Leaders B (50%)
Groups F (0%)
Events A (75%)
History A (71%)
Opposition D (25%)
Tactics A (86%)
Content B (52%)
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, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael. Events: 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, Birmingham, Brown, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, Selma-to-Montgomery March. History: Integration of armed forces, de facto, de jure segregation, Jim Crow, poll taxes. Opposition: White resistance. Tactics: Black Power, civil disobedience, Gandhi, nonviolence, sit-ins, tactics.
GRADE B means South Carolina includes at least 50% of the recommended content and demonstrates that it is committed to educating students about the movement.
According to the relevant standards, South Carolina students begin learning about the civil rights movement in fifth grade and continue through middle and high school. The website for South Carolina’s State Department of Education contains a unique support document with official advice for teachers trying about how best to teach the content standards. The document dealing with U.S. history spells out in considerable detail what content students are expected to know.
Elementary and Middle School
Grade 5: Students are introduced to the civil rights movement, the desegregation of the armed forces, Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.
Grade 7: Students learn more about the civil rights movement when they study social movements in India and Africa and compare to those in the United States.
Grade 8: South Carolina history includes more localized study, including the Briggs v. Elliott case.
U.S. History: A standard broadly requires that students: “explain the movements for racial and gender equity and civil liberties, including their initial strategies, landmark court cases and legislation, the roles of key civil rights advocates, and the influence of the civil rights movement on other groups seeking ethnic and gender equity.”
The website for South Carolina’s State Department of Education contains support documents issued by the DOE’s Office of Standards and Support. These documents contain official advice for teachers about how best to teach the content standards. The document dealing with U.S. history contains several pages for each major standard, explaining relevant previous knowledge students are likely to bring to a discussion of the standard in question, and suggested strategies and topics for teachers. The document also identifies what students need and do not need to know about the civil rights movement, in the state’s view. This is a very unique document, and is cited at length here:
It is essential for students to know
In order to appreciate the strategies of the civil rights movement, it is important for students to understand the goals of the movement. A thorough review of the failed promises of Reconstruction and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments and the Jim Crow era should establish the context for the civil rights movement of the post-World War II period.
The strategies of the civil rights movement had roots in the early 20th century, especially in the development of organizations that established judicial precedents that eventually led to the Brown decision. A real understanding of the strategy of nonviolence requires that students understand the direct action nature of the movement— that sites were specifically selected to show to the nation and the world the face of racism. In order to understand these strategies students should understand how those strategies were used in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sit-ins, freedom rides, the Birmingham campaign, the March on Washington, Freedom Summer and the Selma march. A focus on the role of the media, especially television, will help to link the civil rights movement to the popular culture of the post-World War II era.
The experiences of African Americans during World War II helped stimulate the modern civil rights movement. African Americans demanded more equitable treatment in war industries. As a result, President Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. However when the war ended, African Americans lost these jobs to returning white soldiers. They served in the military in segregated units and experienced Jim Crow as they trained on military bases in the South. Some returning African American veterans were lynched. This motivated Truman to establish a civil rights commission, to support an anti-lynching law and to desegregate the military by executive order. The Cold War required a strong united military force. The containment policy required that the United States gain the support of emerging nations in Asia and Africa. Strategies used by African Americans such as W.E.B. DuBois and Ralph Bunche on the international stage created by the Cold War forced the United States to live up to its constitutional promises. Jim Crow was an embarrassment for the United States.
Students should understand the different roles of both black and white advocates for civil rights. Although students have some familiarity with Martin Luther King Jr. from fifth grade, they do not understand the complexity of his role as organizer and spokesperson for the movement. Students should understand that the non-violent direct action campaign of the civil rights movement was successful in getting presidential support and the support of the majority of the voting public into the early 1960s, the extent to which Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were advocates of the civil rights movement, the specific pieces of legislation that were passed and how they addressed discrimination, and how politics affected and was affected by the movement. Harry Truman’s advocacy of civil rights in 1948 led to the emergence of the Dixiecrats. Democrat support of civil rights legislation and Nixon’s Southern Strategy turned a formerly solid Democratic south into a Republican stronghold.
Students should understand how changes in African- American leadership affected the support given for civil rights legislation. The goals, actions and leadership of the black power movement (Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers) among northern, urban African Americans were significantly different from those of southern African Americans. Students should understand the difference between the terms de jure and de facto segregation. Televised reports of urban riots and the radical rhetoric of the black power movement alienated the general public and undermined support for further government action. Oversimplification of black power should be addressed by including discussion of efforts of black power advocates to protect and empower the African American community and promote ethnic pride. Opponents of the civil rights movement charged civil rights advocates as dangerous subversives.
The movement for African-American civil rights had an impact on the movement for women’s rights. Students should understand how the participation of women in the civil rights movement prompted them to form organizations to promote their own rights, what organizations were formed, and how successful women were in securing the support of government and the public in promoting women’s rights. Students should understand the impact of The Feminine Mystique, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Roe v. Wade and the Equal Rights Amendment on the women’s rights movement and the development of conservative movements.
The movement for African-American civil rights had an impact on movements for the rights of Latinos and Native Americans. The goals, strategies and government response to these movements were similar to the early African American civil rights movement and these movements also turned more militant.
