Leaders D (25%)
Groups F (0%)
Events D (25%)
History F (0%)
Opposition F (0%)
Tactics F (14%)
Content F (13%)
Grade levels A (100%)
Current events F (0%)
Civics F (0%)
Other movements F (0%)
Context D (25%)
Items the State Requires
Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. Events: 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, Brown. Tactics : Tactics.
GRADE F means New Jersey includes none or less than 20% of the recommended content and should significantly revise its standards.
Survey of Standards and Frameworks
In New Jersey, the civil rights movement falls under social studies standard 6.1, “The United States and the World.” According to the 2009 New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Social Studies, students in New Jersey learn about the civil rights movement beginning in primary school. The movement is given a more comprehensive treatment in high school. The state’s Social Studies Timeframe Table for grades 9-12 divides U.S. history from 1585 to the present day into 16 eras, of which “Civil Rights and Social Change” is 13th.
Elementary and Middle School
Grade 4: By the end of grade four, students should be able to “describe how the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders served as catalysts for social change and inspired social activism in subsequent generations.”
Grade 12: By the end of grade 12, students should have met the following benchmarks (“i.e.” indicates required content, while “e.g.” indicates sample content):
• Analyze the effectiveness of national legislation, policies and Supreme Court decisions (i.e., the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, Title VII, Title IX, Affirmative Action, Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade) in promoting civil liberties and equal opportunities. Explain how individuals and organizations used economic measures (e.g., the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sitdowns, etc.) as weapons in the struggle for civil and human rights.
• Determine the impetus for the civil rights movement and explain why national governmental actions were needed to ensure civil rights for African-Americans.
• Compare and contrast the leadership and ideology of Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X during the civil rights movement and evaluate their legacies.
While it recognizes the importance of the civil rights movement, New Jersey gives it inadequate treatment in the standards. They require students to learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but not Rosa Parks or instrumental movement groups like CORE, SCLC and SNCC. Students 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 weak. 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.