The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation invites students to explore the enduring issue of civil rights as it impacts them or those around them in the 2014 “Civil Rights Today” Essay Contest. The contest is open to 12th-grade Texas students. Essays must be submitted by midnight on February 10, 2014.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. [LBJ Library photo #276-10-WH64 by Cecil Stoughton]
, signed into law by President Johnson, is considered one of the most sweeping civil rights reforms since Reconstruction. The act guaranteed freedom and rights for all Americans, and President Johnson used his political power to push the Civil Rights Act through Congress.
For this contest, essays must articulate (1) how civil rights remains an enduring issue in society, and (2) one aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that impacts the writer’s life today.
See the LBJ Presidential Library website for contest information, including a more detailed explanation of the topic, eligibility requirements, submission details, judging criteria, prize information, and supporting educational resources.
And if you know a Texas student or teacher, please share the information about this opportunity!
In this activity, students can analyze a Government poster used to recruit recently freed slaves to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War. The poster refers to the Emancipation Proclamation and President Lincoln’s General Order 233, to provide equal pay for Black soldiers and equal protection if they were captured by the Confederacy and became prisoners of war.
You can use ”Black Soldiers in the Civil War“ to teach about the evolving Federal position on emancipation and Black recruitment during the Civil War, segregation and integration of the military, or a history of Civil Rights. Students will learn how the Government tried to appeal to Black soldiers and will consider the importance of enlisting them to the Union’s victory.
The activity includes teaching instructions identifying the target historical thinking skill: Historical Analysis & Interpretation, and level of Bloom’s Taxonomy: Analyzing. It was designed for grades 7–10; the approximate time needed is 20 minutes.
Students will learn how news from Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War in earnest set off a rush by free Black men to enlist in the U.S. military. The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of recruiting of Black troops, concerned that it would prompt the border states to secede.
Increasing personnel needs pushed the Government to reconsider, however. Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act on July 17, 1862, freeing slaves with masters in the Confederate Army. Slavery was abolished in U.S. territories two days later, and on July 22 Lincoln presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee’s first invasion of the North at Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, Black recruitment was pursued in earnest.
But discrimination permeated the military. White officers typically commanded Black men in segregated units. Black soldiers were not initially paid the same as White soldiers, though Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops in June 1864.
Black troops also faced greater peril than White troops when captured by the Confederate Army. The Confederate Congress threatened to enslave Black soldiers. Lincoln’s General Order 233 threatened reprisal on Confederate POWs for any mistreatment of Black troops.
At the conclusion of the activity, students will reflect on Lincoln’s order as well as the methods used to recruit Black soldiers and their importance to the Union victory.
This DocsTeach activity is based on the Teaching With Documents lesson plan “The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War,” formerly published on www.archives.gov/education and in the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) publication Social Education: Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel, and Jean West. “The Fight for Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers in the Civil War.” Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120.
DocsTeach is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives, with development of the Interpreting Data tool generously supported in part by Texas Instruments.
Next week marks the 90th anniversary of the first time the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in Congress. The purpose of the ERA was to establish legal gender equality. It was a proposed amendment to the Constitution which stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
H.J. Res. 75, Proposing an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, December 13, 1923. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
National Archives Identifier 7452156
While the ERA failed to become part of the Constitution, it remains the most popular proposed amendment to the Constitution. About ten percent—over 1,100—of all the amendments introduced in Congress have been for the ERA. Three documents from the records of Congress can help your students understand why an amendment with considerable support ultimately failed to meet the constitutional bar for ratification.
The Equal Rights Amendment was drafted in 1923 by well-known women’s rights activist Alice Paul. It was first introduced in Congress on December 13 by Representative Daniel Anthony (R-KS), who was suffragette Susan B. Anthony’s nephew. The debate over the ERA continued for decades, and the ERA was reintroduced in every Congress until 1972.
Central to the ERA debate was the argument over the value of protective legislation for women. In the early 20th century, there were many laws designed to protect women. These laws excluded women from certain jobs in some professions that were deemed too physically difficult for women’s fragile physiques. Some laws regulated the hours a woman could work so she would still have time to take care of her children. Those who supported protective legislation believed that an equal rights amendment would void this type of law and leave women open to exploitation.
Letter from Mrs. Thomas Zeko against ERA, September 9, 1971. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Proponents of the ERA felt that protective legislation enforced women’s status as second class citizens and that absolute legal equality was necessary to combat discrimination. When Representative Martha Griffiths (D-MI) led the House to a vote on the ERA during 1970s, for example, she asserted that protective laws only confined women to poorly paying occupations with little opportunity for advancement. She also argued that protective legislation limiting working hours did not stop women from holding multiple, low salary positions, but put jobs like chief executive out of reach.
