of the civil rights movement, the organized labor movement, women’s suffrage movement (Susan B. Anthony) and the “women’s movement” of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Illinois’ standards show promise. They appropriately portray the civil rights movement as the work of many groups and individuals. Illinois is one of only a few states to require students to learn about all three of our core civil rights movement groups (CORE, SNCC and the SCLC) and covers all but two (Birmingham bombings and protests; Freedom Summer) of the events in our rubric.
Unfortunately, Illinois’ standards fall far short in other categories. The standards do not include resistance to the civil rights movement or racism. There is no mention of Jim Crow laws, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, poll taxes, literacy tests or the main figures of white resistance such as Bull Connor, George Wallace, Orval Faubus or Ross Barnett. This makes it seem as if the movement faced no meaningful opposition, and risks confusing students about the movement’s trajectory and the courage required to right injustices.
Finally, Illinois should consider requiring students to show understanding of internal debates in the movement about tactics and strategies. Requiring students to be able to identify Malcolm X is not the same as challenging students to compare Black Power to nonviolent resistance. Some attention to redressing repetition in the standards from grade to grade could create room for inclusion of history, tactics and opposition to the benefit of Illinois students.