A Call to Action: Responses to Civil Rights
- National Archives Education Team
- Focusing on Details: Discussion Topic
- Historical Era:
- Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Primary Historical Thinking Skill:
- Historical Analysis & Interpretation
- Bloom's Taxonomy:
In this activity, students will be introduced to the civil right activities of Harry T. Moore, former schoolteacher and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) official in Florida in the 1940s, and analyze the public and federal reponse to his murder in 1951. This activity is appropriate for students in grades 7-12 and should take one class period to complete.
In this activity students will be introduced to the civil rights activities of Harry T. Moore, former schoolteacher and NAACP official in Florida in the 1940s and analyze the public and federal government response to his murder in 1951.
Begin by providing students with a copy of the letter written by Arden Rappaport and display the activity in front of the class. Model document analysis techniques by asking students to respond to the following questions:
- What names do you see in this document?
- Are there any dates contained in this document? If so, what are they?
- Are there any locations (cities, states, offices) specified in this document?
- What is the main idea of this document? What is it about?
- Why was this document created?
- Is the letter effective? Why or why not?
Ask students to share their responses during a class discussion. Follow up by asking them if they have ever heard of Harry T. Moore. Use their responses as a transition into a brief introduction to his life as a schoolteacher, NAACP official, and civil rights activist in Florida in the 1940s. For background information on this document, see the article “Letter to President Harry Truman about the Murder of Harry T. Moore” in the special “Teaching Difficult Topics with Primary Sources” November/December 2011 issue of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) publication Social Education.
After discussing Harry T. Moore’s life, civil rights activities and murder, direct students to respond to Rappaport’s letter as though they are President Truman. Provide students with a transcript of the U.S. Constitution. Remind them to consider what action the president can take according to powers of the executive branch outlined in the Constitution as they craft their responses. Their responses might be in the form of a letter, in the form of a speech, or a list of action items. You may consider inviting students to share their responses during a follow-up class discussion.
After discussing their responses, share with students that on October 11, 1952, Truman gave a speech in Harlem, NY in which he stated (Address in Harlem, New York, Upon Receiving the Franklin Roosevelt Award, October 11, 1952, 290, Truman Library.):
It was also last year that the Nation was shocked by the bomb murder in Florida of Harry T. Moore and his wife. These tragic deaths came shortly after the bombings of synagogues and Catholic churches and of the housing project at Carver Village. For several months the FBI has been gathering evidence on the mobs responsible for these outrages. And this week the United States Government began to present evidence to a Federal grand jury at Miami. These are examples of how your Federal Government-under a Democratic President-stands behind the constitutional guarantees of human rights.
Compare student responses to the actual response by President Truman. And ask them if they agree with the action that was taken.
You may decide to share the results of the continuing investigation regarding the murder of Harry T. Moore by reading the article “Letter to President Harry Truman about the Murder of Harry T. Moore” available through the NCSS publication Social Education.