Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Writing a Persuasive Paper on Civil Rights Legislation
Rhonda Cooksey
US History
Time Frame:
Two 75 minute class periods plus three weeks outside-of-class work
Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

There will be a lecture and discussion that compares To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights from October 1977 and the ratification of the 24th Amendment in January 1964. Students will learn to look up primary sources on the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum website, to look up secondary sources on Miller Nichols Library databases, and to use JSTOR for citation formatting.


To demonstrate the difficulties of American society to achieve a political consensus and pass civil rights legislation. To prepare students to write a persuasive paper using primary and secondary sources for an academic paper. To provide practice in using the correct citation format for their discipline. To review JSTOR and citations for Chicago, MLA, and AP.  

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

This lesson plan addresses the following objectives from the UMKC Core Curriculum.


            Discourse students in the Arts and Humanities will be demonstrate the ability


  • To comprehend the moral and ethical values of a diverse society and to understand that many courses of action are guided by value judgments about the way things ought to be.


  • To locate, organize, store, retrieve, evaluate, synthesize and annotate information from print, electronic and other sources in preparation for solving problems and making informed decisions.


  • To construct basic research strategies, use appropriate research resources, learn to identify scholarly sources, and evaluate and cite those information sources.


  • To develop an understanding of citation and an ability to appropriately cite sources using a consistent professional style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).

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

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

Civil Rights Program: President Truman's Attempts to Put the Principles of Racial Justice into Law, 1948-53

o   “An Appeal to the Governor and People of Tennessee,” by Clark Foreman, ca. 1946. Bontecou Papers, Civil Rights File. Race Riots. (https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/civilrights/documents/index.php?documentid=16-4&pagenumber=1)


“To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights: List of Subjects Discussed,” October 29, 1947. (https://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights4.htm#subjects)

Full description of activity or assignment.

Class 1:

The teacher will provide the social and historical context for Truman’s formation of the

Committee on Civil Rights including an overview of poll taxes, public lynchings, and violence met by African American soldiers returning from WWI.


The teacher will present a brief history on the passing of the 24th Amendment.


            The teacher will take the students on a virtual tour of the Harry S. Truman Library

            website and look at the specified documents.


            Teacher will present questions for twenty minutes of student discussion.

  • Why did it take so long to abolish poll taxes?
  • Why wasn’t the 1922 Anti-Lynching Bill enforced after WWI?
  • Why did it take so long for a civil rights bill to pass?
  • How do we achieve social equality? Legislation? Education?          


            Class 2.

            Teacher will describe the assigned persuasive research paper and how to locate primary

            and secondary sources for an academic paper. Teacher will demonstrate how to access      the detailed assignment on Blackboard and how to upload it to Turnitin.


            Teacher will take students on a virtual tour of the Miller Nichols Library website

            (http://umkc.library.edu) and show them how to use databases.


            Teacher will provide a review of in text and Works Cited formatting in Chicago, MLA,

            and AP styles. Teacher will demonstrate how to cut and paste citations from JSTOR.


            Teacher will ask if there are any questions about the assignment, formatting, or locating     appropriate primary and secondary sources to provide evidence for an argument.

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

Students will have three weeks to submit a 6 to 8 page paper and Works Cited Page

            (double spaced, Times New Roman) to Turnitin on Blackboard by Sun. at 11:59 p.m.

            Research Paper One is worth 100 points or 10% of their final grade. It will be graded

            using the scoring rubric in the syllabus covering four areas: (1) effective thesis that is

            creative, specific and arguable, (2)organization—well-crafted introduction, body and

conclusion, (3) sentence structure and grammar, and (4) proper citations.