Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Truman's Commission on Civil Rights
Susan Whipple
US History
Time Frame:
Two hours
Civil Rights

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will read a section from To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and analyze the directions under the executive order and the interpretation by the committee of what they were supposed to accomplish.

  • Students must show mastery of analyzing an informative text and drawing conclusions about the interpretation of that text.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
    Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:


Read the section: Assignment from the President from To Secure These Rights

Full description of activity or assignment.
  1. As a class read aloud Harry Truman Supports Civil Rights (1947-1948)
  2. Have students make observations about the reading.  Write down their observations on chart paper or the board
    1. What created Truman’s interest in civil rights?
    2. What were his motives for making Civil Rights a national issue?
    3. Are there any contradictions about Truman’s character in this piece of writing?
    4. Can you predict what he would ask a committee on civil rights to investigate?


  1. In groups students read Assignment from the President in To Secure These Rights.
  2. Each group produces three documents
    1. A statement of what the students believe the President is asking the committee to do using facts from the Executive Order.
    2. A statement of what the committee interprets as their assignment from the President using facts from the committee’s interpretation.
    3. Two to three paragraphs on whether they think the committee interpreted the President’s request correctly using text evidence from the reading.
  3. Students will determine if their predictions about the Civil Rights Committee holds true to what the committee was asked to do and what they interpreted what they were supposed to do.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide: