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President Harry Truman and Civil Rights In America

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Three days
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
What is the difference between what Truman said and what he did on the subject of race
  • Cooperative learning. Analyze documents in a group.
  • What is President Truman’s attitude toward African-Americans?
  • What is the difference between what Truman said and what he did on the subject of race?
Rationale (why are you doing this?)

    To understand the complexity of President Truman.In his personal letters he sometimes appeared racist, yet issued executive orders that were pro Civil Rights.

      Lesson Objectives - the student will
      • Learn about President Truman’s life.
      • Understand the complexity of Truman the man and Truman the President.
      • Gain knowledge of the era when Civil Rights Legislation was passed.
      District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

      Standards of Learning Skills(SOL) in the state of Virginia

        2:10 Students will explain the responsibilities of a good citizen.

          2.11 Students will identify Americans whose contributions improved the lives

            of others Americans.

              Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
              • “Freedom to Serve” –Special message to Congress on Civil Rights,February 2,1948
              • Pages 292-299 “Harry S. Truman. A Life.”
              • Letters from “Dear Harry, Love Bess.”
              Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

                Letters from “Dear Harry,Love Bess.”

                President Harry S. Truman’s “Diary,Letter of November 1st, 1949.”

                  Executive Order 9981 that desegregated the Armed Services.

                  Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

                  “The Man who reached the presidency in 1945 was an unlikely supporter of Civil Rights.”


                         I would like the students to understand that national figures are also complex human

                      beings. I would hope  they would understand that personally Truman made disparaging remarks about

                      African-Americans, but in his role as Commander-in-Chief he set aside his personal

                      feelings and approved Civil Rights Legislation because it was the Constitutional and

                      moral thing to do.

                      Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

                        Students will do independent research on the life of President Truman.
                        Among possible projects gleaned from “Activities for American History Classes” are”
                        Students will make a booklet with each page representing the events of Truman’s
                        Students will make a booklet of slogans used for Truman’s campaign.
                        Students will make a biographical booklet.
                        Students will give an oral talk on Truman and the legislation promoting equal rights.