Monday, June 30, 2014

Teaching the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Fifty years ago this week, Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act (he is pictured above shaking hands with Martin Luther King at the July 2, 1964 signing). One of the most important laws in U.S. history, the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Although often portrayed as part of an overarching story of perpetual progress, this act was not inevitable (from 1945 until 1957, Congress considered and failed to pass a civil rights bill). It was a result of decades of tireless civil rights work and lobbying by groups like the NAACP and the SCLC. For many students, this event is usually presented briefly wedged between the 1963 March on Washington and the 1964's Mississippi Freedom Summer. However, there is an important political history leading up to the signing of the bill, including a complex and developing relationship between MLK and LBJ, that needs a deeper examination.

Teachers should consider using the below resources with students, helping them answer the inquiry question: What was the largest influence on Congress passing, and LBJ's eventual signing, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Secondary Sources:

PBS: Civil Rights Act of 1866

Eisenhower Presidential Library: Civil Rights Act of 1957

Smithsonian: A Deeper Look at the Politicians Who Passed the Civil Rights Act

Book: Judgement Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws That Changed America

National Archives: LBJ on Civil Rights

CNN: 1964 Civil Rights Act Fast Facts

The Atlantic Monthly: How LBJ Saved the Civil Rights Act
 NPR: Reagan, the South and Civil Rights

TIME: Seven Things to Know About the Civil Rights Act

Primary Sources:

Dirksen Congressional Center: Civil Rights Act Timeline

JFK Library: Kennedy's Speech Proposing a New Civil Rights Act

LBJ Presidential Library: 1963 Conversation Transcript Between Johnson and King

The King Center: 1964 Letter from King to Johnson

LBJ Presidential Library: June 1964 Phone Conversations

C-SPAN: June 1964 Phone Conversations Between Johnson and FBI Director Hoover

You Tube: Newsreel: Johnson Signing the Civil Rights Act

The American Presidency Project: 1964 Election Results

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