Black History Month – Civil Rights


February is Black History Month. Perhaps the man who has had the most influence in advancing the cause of civil rights for African Americans and other minorities is Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born January 15, 1929, and assassinated on April 4, 1968, King was a clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement. He is renowned for using nonviolent methods patterned after the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

In this new discussion activity from SIRS Issues Researcher, point your students to a variety of Leading Issues in this popular resource that relate to African Americans striving for equal opportunities and full equality in all aspects of their lives.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to participants in the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington from the Lincoln Memorial. It was from this spot that he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.

Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, was a great success. Dr. King was the final speaker that day, delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. That event sparked the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a piece of legislation that had been proposed earlier in 1963 by President Kennedy.

In a speech on television on June 11th, Kennedy pointed out that:
The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day; one third as much chance of completing college; one third as much chance of becoming a professional man; twice as much chance of becoming unemployed; about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year; a life expectancy which is seven years shorter; and the prospects of earning only half as much.

Kennedy’s Civil Rights bill was still being debated by Congress when the president was assassinated in November 1963. The new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had a poor record on civil rights issues, took up the cause. Using his considerable influence in Congress, Johnson was able to get the legislation passed.

Despite the granting of many legal rights in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after almost 50 years, most African Americans continue to suffer from economic, educational, and health inequality. That is the challenge for today’s African American leaders as well as the nation’s leaders. Such ongoing inequality also serves as an important reason to continue Black History Month, a time when African American issues are often brought into focus.

Learning Activity
SIRS Issues Researcher provides a variety of Leading Issues that directly impact African Americans in their quest for full equality through equal opportunity. Assign students to research either a Pro or Con position on one of the issues listed below. Students should address the essential question for the issue in a SIRS model written report or electronic slide (PPT model) presentation.

Students should cite at least three resources in addressing the Pro or Con essential questions for the selected issue.

Each of these issues is one of many that continue to impact African Americans to a greater degree than other Americans. The pathfinders below are all accessed by first clicking SIRS Issues Researcher link in SIRS Knowledge Source , then selecting the VISUAL BROWSE link.

Pathfinder #1: Click Civil Right and Liberties icon > Civil Rights > Affirmative Action

Pathfinder #2: Click Civil Right and Liberties icon > Civil Rights > Racial Discrimination

Pathfinder #3: Click Civil Right and Liberties icon > Civil Rights > Workplace Discrimination

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One thought on “Black History Month – Civil Rights

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