Many States Don't Require Civil Rights Lessons in Schools, Study Says

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

As Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday passes, many American youth lack adequate knowledge of his role, and that of many others, in the civil rights movement.

According to a 2011 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Mont­gomery, Ala., on civil rights educational standards and curriculum, most states earned a D or F, with 35 states receiving an F because their standards required little or no mention of the civil rights movement.

Only three states earned an A: Alabama, Florida and New York.

Georgia, Illinois and South Carolina were the only states to earn a B, along with the District of Columbia, and six states received a C.

The study found that the farther a state is from the South, and the smaller that state’s black population, the less attention paid to the civil rights movement. Most states viewed the civil rights movement as a regional matter or a topic of interest for black students rather than significant events in national history. Only 34 states and the District of Columbia required study of the civil rights movement as part of the state-mandated standards or curriculum.

The Georgia Performance Stand­ards require coverage of the civil rights movement in the fifth and eighth grades and U.S. history classes in the 11th grade, said Andre Mountain, the social studies professional learning specialist for the Richmond County school system.

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