The civil rights era also had an impact on the rights of the accused. The Supreme Court rulings in other landmark cases (Miranda, Gideon) protected individuals against self-incrimination and upheld the right of the accused to an attorney.
It is not essential for students to know
Although students should know that there were many advocates for civil rights besides Martin Luther King Jr., it is not necessary for students to remember all of the names of the organizations or the leaders. Students should understand how politics was influenced by civil rights; however, it is not necessary that they know all of the details. For instance, they need to know the political implications of Harry Truman’s advocacy of civil rights in 1948 and the emergence of the Dixiecrats, but they need not know that the Progressive Party also split from the Democrats in 1948 and nominated Henry Wallace. They do not need to know that Truman’s “Give’em Hell, Harry” campaign against the “do-nothing” Republican 80th Congress is credited with HST’s slim victory in 1948 nor that Dixiecrats joined some northern Democrats and Republicans to defeat Truman’s efforts to expand the New Deal, refusing to give Americans health insurance in the Fair Deal. They need to know that the Democrats’ support of civil rights legislation and Nixon’s “southern strategy” turned a formerly solid Democratic south into a Republican stronghold. However, they do not need to know that JFK’s role in having MLK released from jail in 1960 led to support from formerly Republican African American voters for Kennedy, a Democrat. They do not need to know the impact of the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and its role at the 1968 Democratic national convention.
Although students should know generally about the conflict between the national government and state governments they do not need to know the details of the conflict between Eisenhower and Governor Faubus of Arkansas in the Little Rock incident, nor the conflict over students entering state universities. They do not need to know the names of specific individuals such as James Meredith at University of Mississippi, George Wallace at University of Alabama or Bull Connor in Birmingham. They do not need to know every incident of discrimination such as the murder of Emmett Till, nor every detail of the major incidents such as the role of NAACP in Montgomery Bus Boycott, or the influence of A. Philip Randolph on the strategies of the 1963 March on Washington. They need not know the names of leaders of every organization, such as Huey Newton and Bobby Seal as leaders of the Black Panthers.
Although students need to know more about King’s philosophy of non-violence and the importance of his leadership; they do not need to remember that Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 or that the FBI wire-tapped the phones of Martin Luther King Jr. because they wanted to find evidence that he was a Communist and thus discredit him.
Although students need to know the connections between African-American civil rights and the women’s movement, they do not need to know that it was the intention of senators who included “gender” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make the act ridiculous to other members of Congress and thus less likely to pass. They do not need to know all the details of the women’s movement, such as groups that called for women to become more comfortable with their sexuality, nor that women protested at the Miss America Pageant and that they burned bras, wigs etc.
Students do not need to know specifics of other cases of the Warren Court, such as Miranda, that extended the civil rights of the accused. Although these cases contributed to the backlash against civil rights and were a target of Nixon’s “law and order” campaign, they were not caused by the civil rights movement.
Students do not need to know the role of the Bracero program for Mexican workers during WWII and the impact of the Longoria incident on early development of the Unity League of California to register Mexican- American voters because this does not show the influence of the African American “civil rights movement on other groups seeking ethnic... equity.” This could be used as background for their later actions which were influenced by the African-American civil rights movement but need not be remembered.
There is no need for students to know the policies of the 1930s and 1950s towards Native Americans, including the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act and the termination policy of the Eisenhower administration. They do not need to know that the participation of Native Americans in World War II increased their awareness of discrimination as a result of their leaving the reservation for war service nor that this helped them to make contact among tribes and organize for change, since this was not influenced by the African-American civil rights movement. Names of leaders of the civil rights, women’s rights or other movements are not essential to remember. It is not essential for students to know that the movement for gay and lesbian civil rights developed at the same time as other movements.
Assessment guidelines: Appropriate assessments will require students to explain the civil rights movement, including leadership, strategies, court cases and legislation. Students should be able to summarize, identify examples of, and classify key concepts of the civil rights movement in particular, and compare it to the other movements such as those for women and Native Americans in general. Students should be able to interpret maps, graphs, photographs and political cartoons and infer their relationship to information about the time period. Assessments should also ask students to interpret the significance of specific events or infer their impact on subsequent sister movements for equity.
South Carolina has a very promising set of civil rightsrelated history standards and accompanying support documents that provide meaningful guidance to teachers. They could be substantially improved with a few modifications. The standards and supporting documents do not shy away from setting out core knowledge when it comes to history and tactics in the civil rights movement. The section on groups is weaker, failing to identify key ones. The value of identifying those groups is not simply one of name recognition; rather, their stories help students put faces to the names studied elsewhere in tactics and strategy discussions. Similarly, the standards should identify key individuals by name to provide more guidance to teachers. Bull Connor is more a symbol than an individual for this era of American history, while Thurgood Marshall is an important figure in the civil rights movement and beyond.
It is also puzzling that the standards fail to mention significant legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act or the 24th Amendment. Overall, the state is moving in the right direction. As it regards the civil rights movement, South Carolina is setting high expectations and giving clear directions to teachers. With a few changes, the state could have model standards for teaching the civil rights movement.