Leaders B (50%)
Groups C (33%)
Events F (17%)
History C (43%)
Opposition D (25%)
Tactics F (14%)
Content C (30%)
Grade levels A (100%)
Current events A (100%)
Civics A (100%)
Other movements A (100%)
Context A (100%)
Items the State Requires
Leaders: Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Meredith, T.R.M. Howard. Groups: CORE. Events: Brown, Freedom Rides. History: De facto, de jure. Jim Crow. Opposition: Ross Barnett. Tactics: Black Power, sit-ins, voter registration.
GRADE C means Mississippi includes at least 30% of the recommended content and has considerable work to do to ensure its students have a satisfactory understanding of the movement.
In 2011, the state of Mississippi adopted two new strands—civil rights/human rights and culture—for its K-12 social studies framework. A number of the related required competencies and objectives deal directly with the civil rights movement. Notably, many of the competencies and objectives are related to helping students gain a deep understanding of the importance of mutual tolerance, respect and civil liberties in everyday society. Others deal with historical and contemporary pushes for human and civil rights. The 2011 Mississippi Social Studies Framework describes the new strands:
Civil Rights/Human Rights
Civil rights/humans rights education … is defined as the mastery of content, skills and values that are learned from a focused and meaningful exploration of civil rights/human rights issues (both past and present), locally, nationally and globally. This education should lead learners to understand and appreciate issues such as social justice, power relations, diversity, mutual respect, and civic engagement. Students should acquire a working knowledge of tactics engaged by civil rights activists to achieve social change. Among these are: demonstrations, resistance, organizing and collective action/unity.
The competencies and objectives in the culture strand aim to place historical events, actors, and prominent ideas in a cultural context. Students should be able to relate better to historical and contemporary events and see them as alive with possibility and open for critique. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of mass culture (media, arts, religion, contemporary sentiments, etc.) in the shaping of society.
It is important to note that, like many states, Mississippi’s use of the antecedent “e.g.” means that what follows is not required content.
Elementary and Middle School
Kindergarten: Students should study Martin Luther King Jr.
Grade 3: Understand how the diversity of people and customs affects the local community:
• Explain how cultural artifacts represent cultures in local communities. (e.g., pictures, animals and masks).
• Compare and contrast celebrations of various groups within the local community.
• Research and identify historical figures of various cultures (e.g., Martin Luther King Jr., Betsy Ross, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, etc.). Grade 4: Understand the roles, rights and responsibilities of Mississippi citizens:
• Distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors of a responsible citizen (e.g., courteous public behavior, respect for the rights and property of others, tolerance, self-control, participation in the democratic process and respect for the environment, etc.).
• Identify historical figures (e.g., Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr., etc.), circumstances (e.g., slavery, abolition, segregation and integration, etc.), and conditions (e.g., The Great Migration, Trail of Tears, Women‘s Suffrage, etc.) related to the struggle for civil/human rights in Mississippi and their impact on Mississippi‘s society.
• Compare and contrast the benefits and challenges of unity and diversity among citizens of Mississippi.
Grade 6: Understand the influences of historical documents (e.g., Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, etc.), events and social movements on the rights of American citizens:
• Compare and contrast the essential ideas of various historical documents that are important in shaping the values of American democracy.
• Analyze how various philosophers influenced the writing of America‘s historical documents.
• Analyze political and social impacts of civil rights movements throughout the history of the United States (e.g., demonstrations, individual and group resistance, organizing efforts and collective action/ unity).
• Explain and analyze the current state of civil and human rights for all people in our nation (e.g., people with disabilities, minorities, gender, etc.).
• Explain how conflict, cooperation and interdependence (e.g., social justice, diversity, mutual respect, and civic engagement) among groups, societies and nations influenced the writing of early historical documents.
Grade 9 (Mississippi Studies): Understand and describe the historical circumstances and conditions that necessitated the development of civil rights and human rights protections and/or activism for various minority groups in Mississippi:
• Compare and contrast de facto segregation and de jure segregation in Mississippi from 1890 to the present, including the rise of Jim Crow era events and actors (i.e., Ross Barnett, James Eastland, the integration of University of Mississippi, Sovereignty Commission, etc.), and their impact on Mississippi‘s history and contemporary society.
• Identify and explain the significance of the major actors, groups and events of the civil rights movement in the mid 20th century in Mississippi (i.e., Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Dr. T.R.M. Howard, James Meredith, Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, COFO, CORE, etc.).
• Compare and contrast the development and resulting impact of civil rights movements (e.g., women‘s suffrage, African-American liberation, Native American citizenship and suffrage, immigration rights, etc.) in Mississippi.
• Investigate and describe the state government’s responses to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Understand the trends, ideologies and artistic expressions in Mississippi over time and place:
• Examine the cultural impact of Mississippi artists, musicians and writers on the state, nation and world.
• Analyze the ways Mississippians have adapted to change and continue to address cultural issues unique to the state (e.g., the establishment of historical and commemorative markers for civil rights movement and Confederate icons).
• Analyze the impact of religious traditions upon the daily lives of Mississippians from the era of European exploration to the present.
U.S. History: Understand how the civil rights movement achieved social and political change in the United States and the impact of the civil rights struggle of African- Americans on other groups (including but not limited to feminists, Native Americans, Hispanics, immigrant groups and individuals with disabilities):
• Analyze the issues that gave rise to the civil rights movement from post-reconstruction to the modern movement.
• Trace the major events of the modern movement and compare and contrast the strategies and tactics for social change used by leading individuals/groups.
• Analyze the response of federal and state governments to the goals (including but not limited to ending de jure and de facto segregation and economic inequality) of the civil rights movement.
• Evaluate the impact of the civil rights movement in expanding democracy in the United States.
• Compare and contrast the goals and objectives of other minority and immigrant groups to those of the civil rights movement led predominantly by African-Americans.
• Cite and analyze evidence of the political, economic and social changes in the United States that expanded democracy for other minority and immigrant groups.
U.S. Government: In this one-semester course, students are expected to understand the role that governments play in the protection, expansion and hindrance of civil/ human rights of citizens:
• Explain Supreme Court rulings that have resulted in controversies over changing interpretations of civil rights, including those in Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena and United States v. Virginia (VMI).
Mississippi’s framework also sets standards for a onesemester Minority Studies elective course that includes study of the civil rights movement and a one-semester African American Studies elective course that requires study of the Black Power movement.
Mississippi’s new integration of civil rights instruction throughout grades is a promising start, but falls short when it comes to specifying required content. This is a disappointing failure to set appropriate and high expectations in a state whose progress in education has repeatedly attracted national attention.
Even as Mississippi acknowledges the importance of learning about diverse groups of movement leaders, the state does not require students to learn about any particular leaders. It similarly fails to isolate essential movement elements beyond Brown and the Freedom Rides, even omitting Freedom Summer, Little Rock and key legislative victories. At times, required content seems a bit scattered—why, for example, does the state require CORE but not the SCLC and SNCC?
As Mississippi continues to refine its new standards, it should include more directed requirements to learn about the obstacles to the civil rights movement as well as internal debates about its tactics. Anything less than an approach that meets these objectives simply risks providing students with an inappropriate, one-dimensional picture of one of American history’s most important events.