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Main Ideas
The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides the teacher and student with a departure point for the study of a variety of topics. The legislative process can be examined in detail through an individual research project or as a class activity conducting a mock session of Congress. A biographical study of Everett Dirksen or another member of Congress will depict a fascinating life and an insight into the mechanics of government. Possibly the greatest opportunity is in the study of civil rights. The material lends itself to numerous activities and methods that probe the long struggle for economic, political, and social equality in America.

Connection with the Curriculum
Both U.S. history and civics courses are appropriate settings for the study of civil rights. Also, the topic can be easily adapted to an interdisciplinary study with a language arts class.

Teaching Level
Grades 7-12, but adaptable to other grade levels

Materials for Each Student

• Handout 1

• Handout 2, Part 1 and Part 2.

Objectives for Each Student

Activity 1 -
Political Cartoon (see page 53)

• To understand the elements and purposes of political cartoons

• To learn an analytical approach to political cartoons

• To illustrate key elements of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s

Activity 2 -
Burke Marshall letter (see page 54)

• To understand the distinct functions

Senators gather to celebrate the debates on the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Senator Dirksen (seated, left) joins other senators to celebrate passage of the cloture, which ended debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


of the three branches of the federal government

• To understand the role of "Freedom Riders" in the civil rights movement

• To understand the levels of governmental responsibility under federalism


Opening the Lesson

Activity 1
Read the content portion of this article. Discuss the various aspects of civil rights over the course of U.S. history. Place emphasis upon the period after World War II as the civil rights movement gained momentum. Supplement discussion with the films "Eyes on the Prize" and/or "America's Civil Rights Movement."

Developing the Lesson
Review with the students the essential elements of a political cartoon: editorial, caption, characters, and symbols. As a whole class, practice identifying the elements from sample cartoons on an overhead projector. Place an overhead of the Dirksen political cartoon on the projector. Analyze the cartoon with the class as a whole or in small groups. The task is to identify the essential elements of a political cartoon.

• Instruct the students to create a political cartoon illustrating an aspect of the civil rights movement.

• Instruct the students to include the essential elements of a political cartoon.

Concluding the Lesson
Students may wish to present their cartoon to the class, or all the cartoons could be displayed for the whole school and visitors to observe.

Extending the Lesson
The students may extend the lesson in two ways. First, they may wish to examine the civil rights movement in more detail. The school or local public library would have more resources available to study the topic in further depth. Second, the students may bring in political cartoons from periodicals, newspapers, or other publications for extra credit.

Assessing the Lesson
A rubric that identifies how well students met certain criteria regarding the content of the cartoon and the elements of a political cartoon would accurately measure student learning.

Opening the Lesson

Activity 2
Activity 2 is opened in the same manner as Activity 1.

Developing the Lesson

The letter from Burke Marshall to Senator Dirksen can be approached from one of several perspectives. The instructor may wish to focus upon the activities of the "Freedom Riders" in the early 1960s and a citizen's responsibility in protecting civil rights for all Americans.

The constitutional aspects of Marshall's letter offer other approaches. The separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch is a subtle theme of the letter. Also, Marshall is much more direct in his explanation of where authority rests in law enforcement. This is an excellent example of federalism in action.

The approach the instructor takes will determine how the "Document Analysis Worksheet" will be tailored. Students, individually or in small groups, can analyze the letter using the analysis worksheet as a guide.

Concluding the Lesson
As each student or group of students report their findings, a recorder can write them on the board for whole group analysis and discussion.

Extending the Lesson
Employ the "Document Analysis Worksheet" (page 55) to examine other primary materials related to the civil rights movement. Libraries, textbook supplements, and commercial publications are sources for such documents.

Assessing the Lesson
Assign an essay that focuses on one or more of the three main themes of the letter. The two most thought-provoking aspects of the letter—the Freedom Riders, and individual responsibility and where authority for law enforcement should rest—beg for evaluation and a conclusion from the student.


Handout 1

The Thinker

Copyright Washington Post, reprinted by permission of the Washington D.C. Public Library


Handout 2, Part 1

Department of Jusrice

Jul 17 1964

Honorable Everett McKinley Dirkson
United States Senate
Washington, D. C.

Dear Senator Dirkson;

This is in reply to your recent communication to this Department regarding protection for students and others who are working on civil rights problems in the South this summer.

This Department shares your concern that these workers not be subjected to unlawful harassment or violence. However, the enforcement of state and local laws is the responsibility of state and local officials. The Federal Government has no authority to provide ordinary police protection.

Recently, the Department of Justice increased its investigation of terrorist activities in the State of Mississippi. At the same time the number of attorneys assigned to civil rights matters in that region was increased. These steps were taken at the direct request of the President, acting upon the recommendation of the Attorney General. Not long ago, a number of individuals was arrested for violation of federal law in connection with the intimidation and harassment of civil rights workers.

The primary responsibility for law enforcement rests, of course, with the State of Mississippi. The Federal Government has no authority to provide ordinary police protection. Whatever federal law enforcement personnel are used should supplement and assist the local authorities, not substitute for them.



Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


Handout 2, Part 2 - Documents Analysis Worksheet

1. TYPE OF DOCUMENT (check one):

__ Newspaper
__ Letter
__ Patent
__ Memorandum
__ Interview
__ Map
__ Telegram
__ Press Release
__ Report
__ Census Report
__ Congressional Record
__ Other


__ Interesting letterhead
__ Handwriting
__ Seals
__ Other
__ Notations
__ Signatures
__ Marks, cuts, colorations


4. DATE(S) OF DOCUMENT:________________________________

5. AUTHOR OF THE DOCUMENT: _____________________________

POSITION (TITLE): ___________________________________


A. List three things the author said that you think are important.




B. Why do you think this document was written?

C. What evidence in the document helps you to know why it was written? Quote from the document. _________________________________________

D. Is the document related to an important event or issue in American history? If so, what?

E. List two things the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written.



F. What questions are left unanswered by the document?

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