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For Educators: About this site

Lesson Plan:


About this Site

1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights covers one of the most tumultuous years in civil rights history. Comprised of original sources from the archives of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, this site provides an insider’s look at seven pivotal “chapters” that marked significant turning points in the struggle for racial equality, ultimately leading to the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964:

  • The Right to Vote in Mississippi
  • Project C
  • Integration of the University of Alabama
  • John F. Kennedy’s Address to the American People on Civil Rights
  • The 1963 Civil Rights Bill
  • The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
  • The Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church

Each chapter features key primary sources that help students dig into the real stuff of history – film footage, documents, photographs, secret audio recordings – that brings this dynamic era in US history to life. These materials shed a spotlight on presidential decision making and the workings of government, the strategies of civil rights activists and the resistance of segregationists, the role of the media, and opinions of ordinary citizens – both young and old.

As students explore the site through open or guided discovery, they will begin to “see” history being made and to grasp how no one – not the president, activists, nor ordinary citizens – knew just how events would unfold and what the outcome of their actions would be. As they listen to press conferences, examine letters from civil rights leaders and average citizens, see photographs of protests and the violence that ensued, or view film footage of the peaceful March on Washington, they will witness the complexity of this period, including the variety of perspectives and attitudes that existed at the time.

Structure of the Site

Home Page Timeline

The home page highlights significant events in mid-century civil rights history in an interactive timeline beginning with Marian Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 and concluding with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Twenty events help contextualize the seven chapters comprising the heart of the site.

Users select a specific chapter for exploration and can then navigate with directional arrows or by clicking a subchapter heading.


Each chapter provides a short synopsis which may serve either as an introduction to the topic or a resource in itself. Subchapters help users weave the story of the event together in a general chronological order. Alternatively, users may click on any source and explore the chapter more randomly.

Hovering over a primary source activates a header or short excerpt providing a “teaser” to the content of the source. Clicking on the source opens a new screen with short interpretive text. Transcriptions are provided for handwritten documents and audio. “More about” indicates a related source.

Each source may be downloaded or shared from the interpretive page.

Classroom Teaching and National Standards

More than 65 teachers from 13 states provided recommendations on the topics, features, and functionality of this site. The content of the site and suggested lesson plans are designed to support connections to the Common Core State Standards, National History Standards, and the National English Language Arts Standards.

1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights site will help students to:

  • identify key civil rights events in 1963
  • investigate and assess the president’s role as national leader in times of crisis
  • trace and describe the Kennedy administration’s involvement with civil rights issues
  • make connections between the civil rights struggle in the US and the Cold War conflict around the world
  • understand that the civil rights movement was comprised of many individuals and organizations
  • identify the major groups involved in the civil rights movement and describe some of the initiatives undertaken by these organizations
  • identify some of the obstacles to progress on civil rights in 1963
  • cite and compare different strategies used by civil rights activists, including boycotts, sit-ins, marches and voter registration drives and their outcomes
  • identify the impact of different media
  • recognize the interplay of government and private individuals and groups in the civil rights struggle
  • discuss the meaning of citizenship – its rights and responsibilities – in relation to civil rights in the 1960s and compare it to issues of equity in today’s world

Additional Information

Additional Resources

The following links provide classroom resources from the Kennedy Library website and other sites.

The Integration of Ole Miss

Leaders in the Struggle for Civil Rights

To help students investigate and analyze these materials, the following sites provide worksheets on various kinds of primary sources and background information on the strengths and limitations of different types of sources.

Primary Source Analysis Worksheets from the National Archives:

Engaging Students with Primary Sources

Timeline Sources

Information on source materials featured in the Home Page timeline follows:

April 9, 1939: Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial

  • Image: Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (Still Pictures Branch), Control Number: RG 69-50-10602-C

June 25, 1941: Executive Order 8802

  • Image: Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, Executive Order 8802 dated June 25, 1941, General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11

June 20, 1942: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) founded

  • Image: Courtesy of the Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Rose 94.154.4

July 26, 1948: Executive Order 9981

  • Image: Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Accession number: 72-3952

May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education

  • Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, One-teacher School, Vaezy, Greene County, Georgia, 1941

August 28, 1955: Emmett Till murdered

  • Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-109643

May 10, 1957: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded

  • Image: Courtesy of the Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Freeman 1977.0737.69

September 24, 1957: Little Rock Crisis

  • Image: Courtesy of the National Park Service Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Little Rock, AR

September 9, 1957: Civil Rights Act of 1957

  • Image: Courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, June, 1958

February 1, 1960: Greensboro Sit-ins

  • Image: © Greensboro News & Record, All Rights Reserved; Photograph by Jack Moebes, News & Record Staff Photographer. February 2, 1960; 4 N.C .A&T College students sit at lunch counter.

April 15, 1960: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founded

  • Image: Courtesy of the Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

May 1961: The Freedom Rides

  • Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-118472

September 30 – October 1, 1962: Integration of Ole Miss

  • Image: James Meredith by Robert Williams, Copyright, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

November 20, 1962: Executive Order 11063

  • Image: JFKPOF-096-020-p0016 Executive Order 11063, November 20, 1962

February 1963: To Right to Vote in Mississippi

  • Image: JFKPOF-097-001-pp0018-0021, Resolution of the Commission on Civil Rights, March 30, 1963

April 3, 1963 – May 18, 1963 : Project C

  • Image: JFKWHCSF-0367-005-pp0092-0094, Courtesy of Charleston Gazette, Front page photo of police dog attacking demonstrator, May 3, 1963

June 11, 1963: The Integration of the University of Alabama

  • Image: IFP93A, University of Alabama newsreel

June 11, 1963: Address to the American People

  • Image: TNC262, June 11, 1963 Address

June 19, 1963: The Bill

  • Image: JFKPOF-053-004-pp0034-0035, Draft of the Bill, June 13, 1963

August 28, 1963: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

  • Image: NARA-542045, Photo of crowd around Reflecting Pool, August 28, 1963

September 15, 1963: The Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church

  • Image: JFKWHCSF-0367-008-p0128, 9/16/63 Political Cartoon, “No Color Line Up There,” special thanks to the University of Missouri St. Louis Mercantile Library

January 23, 1964: The 24th Amendment

  • Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USF3301-011961-M2

July 2, 1964: Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Image: Courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, LBJ Photo Archive C522-2-WH64

June-August 1964: “Freedom Summer”

  • Image: Two students registering a Mississippi woman © 1964 Ted Polumbaum Collection /Newseum

March 7, 1965: Selma Voting Rights March

  • Image: Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation via nps.gov

August 6, 1965: Voting Rights Act

  • Image: Courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, LBJ Photo Archive A1030-17a