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Historical Narrative: The Civil Rights Movement


This activity should be used after students have studied the Civil Rights Movement. This History Assessment of Thinking (HAT) asks student to analyze two primary documents to demonstrate their understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. Document A is a 1936 letter from the Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP. Document B is a 1957 letter from Daisy Bates, a NAACP representative in Arkansas, to Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins. The assessment draws on students' knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement but in a way that gauges more than just the recall of facts and dates. Students must show that they have a broad understanding of how the Civil Rights Movement unfolded and that they can actively use historical information to place the two documents in context. Students then examine the HAT’s rubric and sample responses to evaluate their own work. This activity will provide feedback to teachers and students about students’ knowledge of the basic narrative of the Civil Rights Movement (e.g., do students understand that lynching peaked around the turn of the 20th century and had been virtually eradicated by the time of school desegregation in the 1950s?).


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • Understand a broad narrative of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Gain experience in evaluating their work

Time Required

30 minutes

Recommended Grade Range



Civil Rights Movement
Primary Source Analysis


US History


Common Core State Standards

RH.6-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

RH.9-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

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