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Desegregating Armed Forces

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
One hour
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will research the historical cause of desegregating the Armed Forces.

Students will research the historical cause of desegregating the Armed Forces.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • To practice analyzing Primary Sources
  • To explore one aspect of overcoming racism in our history
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Navigate a Presidential Library website
  • Read & review Executive Order #9981
  • Research, choose, and defend historical cause for Truman’s decision
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Missouri SS 3, 1.6 & 1.9 – Analyze political developments in US; evolution of American democratic institutions including Civil Rights
  • Missouri SS1.10 – Analyze the roles & influence of political parties and interest groups.
  • Missouri SS 3, 1.6 & 1.10 – Describe the changing character of American society and culture
  • AP – Compare causes and/or effects, including between short and long term effects
  • AP – Analyze and evaluate the interaction of multiple causes and/or effects
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  • Students have individual computers.
  • Teacher demonstrates, on class screen, how to log on to Truman Library website.  Navigate to
  1. Research
  2. Online Documents
  3. The Truman Administration’s Civil Rights Program: Desegregation of the Armed Forces
    1.  Review chronology for future student reference
  4. Select ‘Documents’ link July 26, 1948.  This demonstrates to students how to navigate around.
  5. Teacher reviews essence of Exec Order – total time, 10 minutes


  • Teacher calls up July 3, 1945 Opinions about Negro Infantry Platoons” for students to read.  Discuss white troops opinions, implications for future integration
  • Teacher displays 1946 Gillem report, page 5 & 6, showing need for new policy since old policy on segregation was not efficient.  Total time for both discussions – 10 minutes 
  • Students choose one other document that justifies Truman’s reason for signing Exec Order 9981. 
  • Students explain why their choice of document would move Truman toward the Executive Order.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide
  • Student explanation needs to match submitted document.  May be done verbally as part of a class review or on submitted / e-mailed work.  Pass/Fail activity. 
  • Can also be assessed on a future exam regarding Truman’s role in civil rights (Mult Chc) or future essay regarding cause of major civil rights decisions.