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Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights, and Feminism
NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers, July 11-31, 2010
Institute Curriculum and Lesson Plans

For many Americans, social movements are seen as unwelcome intrusions into the peaceful functioning of American society.  Strikes, demonstrations, riots, boycotts, and radical demands all seem unnecessary.  Our representative system of government provides for change through elections.  If people are discontented with public policy as it applies to labor, civil rights, or gender issues, they can vote new decision-makers into office.  And yet, America was born through a massive social movement known as the American Revolution.  The nation’s founding document and its ringing declaration that “all men are created equal” have inspired social movements to hold America to its revolutionary promise since that time.  In their own distinctive ways, the labor, civil rights, and feminist movements reformulated this slogan to meet changing times and social needs.

Over the past several decades, state history/social studies teaching standards have also changed to reflect the role that these movements played in transforming the country. Teachers are now regularly required to teach students about the history of civil rights, the women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s, and the labor movements of workers and farmers during the twentieth century.  Rather than attributing social change solely to established political leaders, these standards encourage students to recognize that ordinary people marching in the streets and forming picket lines can make history.  At the same time, resistance to emphasizing these social movements in the curriculum continues, most likely because the topic can be painful and divisive.

Below are the lesson plans devoloped by the summer scholars of the "Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights, and Feminism" NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers. These lesson plan will serve to enhance the curriculum available to teach students about the labor, civil rights, and feminist movements.


Gary Strikers Selma Women's Liberation

Labor Movement

Civil Rights Movement

Feminist Movement




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Last updated: 19 July 2010
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