Leaders B (50%)
Groups F (0%)
Events A (75%)
History F (0%)
Opposition F (0%)
Tactics F (14%)
Content D (28%)
Grade levels F (0%)
Current events F (0%)
Civics F (0%)
Other movements F (0%)
Context F (0%)
Items the State Requires
Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall. Events: 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, Birmingham, Brown, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Little Rock, March on Washington, Selma-to-Montgomery March. Tactics: Sit-ins.
GRADE D means Massachusetts includes at least 20% of the recommended content and should review and revise its standards.
The Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework has students learning about the civil rights movement only in high school.
Elementary and Middle School
No requirements for instruction on the civil rights movement.
U.S. History II: Students are required to “Analyze the origins, goals, and key events of the civil rights movement.” These include:
• People: Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X
• Institution: NAACP
• Events: Brown v. Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Little Rock School Crisis, the sitins and Freedom Rides of the early 1960s, the 1963 civil rights protest in Birmingham, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1965 civil rights protest in Selma and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
• Seminal Primary Documents to Read: Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” President Lyndon Johnson’s speech to Congress on voting rights (March 15, 1965).
In addition, students are required to “Describe the accomplishments of the civil rights movement,” including:
• The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
• The growth of the African-American middle class, increased political power and declining rates of African-American poverty.
Massachusetts’ standards make an effort to tell part of the story of the civil rights movement. They isolate several key individuals, even as they neglect to mention instrumental groups like CORE, SCLC and SNCC. Students learn about some tactics, such as sit-ins, but are not encouraged to explore the debates about tactics within the movement. Requiring students to learn about Malcolm X does not mean that they will examine the relative merits of Black Power and nonviolent resistance.
The state’s list of required events is especially strong. Unfortunately, the state’s decision to omit obstacles to the civil rights movement including the means of oppression and disenfranchisement risks presenting students with a view of the civil rights movement that lacks context. This view is unlikely to allow students to better understand current events and improve their civic engagement.