Report Highlights Resources for Teaching Civil Rights Movement

By Ross Brenneman — March 10, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many states falter on how aggressively they push to teach civil rights history, a new study says, but some also provide excellent teaching resources on the subject.

The report, “Teaching the Movement 2014,” prepared for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, is the fourth in an annual series.

"[T]he bad news is that ignorance remains the operative word when it comes to the civil rights movement and much of African-American history,” writes Julian Bond, NAACP chairman emeritus, in the report’s foreward. He added that he hopes the report can help facilitate an education system in which students can learn “to understand and know each other.”

This year’s report builds upon past iterations by stressing not just whether states require teaching the civil rights movement, but also how they do it. On the first criterion, based on a review of state standards, Southern states, with larger African-American populations, dominate the top of the SPLC rankings: Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina were the only states to get A’s. The only strictly Northern state to earn at least a B was New York, though California, Oklahoma, and Maryland also scored B’s, too, along with Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Although many states have shown significant improvement since the reports started in 2011, 20 states failed. The report singles out Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Oregon, and Wyoming as states that “neither cover nor support teaching about the movement.”

To judge how the states go about teaching the civil rights, the report’s authors reviewed the relevant resources provided to teachers. Here they found an “astonishingly broad snapshot,” based not only on a state’s standards, but also on available frameworks, model curricula, and any related documents made available online by the state.

The report takes into account that many states allow districts to direct history instruction. Unlike English, math, and science, there are no common standards for history, though the National Council for the Social Studies released a framework in September 2013 that offered guidance on how to teach history. However, that document, the College, Career, and Civil Life Framework, specifically sought to avoid what history to teach, given how thorny doing so would be.

Teachers may find the report especially useful, though, for highlighting some particularly handy resource guides.

“Many teachers would never think to check the websites of other states’ departments of education for resources, but our search has revealed a wealth of document, lesson plans and links to original historical documents for teaching the civil rights movement,” the report notes.

From those, the SPLC highlighted nine in particular:

  1. The Alabama Learning Exchange
  2. Louisiana’s Comprehensive Curriculum
  3. South Carolina’s Social Studies Support Document (which the report calls “required reading”)
  4. Georgia’s “Share the Journey” packets (which the report says ties instruction to the Common Core State Standards)
  5. Maryland’s documents formed in collaboration with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
  6. Virginia’s History and Social Science Enhanced Scope and Sequence lesson plans
  7. Pennsylvania’s Standards Aligned System
  8. North Carolina’s Social Studies Unpacking Standards document
  9. Utah Education Network’s “Themepark”

Finally, along with individual states breakdowns, the report also offers other online resources for teaching the civil rights movement, including those from the National Archives, Stanford University, Teaching for Change, PBS, the National Park Service, and the Library of Congress.

The report’s authors make it clear that their methodology has limits. “Standards are not necessarily followed and resources are not necessarily used. We simply do not know what students are learning about the civil rights movement,” they write, noting also that frameworks are not meaningful without testing and accountability.

Here’s the full report:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum He Taught About White Privilege and Got Fired. Now He's Fighting to Get His Job Back
Matthew Hawn is an early casualty in this year's fight over how teachers can discuss with students America's struggle with racism.
13 min read
Social studies teacher Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for sharing Kyla Jenèe Lacey's, 'White Privilege', poem with his Contemporary Issues class. Hawn sits on his couch inside his home on August 17, 2021.
Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for lessons and materials he used to teach about racism and white privilege in his Contemporary Issues class at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn.<br/>
Caitlin Penna for Education Week
Curriculum What's the Best Way to Address Unfinished Learning? It's Not Remediation, Study Says
A new study suggests acceleration may be a promising strategy for addressing unfinished learning in math after a pandemic year.
5 min read
Female high school student running on the stairs leads to an opportunity to success
CreativaImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Curriculum School Halts Use of Fictional Book in Which Officer Kills a Black Child
Fifth graders in at least one Broward County school were assigned to read a book that critics say casts police officers as racist liars.
Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5 min read
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she does not feel like the book "Ghost Boys" is appropriate for 5th graders.
Lynne Sladky/AP
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."