Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


President Truman's Civil Rights Policies Leading to Desegregation of the Military
Author:
Steve West
Course:
US History
Time Frame:
One 90 minute class period
Subjects:
Civil Rights

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

After a review of African American military history, students will analyze three primary documents associated with President Truman’s decision to desegregate the military.  Working in groups, they will answer questions associated with each of the documents and share their answers with the class.

Rationale:

To make students aware of the importance of the desegregation of the military by President Truman and its importance to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  At this point in the class, students will have studied slavery and the civil rights issues that still existed after reconstruction.  In addition they will have learned about the various African American groups that fought together in previous wars.

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


7.11.30  Provide examples of major domestic policies of presidential administrations from Truman to Clinton

7.11.31  Describe significant events, individuals, court cases and legislation of the civil rights movement

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

African American Military History

Revolutionary War (Black Regiment of Rhode Island)
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/first-rhode-island-regiment

Civil War (Combahee River Raid) 
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/combahee-river-raid-june-2-1863

World War I (369th Infantry Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters”
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/369th-infantry-regiment-harlem-hellfighters

World War II (Tuskegee Airmen)
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/tuskegee-airmen

 

African American History since WW II
Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 by Jon E. Taylor (see Pages 2 and 3.  Preview of the book at the following website:
https://books.google.com/books?id=8qS8gCz6gHAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Blinding of Isaac Woodard; February 12, 1946
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/woodard-isaac-1919-1992

1948 Presidential Election Results
http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1948



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

President Truman’s Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights; February 2, 1948
http://trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=1380&st=&st1=

Southern Response to the President’s Civil Rights Speech; April 8, 1948
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/truman-south48/

Desegregation of the Military – Executive Order 9981; July 26, 1948
http://www.trumanlibrary.org/9981a.htm

Full description of activity or assignment.

Teacher will review with the class how the military has been segregated throughout the years highlighting black troops/squadrons in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and World War II. (Websites listed under African American Military History in Secondary materials may be used for background information.)

Teacher will share with the class incidents of violence that have occurred since the end of WW II toward African Americans, including those who served in the war, as well as an overview of life for African Americans at that time. (Websites listed under African American History since WW II in Secondary materials may be used for background information.)

 

TEACHER WILL DIVIDE THE CLASS INTO GROUPS FOR THE NEXT PART OF THE ACTIVITY

Teacher will give an overview of the class activity.  The teacher will explain the grading rubric to make sure everyone understands.  As the students work on each activity, the teacher will move around the room observing the various groups and providing guidance where needed.

Class Activity #1
1.  How would you have felt to be sent overseas to fight in World War II for your country when you weren’t allowed equal rights back home?  Each student is to write a one paragraph response and then share with their group.  One or two random students from each group will be called on to share their responses with the class.

Teacher will distribute “Truman’s Special Message to Congress” for the students to read. (This message is the first document listed under Primary Sources.) 

Class Activity #2:  The teacher will have the students read this Primary Source.  When finished reading, students are to discuss this in their group and then each student is to do the following:

2.  In a minimum of three paragraphs write the “gist” of what the President is saying using historical details you have learned thus far in US History to substantiate what the president is saying.  

Distribute “Southern Response to the Civil Rights Speech”.  (This is the second document listed under Primary Sources.)

Class Activity #3:  The teacher will have the students read this Primary Source.  When finished reading, students are to discuss this in their group and then each student is to do the following: 

3.  Using excerpts from each of the two documents, “Truman’s Special Message to Congress” and “Southern Response to the Civil Rights Speech”, illustrate the contrasting views of President Truman and Representative Colmer from Mississippi.

Distribute President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 desegregating the military.

Class Activity #4:  The teacher will have the students read this Primary Source.  When finished reading, students are to discuss this in their group and then each student is to do the following:

4.  Would you have made the same decision as president?  If so, why?  If not, why?

Class Activity #5:  The teacher will explain to the students that they are to answer the following question and as a group arrive at one answer which will be shared with the class.  Each group is to select a recorder for writing the answer and a presenter to share the answer with the class. 

5.  With the 1948 presidential election just four months away, how do you believe this decision affected the outcome of the election?  NOTE:  Please work within your groups for this question to arrive at one answer which will be shared with the class.

 

When finished with Class Activity #5, the teacher will share the outcome of the 1948 election.  (Website listed under 1948 Presidential Election Results in Secondary materials may be used for background information.  Even though voting by “race” wasn’t kept by organizations like Gallup until the 1952 election, the teacher can use the suggested map to discuss the closeness of the election which was influenced by the third party candidates which were formed in part due to opposition to Truman’s civil rights policies.  

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

The first four class activities will be graded based on the following General Rubric.  The final grade will be an average of the four activities.