Both traditionalists, who believed that women belonged in the home taking care of the family, and protectionist feminists were vehemently opposed to the ERA’s central demand for equality. This coalition managed to prevent the ERA from passing Congress, despite its reintroduction in every Congress from 1923 to 1972.
Letter from Liz Carpenter in support of ERA, September 23, 1971. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1970, after decades of receiving little attention and getting bottled up in committee, congressional hearings were held and the amendment was given serious consideration. By March 1972 the ERA had been approved by 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. Twenty-two states quickly ratified the amendment in 1972. But when the final deadline for ratification arrived in 1982, the constitutionally required number of ratifications—3/4 of the states—had not been attained. It was three states short. Although the ERA continues to be introduced in each Congress, it has never again reached the level of support it had in 1972.
Share these documents with your students to introduce the controversy over the Equal Rights Amendment. Get them to consider the timing—that the amendment was first introduced right after woman suffrage was secured, and came to fruition during the era of feminism. Pose these questions:
- Why did these two women write to Congress?
- Why were some women opposed to equal rights for women?
- Why did some feel it was needed? Was an equal rights amendment necessary in 1971? Is it necessary today?
Today’s post comes from Neve Schadler, former summer intern in our Education and Public Programs Division.
Each year some of our nation’s most promising future documentary-makers and website designers participate in National History Day (NHD) and create individual or group documentaries and websites based upon a specific theme. In order to assist the 6th through 12th graders who are taking on the challenge of bringing a part of American history to life through documentary film and the internet, the volunteer and intern staff at the National Archives explored our vast moving images holdings to find video clips for our young historians to use.
Students will find over 500 videos related to this year’s NHD theme—Rights and Responsibilities—on our new Historic Video Footage web page. Videos are categorized by topic, such as “Human and Civil Rights” or the “Responsibility of Government” to help students find videos related to their projects. Plus we have included a sampling of almost 30 videos in a special NHD playlist our YouTube channel.
You can find even more NHD resources on our main National History Day page: online research tools, information about doing archival research in person, news about upcoming NHD workshops for teachers and students, and a special DocsTeach page.
During this video project, we had the privilege of taking a peek into both public and private moments in history, from the downtime of soldiers fighting on the front, to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. And as we identified those videos that relate to rights and responsibilities, we had the opportunity to walk in the shoes of those who have come before us in our nation’s history by witnessing snippets of their lives.
This is the same familiarity with history which we hope that NHD students will gain. Our goal is for them not just to learn how to complete research and dedicate themselves to an intensive project, but also to experience history, and to learn that while it may have taken place years, decades, or centuries ago, it is still relevant to who we are as individuals and as a nation today.
Today’s post was written by Corrin Baker, former education intern at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
In July of 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz test project was completed. Apollo-Soyuz was the first joint docking between American and Soviet spacecraft.
This project was the culmination of work between American and Soviet scientists. Though this space flight was important to the scientific community, it also brought together two national superpowers in the midst of a tense diplomatic struggle. Both President Ford and Soviet National Secretary Leonid Brezhnev understood that Apollo-Soyuz has implications beyond the scientific realm. Apollo-Soyuz was an important step in the multifaceted process of détente.
Excerpt of letter from President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev Regarding the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 9/17/1975, From the White House Central Files Subject Files Collection at the Gerald R. Ford Library
Unfortunately, the ways that science has aided diplomatic endeavors is hard to communicate to students. However, DocsTeach enables teachers to convey this idea through primary document analysis. Utilizing documents and artifacts can help students see the connection between the two.
When we sat down to create an activity for President Ford’s 100th birthday at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, we decided to create a lesson that enables students to analyze how President Ford used the first joint country space flight as a diplomatic opportunity. In the activity Apollo-Soyuz: Space Age Detente, students will compare President Ford’s and Soviet General Breszhnev’s letters of congratulations on the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
The goal of this lesson is for students to better understand unusual avenues for diplomacy. The activity prompts students to identify and compare key phrases and ideas within each letter. Because both letters are only one page, this activity is an excellent introduction to document analysis.
Feel free to tell us how this activity worked with your students. We’d love to hear your feedback! And for more teaching activities for this time period, visit our special “Turning Points in the Nixon & Ford Years” page.